Ohiofarmgirl's Adventures in The Good Land is largely a fish out of water tale about how I eventually found my footing on a small farm in an Amish town. We are a mostly organic, somewhat self sufficient, sustainable farm in Ohio. There's action and adventure and I'll always tell you the truth about farming.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

How to fix a broke down goat: Goat Polio

We went out yesterday and found Debbie, our pregnant La Mancha goat, down. Not just unhappy - she was laying down and wouldn't get up. And she was looking up at the ceiling like there was something really interesting up there. And she wouldn't eat a bite. So we tried to get her up and she did this weird stiff legged, stretch. Oh-oh.

What you need to fix a broke down goat

We immediately sprang to action. This 'star gazing,' being off feed, and that weird stretching thing are symptoms of a very serious condition called Polioencephalomalacia. It sounds horrible, doesn't it? Well, friends it is. But it can be fixed up in a jiffy if you treat quickly.

First a disclaimer: I am not a vet. I don't play a vet on TV. I never wanted to be a vet. I am not diagnosing your goat now or ever. If you goat is sick, call your vet. Got it? OK let's move on.

After she had her babies last year Debbie had the same exact symptoms. Back then we didn't have any idea what was wrong with her. We finally got a vet on the phone who provided information on how to treat poor Debbie. You'll remember that it resulted in an early Sunday morning trip to walmart. Since Debbie got it again, and it came up with someone else yesterday, and I've since learned that it is more likely to happen in winter... I figured I should tell everyone whats its all about.

Polioencephalomalacia is also called goat polio. Its a vitamin B1 deficiency. It starts as a problem in the gut and throws everything into a tizzy. If you don't immediately treat your goat, she could die - within a day (or maybe three). There is a great article about it here. And here.

If you suspect goat polio do not delay in treatment! Don't "wait and see" or call to get a vet appointment "in a day or so." Take action immediately. Drop what you are doing! I'm not kidding. The worst thing that will happen if you treat your goat for polio and she doesn't have it is that you'll make her mad. The best thing is that you'll save her life. The treatment is easy-peasy and you can't easily overdose her.

Here is what you do:

The very next time you go to the grocery store get a bottle of regular Vitamin B1 tablets for people or you can order them here. The one I purchased cost under $5 and was on the store shelf.  Next stop by the pharmacy, or just go to your feed store, and get a couple of big barrel-style syringes (without needles) and you are ready. Its much better to have these items on hand then to run out in the middle of the night and try and find them. Goats never have anything wrong with them on a Tuesday in the afternoon. Its always on a Sunday night. They do it on purpose.

When you suspect polio simply crush one of the tablets (mine are 250mg or you can order 100mgs here. )...

...add a little water, mix well, then suck it all up with the syringe

Now comes the hard part. March out there and give it to an uncooperative goat. Your goat might actually like getting 'special treats' - Vita never has a problem taking anything like this but Debbie hates it.

If your goat isn't a willing participant, you might need a helper. Or a 4H kid. If you have a 4H kid let the expert handle it - just stand back and look worried.

If you are alone don't wait to treat. Depending on your size - and the size of your goat - you can either straddle her forequarters - with her neck and shoulders between your legs - to hold her still. Or get her side up against a wall, brace her back legs with one leg and her front shoulder with the other leg (kinda like goat Twister). Be VERY careful not to hurt her belly, especially if she is pregnant.  Don't brace or squeeze her around the middle, use the 'meaty parts' to hold her.

Now, use an overhand grip across the top of her muzzle with one hand, pry one side of her mouth open with the other, shove the non-needle syringe into her mouth, and give it a squirt. Gently! You don't want her to aspirate the fluid. But get the vitamin B solution down as best you can. Its best if you can get her to 'drink' it out of the syringe.

This treatment works really well and really fast. Debbie was up when we went out to check her a couple
hours later and right as rain the next morning. We'll keep up the treatment for another day or so just to make sure all systems are 'go.'

A couple other things:

* This article talks about dosages. It important to continue treatment for an additional day after all symptoms have passed. From what I can tell, its hard to overdose with vitamin B1, but the right amount gets the job done.

* You can get an injectable B complex solution from your vet. But using tablets orally works for us especially since we have a hard time getting goat vet supplies. 

* You should also make sure that she takes some water. Pretty much do whatever you can to get her to drink some water so she isn't dehydrated.

* Take away all grain and bagged feed and only give her hay. When she is ready to eat you want to make sure her rumen is up and running. You can also give some Probios which helps in time of stress. You can read about it here (scroll down to find Probios on the page). I got some at the feed store for under $10 or you can order it here..

 * Unfortunately goat polio can look like listeriosis which is really bad.  If she does not respond very quickly to the B1, gets worse, or has a temperature - do whatever you can to find a vet. Or you'll have to get a shovel (yikes!).

* And polio might look like toxemia/ ketosis which you can read about here. If your goat is pregnant you may want to treat like toxemia and get her some quick energy with some molasses and/or karo syrup.  I don't ever recommend using your hard-to-find-processed-on-the-farm-by-Mr. Miller molasses...it will only make you mad to give it to a goat. 

* You can give B1, or an injectable B complex solution, any time your goat seems off her feed or you need to stimulate her appetite. Vitamin B is easily absorbed and any that isn't used is just excreted.

* Just in the course of owning goats you should have some goat Nutri-Drench. You can use it for the babies, or your adults, if they need a pick-me-up. It smells bad and tastes worse so it might be a fight getting it down. But its good stuff.

