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Goats/Goat is sick and went blind


Hi, I have a 4 to 5 month old female goat. This morning I noticed she wasn't with the group (only 4 other goats) she had stayed in their barn and was doing nothing but hollering. So I got her some feed and water although she wouldn't eat or drink so I left and came back after lunch to check on her. And she couldn't see anything (I didn notice it this morning) so I began reading on the Internet of causes for blindness and I think it might be Goat polio. She has almost all of the symptoms.  Here are the symptoms.  Blindness, staggering, stargazing, and won't drink much. I have gave her some sweet feed but that's it.  Oh and I have her a shot of vitamin B that also seemed to help a bit. Is there anything else I need to do? This is a great goat and I don't want to loose her. Thanks.

HI Houston,

Thiamine is needed for goat polio - did she get into the grain or corn bin? Could she have gotten into something moldy?  Every 6 hours minimum for thiamin injections round the clock - I am enclosing a good article on goat polio and how to treat it.. and the difference between it and Listeriosis-  symptoms can be very much the same..

Different Causes, Similar Symptoms, Similar Treatments

Goat Polio (Polioencephalomalacia) is a metabolic disease with symptoms that often mimic or overlap those of the brain-stem disease Listeriosis (Listeria monocytogenes). In most cases, both of these diseases are seen in goats raised under intensive management conditions. Improper feeding, particularly feeding too much grain and too little roughage (hay and forage) is a significant factor in both diseases. Producers pushing the animal to gain weight too fast can induce these potentially fatal diseases in their goats. Sudden changes in feed can also cause the onset of these diseases.

Polioencephalomalacia (also known as Cerebrocortical Necrosis) is basically thiamine (Vitamin B 1) deficiency. Any change in the rumen's environment that suppresses normal bacterial activity can interfere with thiamine production. Too much grain decreases the pH of the rumen, predisposing the animal to Goat Polio. Glucose cannot be metabolized without thiamine. If thiamine is either not present or exists in an altered form (thiaminase), then brain cells die and severe neurological symptoms appear.

Causes of thiamine deficiency include feeding moldy hay or grain, using amprollium which is a thiamine inhibitor (brand name CoRid) when treating coccodiosis, feeding molasses-based grains which are prone to mold (horse & mule feeds), eating some species of ferns, sudden changes in diet, the dietary stress of weaning, and reactions to the de-wormers thiabendazole and levamisole. Each of these conditions can suppress Vitamin B1 production. The usage of antibiotics destroys flora in the rumen and can cause thiamine deficiency. It is important to repopulate the gut with live bacteria after using antibiotics or diarrhea (scour) medications.

Goat Polio generally occurs in weanlings and very young goats, while Listeriosis most frequently affects adult goats. An increase in Goat Polio occurs in North America during winter when the availability of forage and quality hay is low and producers start feeding increased amounts of grain or expect goats to survive on very poor pasture.

Symptoms of Polioencephalomalacia can be any combination of or all of the following: excitability, "stargazing," uncoordinated staggering and/or weaving (ataxia), circling, diarrhea, muscle tremors, and blindness. Initial symptoms can look like Entertoxemia (overeating disease). There is a component of "overeating" involved in that the rumen flora has been compromised. As the disease progresses, convulsions and high fever occur, and if untreated, the goat generally dies within 24-72 hours. Diagnosis is available via laboratory tests, but the producer does not have the luxury of the time that such tests take.

Thiamine is the only effective therapy, and treatment can result in improvement within a few hours if the disease is caught early enough. Thiamine is an inexpensive veterinary prescription. Producers should always keep thiamine on hand; the most commonly available strength is 100 mg/ml. Dosage is based on the goat's weight (4-1/2 cc per 100 pounds liveweight for 100 mg/ml thiamine) and must be given every six hours on a 24-hour cycle until all symptoms have disappeared completely to avoid relapse. Thiamine, like all B vitamins, is water soluable, so the goat eliminates daily what it doesn't utilize in the rumen. A sick goat's rumen doesn't produce B vitamins, hence the importance of adding them to the goat each day until it gets well. Initially thiamine should be given IM (into the muscle) but can be given SQ (subcutaneously) or even orally after several days of treatment. Some thiamine comes in 500 mg/ml strength, making the required dosage 1 cc per 100 pounds bodyweight. If thiamine is unavailable but the producer has injectable multiple B vitamins, check the label for how much thiamine (Vitamin B1) is present. Fortified Vitamin B Complex contains 100 mg/ml of thiamine, so the 4-1/2 cc per 100 pounds bodyweight dosage is appropriate. Injectable multiple B vitamins containing only 25mg/ml of thiamine require four times the 100mg/ml dosage (18-1/2 cc) per 100 pounds bodyweight, so the producer can quickly see the importance of obtaining the proper strength of injectable B vitamins. The key to overcoming Goat Polio is early diagnosis and treatment. Complete recovery is possible under such circumstances.

