Sick goat - this is a puzzler - any suggestions?

Discussion in 'Goats' started by Deborah Stephenson, Nov 22, 2006.

  1. Deborah Stephenson

    Deborah Stephenson Well-Known Member

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    We have a sick male goat (wether) about 4 years old. He is normally extremely robust (biggest goat we have - at nearly 200 pounds he is almost as large as a pony!)

    He does have a history of suffering the occasional episode of polioencephalomalcia or "star-gazing" syndrome (usually seasonal just - about this time of the year when they start back on hay after a summer of free browsing in the woods). He has had this twice before, as has his sire and his twin sister. Of our 14 goats, (all pets) these 3 are the only ones to suffer this condition, so I'm wondering if it is hereditary (but that isn't my question, so I'll try not to get side-tracked).

    What has me worried is that usually when this happens a quick dose of Thiamine (followed by antibiotic treatment - Oxytetracycline - for 3 days; and further daily doses of thiamine for 1 week) does the trick. Almost always, the Thiamine will bring them back to near normal within 24 hours, and they are going full speed within 3 days. But this time, he doesn't seem to be getting better.

    Its been about 1 week since we gave him the first dose of Thiamine (and we caught this very early - within a couple of hours of his becoming symtomatic) but he still seems a bit dazed. He no longer has the trembling and muscular problems associated with polioencephalomalcia, and he gets up and walks around a bit, but he just looks sick - nose is runny; eyes kind of "rheummy" and he won't eat. He seems to have trouble swallowing, and has no appetite at all. He just sort of sits or stands and looks around in a really apathetic way - like he feels too bad to care about anything. Once in awhile he will vocalize - a kind of sigh or moan, but in a really half-hearted way.

    He is normally a very loving goat - loves to be petted and talked to (he was hand raised by us when his momma rejected him) so he responds to our sitting with him (we have him in the utility room with straw and a heat lamp right now) and talking to him, but no matter what we offer him to eat, he just won't take it. I'm really worried about him and just can't figure this out.

    Is it possible that the polioencephalomalcia has coincidentally occurred along with a virus of some sort? Could he have the flu? If so, or if there is some other possibility, what can be done to help him? Poor guy looks so miserable and he is starting to get thin. Any suggestions?
     
  2. DocM

    DocM Well-Known Member

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    It's not necessary to treat thiamine deficiency with antibiotics. I'd suggest you treat him with probios or some yogurt because his tummy is stressed and just give him a lot of love. There are several discussions on the board right now about polio - and some goats, especially those with reoccuring bouts, or older, take a bit longer to come around. He needs to eat in order to get his gut working - a goat's appetite goes away when their rumen starts shutting down. I've had good luck tubing ground alfalfa cubes and water in a mush. Not much, about 3/4 of a cup to begin with, and then repeating a couple hours later. Obviously with some probios or yogurt. Can you hear gut sounds at all? As gross as this sounds, if you can extract some cud from one of your friendlier goats (don't get bit), and tube that into him, it could jumpstart his gut.
     

  3. Vicki McGaugh TX Nubians

    Vicki McGaugh TX Nubians Well-Known Member

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    I also wonder if perhaps there is mold with the new hay? Could you be looking at listerosis and not polio? Polio symptoms, although not exactly what the book says is usually a weakness in the rear legs and rear (you can see the very beginning of this with does who make trails in the dirt when they walk, dragging a rear toe)...listerosis contains neurological symptoms, star gazing, walking drunk, eventually untreated circleing and down with head bent against the body. I would ask the vet to perscripe dexamethazone, a steroid.

    Giving an antibiotic in treating polio is like putting out a fire with gasoline. The only thing wrong in polio is the absorption of thiamin in the goats blood. A healthy goat makes all the thiamin they need in a healthy rumen, so something is happening in your herd to make some of your animals rumens unhealthy, I doubt it's hereditary, more than likely that largest animals? The pigs because they are soo large? The oldest and bossiest? Anyway, so the rumen is sluggish and not making thiamin, you give thiamin and then further destroy the rumen bacteria by giving an antibiotic. See? Vicki
     
  4. Deborah Stephenson

    Deborah Stephenson Well-Known Member

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    DocM,

    Thanks for the imput. I should have mentioned that we are giving Probios - twice daily - as well, to repopulate the gut with the right bacteria. (We love that stuff and use it a lot! Works for people too.) The oxytetracycline was a recommendation from our vet because he felt that it was a sensible precaution in the event he may have listeriosis rather than polioencephalomalcia (although I argued with my husband over that exact thing, since it really doesn't make much sense to give an antibiotic and a probiotic at the same time!!! Kind of cancels each other out. :rolleyes: )

    That is a wonderful suggestion about the cud from another goat because we've done that before for kids. I don't know why we didn't think of it before. We've also had good luck with a oak bark - powdered and mixed with warm water - to help the rumen kick in on young kids. (Helps with diarrhea too.) Apparently the goat rumen has a complex symbiotic relationship with something in oak bark. Goats are such amazing creatures!