So that's what I know about goat polio. Now run right out there and make sure your goats are not looking at the stars. However... she might actually BE looking at the stars - that's what happened to my pal, FD's goat Blossom. She was just looking around. Yay Blossom!

If you need a terrific resource for goat raising don't forget to check out Storey's Guide to Raising Dairy Goats. They have one for meat goats as well.

Happy Goat Keeping everyone!

Editor's note: This post has some affiliate links to my Amazon store. You can see all my favorite books and tools here. If you order something thru my Amazon store, from one of the links on this page, or the black Amazon search box on the right side of this page I'll get a tiny percentage of the sale. If you like this blog, or if I've helped you at all in your farming efforts, just make a purchase from Amazon to show your support. Thanks!


Anonymous said...

Glad to hear that Debbie bounced back so fast. I have not heard of this oral treatment for polio. I had a ewe get polio last year. She went form ok to blind and in a very bad state in a matter of hours. I treated with injectable Thiamine and B complex and she was remarkably better the next day. Very scary when it happens the first time. I like this oral approach!

Veggie PAK said...

Wow. You're amazing! I like your have-to-get-it-done-before-I-can-panic attitude. You are obviously a survivor. If it needs being done, you do it. Don't let anything get you down! You should be proud of yourself!

Grandpa said...

Despite the disclaimer, we believe you! I for one am going to cut all these up and paste them in my Farm Management book (I'll credit Ohiofarmgirl at the bottom of the page).

May be you should be a vet after all, OFG

Mama Mess said...

A drench gun is a great thing to have on hand at these times as well. It makes sure all that medicine really gets down the old gullet! They are cheap and a blessing and a boon to this goat-girl! Thanks for this post!

Ohiofarmgirl said...

Thanks Kenleigh! I was amazed at how quickly she went downhill..and at how fast she recovered. A roller coaster ride for sure. Its a hard walk out there to check and make sure they havent flopped over dead. whew!

Hi VPak! and thanks for the kind words. My people are good in a crisis but sometimes that makes us kind of hard and flinty

Thanks Grandpa! Our 4H neighbor kid will start her studies in vet tech school next year - we will be her best clients. She is a gem for sure.

ps i'd love to hear and see more about your goats!

Ohiofarmgirl said...

I've heard folks talk about drench guns.. sounds like a good tool to have one hand. Thanks for the reminder, GW!

Heiko said...

Glad to hear Debs is on the mend. Hope she recovers fully. Give her a bunch of peeled grapes, some chocolates and a bunch of roses from me to put by her bedside.

Mr. H. said...

I'm glad to hear she is feeling better. Goat polio sounds pretty bad..it's not contagious to other goats right?

Ohiofarmgirl said...

Thanks Heiko! I'll be fanning her with palm fronds and fluffing her pillows as well.

Great point, Mr. H. Nope, its not contagious.. its not viral but rather an environmental problem in the gut which inhibits absorption of vital nutrients which causes neurological symptoms. (golly I sound like I know what I'm talking about! ha!) Depending on the source, there are 47 reasons why it happens. And as my pal FC reminded me...sometimes goats get crazy things even the best care. (They do it on purpose just to be annoying)

Buttons Thoughts said...

Very interesting. You are a smart and keep a cool head. I raise beef and I have learned much by trial and error with our calves.It is always good to know from someone who has been there.
The internet makes it much easier to find smart,caring farmers.

Gingerbreadshouse7 said...

That sure was some quick thinking on your part! If I was going to be a farmer and raise goats I sure would want you to be close by..good work! Why wait for a vet when you can and least try and help yourself.

katiegirl said...

You guys did a great job! Funny you say Nutridrench tastes bad...my girl loves it! LOL

Ohiofarmgirl said...

hi Buttons! And thanks for stopping by - come on in anytime

Wait! You have cows? I'm running right over to see pix of them.. you know I'm a repressed cow person at heart.

Thanks Ginny! You are just right, sometimes you just have to march out there and get it done yourself. I've learned a lot from all our critters. Mostly I've learned to listen to my intuition about them and not doubt myself. And to pray vigorously.

The goats tell me, Katiegirl, that the sheep version is much better.

Chai Chai said...

Ghet Whel suenn Debbee! Chai Chai's Goats!

Ohiofarmgirl said...

hey CC! i keep trying to leave a message over at your place. Debbie LOVED her card!

luckybunny said...

Hi there, just found your blog and was looking through. Great post. I dealt with this for the first time this past spring in a Saanen doe kid - Vet's had no idea what was going on, all you wrote was great and very useful! We got her through, and did physical therapy to get her walking again. She's healthy now :) Great post!

Ohiofarmgirl said...

No problem Luckybunny! Once you learn to recognize it you can spring to action. Many goats recover easily with no ill effects.

Unknown said...

Thanks so much for this informative, not to mention humorous piece. Very helpful and I got a few good laughs too :)

Ohiofarmgirl said...

hi Tracy! and thanks for coming by!

Anonymous said...

I have been giving my goat B1 for about a week now. The vet thinks it is definitely polio. How long is the recovery process? He still doesn't want to get up. He does seem more alert every day. He drinks and eats. Any advice would be appreciated.

Ohiofarmgirl said...

hi Anon... are you giving oral or the injection form? honestly it sounds like you need to give a higher dosage. the recovery time is very fast - for instance our goats have been up the next day. you might want to do some research or get another vet's opinion. sorry i dont have a better answer. :-(

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