Since symptoms of Goat Polio can easily look like Listeriosis, this writer recommends that procaine pencillin also be used. Better to cover both possible illnesses with appropriate treatments when symptoms are so similar than risk the goat's dying. Administer high doses of procaine penicillin (300,000 International Unit strength) every six hours on a 24-hour basis until all symptoms have disappeared and another 24 hours have passed. Higher-than-normal dosage of procaine penicillin is needed to cross the blood brain barrier to put sufficient amounts of the antibiotic into the tissue of the goat's central nervous system. A chart of dosage by bodyweight accompanies this article. Give this medication SQ over the ribs with an 18 gauge needle so that the goat doesn't become a pin cushion of holes from repeated injections. Very Important: Continue all treatment until 24 hours *after* the last symptom has disappeared to avoid a relapse.

Summary: To try to avoid this disease, decrease grain, increase roughage, avoid moldy hay and grain, and don't use feed that is susceptible to mold (molasses-based/textured feeds). Complete avoidance of Goat Polio is impossible. After doing everything "right," producers can still have a goat contract Goat Polio occasionally.

Listeriosis is a brain-stem disease caused by the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes, which is found in soil, water, plant litter, silage, and even in the goat's digestive tract. The bacterium generally enters the goat's body through the mouth and multiplies rapidly in cold temperatures. There are two forms of Listeriosis: one form results in abortions, while the other causes encephalitis. Both types are seldom seen at the same time in the same herd. The organism can be shed in the milk of both carrier and sick goats. Listeriosis is potentially zoonotic (able to be transmitted to humans.) Like Goat Polio, Listeriosis is most often seen in intensive management situations. Unlike Goat Polio, Listeriosis is more common in adult animals than in kids. Because some goats are carriers who never display any symptoms, it is possible to buy infected animals and introduce this disease into a previously uninfected herd.

Listeriosis is brought on by feeding silage, suddenly changing type and kind of feed (grain or hay), parasitism, dramatic weather changes, and advanced stages of pregnancy. The encephalitic form is most common, causing inflammation of the nerves in the goat's brain stem. Symptoms include some or all of the following: depression, decreased appetite, fever, leaning or stumbling or moving in one direction only, head pulled to flank with rigid neck (similar to symptoms of tetanus), facial paralysis on one side, blindness, slack jaw, and drooling. Diarrhea is present only in the strain of Listeriosis which causes abortions and pregnancy toxemia. Listeriosis can be mistaken for rabies. Immediate treatment is critical. There is no time to waste with Listeriosis. Recovery is more difficult and time-consuming than Goat Polio. A goat can go blind and completely recover its eyesight and overall health if proper treatment is provided; such treatment can take days or even weeks, depending upon the severity of the illness and how quickly treatment was begun.

