How to deal with this emergency situation:
by Sue Reith.
Bloat is a condition wherein the goat's rumen expands beyond its normal capacity due to ingestion of some substance that causes development and entrapment of a large amount of foam and gas. The most obvious sign of Bloat is that the barrel of the goat becomes very large, particularly on the goat's left side. In many cases the swelling will rise above the level of the backbone on that left side.
Two common types of bloat are (1) "frothy" or "foamy" bloat, generally caused by the ingestion of large amounts of fresh, new, lush pasture, and (2) grain-overload bloat, the result of the victim having accidentally ingested considerably more than the normal ration of grain of some type. Below you will find the emergency treatments that must be carried out for each.
The great danger here is that with both types of bloat, the distended rumen can actually compress the lungs and make breathing difficult, and sometimes impossible. And particularly in the second type, Grain Bloat, the acidosis that sets up in the fermenting grain in the rumen is very damaging to the goat's internal organs, eventually shutting them down and causing the animal's death. If not treated correctly immediately, as in within a couple of hours after the accident, the acidosis and resultant damage is unlikely to be reversible. Additionally, particularly in Grain Bloat, the body can go into a "histamine" reaction wherein all the blood vessels in the system open up wide, and due to the swelling that causes in the lower extremities the goat's feet will 'founder', which is irreversible and causes a permanent lameness.
An additional problem that can arise when the gut is stopped in a goat, which is what takes place and is referred to as bloat, is that the clostridial organisms that are a part of the normal ruminal contents, but are routinely expelled with the feces, will sit there and multiply rapidly at that time, in short order causing Enterotoxemia, a secondary and opportunistic disease which, once begun, will without proper treatment kill your animal whether it is successfully treated for bloat or not.
This is an emergency situation!
Plan ahead! Don't let it happen to start with!
1) Don't let goats out on fresh, green, lush pasture first thing in the morning, particularly in the Springtime, on an empty tummy! Grass bloat is common at that time of the year, due to an overabundance of certain minerals and other nutrients in the new plants that are growing.
2) Secure your grain barrels against invasion by goats, who are very smart and extremely curious, and who will take advantage of any opportunity to attack a grain container!
3) If it does happen, take the following steps:
Determine whether the bloat was caused by over-eating lush pasture, or by an invasion of the grain barrel.
If it overate pasture:
A) Immediately dose it with a large amount of oil of just about any kind. canola, safflower, olive, mineral, et al. This reduces the foam and gas that will start as soon as the damage is done. A 60cc syringe, with an udder canula at the tip (if you have one) so as to get it back into the animal's throat in small, swallow-sized amounts (allowing each mouthful to be swallowed before giving another), would be good. Tip the head upward so she can't dribble it all out the minute you dose her! And give her a minute to swallow that mouthful before you dose her again.
B) Give it a preventative shot of Clostridium Perfringens Types C&D ANTITOXIN (NOT toxoid!) to stop the enterotoxemia organisms (clostridia) that live in the gut and wait for something like this to happen to start creating toxins that will kill the goat if unchecked.
C) Give it some antihistamine tablets (chlorpheniramine, 4mg, several tablets) to ward off a potential histamine reaction (swelling of the blood vessels) that will lead to founder, a permanent crippling of the animal's front feet.
If it overate grain:
A) IMMEDIATELY get out the baking soda! Put several tablespoons in a glass, mix it with warm water (you have to keep shaking it or it will settle quickly) and add a bit of molasses to make it taste better. Dose it, in a large dosing syringe if you have one (with the long, open end on it) or a turkey baster, holding the goat's head up so it will swallow, and administering just small, swallow-sized mouthfuls, allowing it to swallow after each dose. You don't want to give it inhalation pneumonia! The baking soda is critical here, because fermenting grain in the rumen creates acidosis, which will do irreparable damage to the goat and end in killing her if you allow it to happen. Repeat this process every 2 hours or so, for several times if she ate a whole lot of grain, and for just a couple of times if she ate a moderate amount.
B) In the time between the baking soda dosings, give her lots of Pepto Bismol, also in a dosing syringe, to coat the intestinal walls that will otherwise quickly be damaged by acidosis.
C) Give it a good dosing of oil, as with Part A under Grass Bloat above.
D) Give it a preventative shot of Clostridium Perfringens Types C&D ANTITOXIN (NOT toxoid!) as in Part B under Grass Bloat above.
E) Give it some antihistamine tablets (chlorpheniramine, 4mg, several tablets) as in Part C under Grass Bloat above.
F) Whatever you do, do NOT offer ANY grain for the next few days, and introduce the goat back onto it slowly once you start again. My preference, for the next couple of meals, would be to provide fresh browse from the yard, choosing the new growth of those plants that I know are safe for goats, and that they love.
Bainbridge Island WA