    Well, I'm off to grab some cud. Nothing is gross to us any more. (Well, I guess I will have to go get a stomach tube from our local ranch supply first. Hope they are open in the morning - these things always happen on weekends and holidays!) I will let you know how it goes. Thanks again!
     
  5. Deborah Stephenson

    Deborah Stephenson Well-Known Member

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    Vicki,

    Your post came in while I was writing to DocM. I totally agree with NOT using antibiotics. I'm from the "think about it and see if it makes sense school" and my husband is from the "we should listen to the vet - he's the doctor" school. I said - PRObiotic means "for life"; ANTIbiotic means "against life". So why would we want to destroy the flora in the gut and then put it back?! :shrug:

    At any rate, you probably saw the response I gave DocM so now you know that it was a vet thing, and definitely not MY idea! (I got over-ruled here.)

    As for size. Yes, he is the largest, but strangely enough, he is not the most aggressive eater. He is usually easily shouldered out of the way by a couple of little Boer-Pygmy crosses with the most evil tempers I've ever seen in goats. They're cute but very bossy! He is very mild-mannered and doesn't really eat more than his share. Also... we try to give them as natural a diet as possible - even becoming goatherds for 2 hours every single day out in the woods, so they can get proper browse without destroying everything we don't want them to eat (or ending up as coyote food). Their grain ration is extremely modest. They only get one small bucket (about 1 gallon) for all 14 goats, daily. (That is year round too - nothing new to upset the diet.) As for the hay... we always buy top quality from a local family who grow their own. We smell it and look it over every time we feed, (habit from our zookeeping days) so I don't think that is it. Personally, I just think he is more sensitive than the others (his sire and sister are as well). Like people I guess.

    I'm going to try to get some cud from his mother to see if that helps, and then just try to be patient. I really love this little guy - he's my boy! I hope he gets better soon because I hate seeing him suffer, he's such a sweetheart!

    Thanks for your help - I really appreciate it!
     
  6. Jcran

    Jcran Well-Known Member

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    Howdy, I am the other polio thread starter; our buckling did a similar thing. Just didn't get better...I hope he improves for you. The one thing I wish we'd really tried was Vicki's recommendation for an anti-inflammatory like DMSO. You might consider that. Our vet was hesitant because he worried about the effect on a goat that MIGHT be dehydrated. I wish I'd overridden that concern.
     
  7. Vicki McGaugh TX Nubians

    Vicki McGaugh TX Nubians Well-Known Member

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    Joan that was Dexamethazone. And the use of lactated ringers either IV by the vet so he could give the Dex, or you using it subq so you could give the Dex, would have been a blessing for your goats. Sorry all that happened to you.

    When you are dealing or think you are dealing with polio, the very first thiamin shot...you should see relief, yes a relapse to how they are before if you don't continue with the shots every 6 hours, but relief none the less. If you have no relief than you know you have guessed wrong, so you have to continue guessing...menengial worm, tetanus, listerosis and other disease that causes intial weekness in the limbs or hind end, but progress with neurological symptoms. Dex stops the swelling in the brain that causes the neurological problems to pregress, if not given soon enough the brain swelling causes the same death or brain damage it does in humans. Banamine gets the fever down, but also helps in taking the edge off, the doe eats, feels better. Vicki
     
  8. Deborah Stephenson

    Deborah Stephenson Well-Known Member

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    Thanks to all for the sound and very educated advice. Unfortunately, our little guy (well not so little, but still "our little guy" - we really loved hime very much) died on Thanksgiving evening.

    He had seemed to be getting somewhat better and was up and vocalizing quite a bit earlier in the day. He still wouldn't eat, but he seemed more aware and interested in his surroundings than before, so we thought he was on the mend. We managed to get some mush down him - only about 1/2 cup - towards afternoon, but only about half and hour later he started twitching and shivering, and his head began to curl back toward his side just like in the beginning of all this.

