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.
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