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Goats/Mysterious Death


QUESTION: Had a yearling nubian goat, never freshened, go down the other day.  She was screaming at the top of her lungs, could move, very rigid... head was kinked to the side and eyes were wide and moved wildly... never blinked.  Rushed her to vet and they gave her antibiotics. (because they had no idea of what it was).  Took her home and it became worse.  We had to put her down.  That was a week ago... this morning went out to do chores and our 3 year old nubian nanny had the same thing, she has passed.  Vet has no idea... they are sending the bodies to our University.  Any ideas... I am definitely fearful for the rest of the heard.

ANSWER: Where are you located?  What has the weather been like?  What feed regimen did you have them on? No mold seen in the hay and/or grain?  Are they on pasture? Did you get a temperature on the first one (not just "normal" but a measurement)?  Do you have any water sources in the pastures of the goats?  Do you have raccoons or opossums entering the areas where the goats are? Had the goats been eating and drinking well before this? No wounds that you could see on either of the goats?  Were they peeing and pooping normally before events? Any foam around the goats' mouths when you first saw them?  Were either of them grinding their teeth?  Were either of them bloated?

The head kinded to the side is a symptom from an always secondary illness called polioencephalomalacia - this happens when the goat is ill from something else and is not eating well and that means the goat is not getting enough thiamin to the brain.  Had you seen the goats eating well before they went down?  

This could be listeriosis, or pneumonia, or leptospirosis along with the secondary polioencephalomalacia; or it could have been a poisonous plant they ate.  

Would check the herd for lower inner eyelid color - this could indicate barber pole worm or liver flukes which can be fatal.  

If you have water sources (ponds, streams, etc.) in the pasture areas would not leg other goats into these.  Would check grain and hay for any mold or other abnormal smells or appearance.  

Hope this helps - when you have a chance please let me know the answers to the above questions as this would narrow diagnoses down.  Hopefully the vet asked these same questions.  Donna

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QUESTION: Both animals were vet checked very healthy.  They are in barn and lot, no pasture.  It is cold here, below zero so they are barned.  Water is clean, no mold in hay or bedding, no abnormal smells. They have ruled out rabies.  They eat the same type of grain they always have.  nothing feed-wise has changed.  We have sent them for autopsy to the university.  I will keep you posted.  Thank you for your help.

Doubt rabies if they are in a barn - no rabid animals could get in most likely.  If they are in a barn it is possible this is a fungal pneumonia.  Is there good venting in the barn? Are the goats allowed outside during the day? Do you have any rodents such as raccoons that could be getting into the goat's water?  When you have time could you tell me how the lower inner eyelid color is on the other goats? Necropsies sometimes can help - hopefully they find something.  Let me know - Donna


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Donna Ruelas-Semasko/Edelweiss Acres


All goat health care, nutrition, judging questions about all goats - packgoats, dairy goats, pygmy goats, meat goats, fleece goats.


27 years health care/nutrition of all types of goats, 17 years experience in packgoats, 20 years experience in 4H goat projects as leader, superintendent and judge. 20 years experience in putting on goat care/nutrition seminars.

NAPgA, The Evergreen Packgoat Club, 4H, ADGA.

Hobby Farm, many newspapers, 4H newsletters, Packgoat Manuals (youth and general), judging information pamphlets, seminar handouts about health care and nutrition.

4 years of college, ongoing education in goats.

Awards and Honors
Small Farm Award of Thurston County

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