    We thought maybe he was reacting to the food, so we went ahead and gave him another dose of Thiamine a bit earlier than he was due for it. He was also very cold - pupils dilated and unresponsive as if in shock, so we put blankets on him to warm him up, and I sat and stroked him and sang to him (ever since he was a tiny kid, he always loved to be sung to).

    He seemed to relax somewhat after that - laid down, unkinked his neck and straightened out again, but very shortly after he suddenly started having strong muscle spasms along his sides and began kicking his back feet. Within a few minutes of that behavior he went into convulsions, passed out and died about 15 minutes later without regaining conciousness.

    In retrospect, I think we may have misdiagnosed polio and that he may have had listeriosis instead. We should probably have been treating with penicillin, and I'm sure the lactated ringers would have helped - he didn't seem particularly dehydrated, and we had been getting water down him periodically, but it may not have been enough.

    I feel so stupid, and of course, really sad. Our poor little guy paid the ultimate price for our ineptness and ignorance! I've been really raking myself over the coals with the "if only we had known this, or done that" stuff for the last 2 days, but of course, it doesn't help. I've also ranted and railed because we don't have a single large animal vet within an hours drive of us - and none that will make house calls anywhere! Not to mention cursing the bad luck that dumped all this on us in the midst of a holiday when no trained medical people were answering their phones. None of that helps either. He is still dead.

    The only solution to all this is education. At least, if this one had to die, we can make sure that his death was not in vain by using the lessons it has taught us. Next time a goat gets sick - and I've no illusions there WILL BE a next time (there always is) maybe we will be better prepared. Meanwhile, I am probably going to be very miserable about it all for a long time to come.

    Thanks everyone, for your help!
     
  9. cayenne47

    cayenne47 Critter Mama Supporter

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  10. Jcran

    Jcran Well-Known Member

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    I SOOOO understand your feelings. I, too, felt really dumb about it. I thought I'd tried everything! Please don't beat yourself up. You tried and you learned. And Vicki, thanks for the clarification. I thought dexamethazone was the same thing as DMSO....I can't even tell you why? Maybe the letters look the same to me. I have to say that I do feel a litttle more knowledgable about what to do next time (and god willing there won't be a next time). My deepest sympathies go out to you.
     
  11. vtfarma

    vtfarma Well-Known Member

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    I have been sitting here reading this crying. We lost our 15 month old wether on Thanksgiving morning. We had been working with our vet who is wonderful, she makes house calls, is good with goats, gentle and just endearing overall. She had been treating our Moe for a week. We thought originally that he was just constipated (gorged himself on something and couldn't pass it). He ended up with an impacted rumen. He had more in his rumen than any goat should and nothing in his intestines at all. We tried the surgery route as the last resort to save him, that was Wednesday morning. He was looking better Thanksgiving morning and then just died. I glanced over when I was stuffing the bird and he just breathed his last. I thought we might have licked it. I know that pain you are feeling, I just wish I could give you a hug. I am sorry you had to lose your "little guy" too.
     
  12. Deborah Stephenson

    Deborah Stephenson Well-Known Member

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    I'm sorry I have taken so long to acknowledge all the kind and caring comments from all of you. I have been having a lot harder time with this than even I would have expected. It may sound kind of silly to people who think of goats as just livestock, but all of ours are pets, and this particular one - Willie - was my favorite. I keep looking at our diminished little herd and hoping to see him there. It is really very heartbreaking to know that he is gone forever - especially when I think that he might have been saved if only I were a better "doctor". I miss him terribly.

    Knowing how hard I am taking his death makes me feel very close to you vtfarma and Jcran, because I know you have suffered losses recently too. None of our Thanksgivings were very happy were they? Anyway, I am trying to look beyond this tragedy to make me a more educated goat keeper. I know I can never make up for Willie's death, but if it helps me to save one of the others some day, maybe it will be worth at least a portion of the price. I am very sorry for your lost babies too, and I hope you will find similar solace in time.

    Thank you again for everything!
     
  13. vtfarma

    vtfarma Well-Known Member

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    Deborah,
    I know how you feel, I kind of have dropped off the site and everything else. It was just too much to have to discuss it or anything else. Just part of the healing for us. I too am trying to learn from this so we do not lose anymore of our beloved animals. That seems to be what farming is - one big learning curve. We knew quite a bit about farming and animals before we started our own farm and now - well we realize that there is SO much more to learn. Glad to see you back on the forum - hugs.
    Laurie