Treatment involves administration of high doses of procaine penicillin (300,000 International Unit strength) every six hours on a 24-hour cycle up to and through 24 hours after the last symptom has disappeared to avoid relapse. Higher-than-normal dosage of procaine penicillin is needed to cross the blood brain barrier to put sufficient amounts of the antibiotic into the tissue of the goat's central nervous system. A chart of dosage by bodyweight accompanies this article. Very Important: Continue all treatment until 24 hours *after* the last symptom has disappeared to avoid a relapse. Give the procaine pencillin SQ over the ribs with an 18 gauge needle so the goat doesn't become a pin cushion of holes from repeated injections during this intensive treatment. This author also uses Vitamin B 1 (Thiamine) along with the penicillin treatment. Thiamine is an appropriate addition to treatment of any sick goat. Dosage is outlined above in the Goat Polio section of this article. Dexamethasone ( cortico-steroid) injections can be used to reduce brain stem swelling. Dexamethasone will induce labor in pregnant does, but the doe is likely to abort anyhow as a result of this infection, so producers might be wise to abort the pregnancy if they wish to save the sick doe. Dexamethasone dosage is 5 to 6 cc per 100 pounds bodyweight given IM in decreasing amounts daily. Example: Goat is 100 pounds liveweight. Dosage is 6 cc into the muscle on Day One, 5 cc on Day Two, 4 cc on Day Three, 3 cc on Day Four, 2 cc on Day Five, one cc on Day Six, nothing on Day Seven. If the goat is over 100 pounds, drop dosages daily in increments of two or three cc's. Example: Dose a 200 pound goat at 12 cc on Day One, 10 cc on Day Two, 8 cc on Day Three, 6 cc on Day Four, 4 cc on Day Five, 2 cc on Day Six, nothing on Day Seven. Dexamethasone should be tapered off rather than quit abruptly. This writer would be reluctant to use Dexamethasone on young kids six months of age or less except under the direction of my veterinarian.

Prevention: Feed your goats properly. No silage; the possibility of mold is too great. No moldy feed or hay. Clean pens. No sudden changes in types of feed (grain or hay). Lots of free-choice quality roughage, particularly in the latter stages of pregnancy. And don't overfeed on grain.

NOTE ON HYDRATION/NUTRITION: Do not fail to keep the sick goat hydrated and fed. With Goat Polio and Listeriosis, a goat is usually totally off feed and water. This means that the producer must stomach tube nutrients (electrolytes, energy, protein) into the goat. A 100 pound goat needs one gallon of fluids daily. That is 3,840 cc's. No producer can syringe 3,840 cc's of fluids daily into a goat without stressing both the goat and the caregiver. All of the proper medications won't save a goat if that animal dies of dehydration/starvation. Entrolyte (oral calf nutrient powder containing electrolytes and 13% protein) or comparable product should always be kept on hand for these situations. Do not offer grain to a sick goat but instead provide easy-to-digest forage plants (weeds & leaves) and grass hay.

Alert to Goat Show Participants: The manner in which many of you are taught to raise your animals often results in Goat Polio, Urinary Calculi, Laminitis/Founder, and other metabolic and nutritionally-related diseases. Particularly in 4H and FFA shows, many are beginners and rely upon the information and training being provided by ag teachers, county agents, and judges. Goats are ruminants, and ruminants are pot-bellied animals. A large rumen is an excellent digestive factory. Proper hydration -- the rumen must be 90% water to function correctly -- and nutrition is critical to the goat's overall health and growth.


Here are 2 vitamin B complex injectables that are better than just vit B complex- tractor supply usually carries them  if you have no way to get the prescription B1 Thiamine- Fortified B complex is your next best thing -



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Specializing in New Goat Owner understanding of goat physiology, goat anatomy, goat care and herd management. *I am not a veterinarian, any advice and information should be verified by your veterinarian before administering to your goats. (! During times of severe weather in the Midwest, I may experience a delay in internet service due to the interference of the satellite reception - but will answer your questions as soon as service is restored. !) Note: Keep in mind, the goat expert is volunteering her time to help other goat owners, she also runs her farm with her own herd of 100 goats and may not be at her computer at all hours. Questions are answered as soon as she can possibly read and answer them, usually within 24 hours.


23 years experience of raising goats and herd management. Active hands on experience with goat herd and research with various Caprine University Research and Extension Centers nationwide. 15 years dedicated to helping other goat breeders/owners with goat anatomy, goat disease and goat health care issues via phone, published goat care articles and internet interaction. The information I have to offer is not only from personal experience and years of research updated often as new information is made available to me, but supported by many Veterinary Research colleges and all medications and information I have to offer on how the medications work and what dosages "I" use, is information I have acquired by discussing directly with the company's veterinarians and staff research experts.

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United Caprine News, Homesteaders Magazine, Columnist for Goat Magazine, Owner and Author of GoatPedia™

Graduate Programs in Medicine, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Stanford University

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