Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, Texas
Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, TX
Lohn, Texas
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COUGHING GOATS

Goats cough. It is part of being a goat. They scoop and gulp feed into their mouths, swallow it into one of their four stomachs, then regurgitate (cough) it up to chew their cud. Many goats live in dusty and/or windy environments that contribute to coughing. Some goats have allergies; like humans, some of them are more susceptible to allergens than others and coughing is one of the symptoms. I regularly receive calls and emails from people with coughing goats who are convinced that the goats have lungworms or liver flukes. I always ask WHY and they think that their goats have lungworms or liver flukes. "They cough a lot" is always the answer. I have yet to receive a call or email from a goat producer who has actually had their goats tested to find out if their diagnosis is correct.

Lungworms: Lungworms are a type of roundworm that can be found in the lungs and/or bronchial tissues of goats. Thought not common in the US, there are three lungworms that may be of concern. One is a trichostrongylid and has a direct life cycle (without an intermediate host) and is the most pathogenic. The other two are protostrongylids and have an indirect life cycle (requires an intermediate host, i.e., snail or slug) and are less pathogenic. The trichostrongylid is usually present when climatic conditions are cool and wet (late fall to early spring). The two protostrongylids would be present when the snails and slugs are present (late spring to early fall).

The lungworm's larvae gets inside the goat's body when the animal eats forage (trichostrongylid) or an infected slug or snail (protostrongylids) with forage. Adult worms lay eggs in the goat's lungs or bronchial tissue. The eggs hatch into larvae, which are then coughed up, swallowed, and pass through the goat's gastrointestinal tract and into its feces. They are white and thin in appearance and can be three inches in length. The lungworm's life cycle ranges between five and ten weeks. It remains infective to the goat for at least one year.

Goats with lungworms may appear healthy. Severely-infected goats may cough and have trouble breathing. Pneumonia and bronchitis may develop, particularly in young kids. Blocked capillaries and fluid in the lungs can cause illness and death. Lungworms cause irritation to bronchial and lung tissues, resulting in large amounts of mucous that cause difficulty in breathing, repeated deep coughing, and loss of appetite. All lungworm infections cause scarring of bronchial and lung tissues, resulting in reduced lung capacity. Death can occur if the goat is heavily infected with lungworms and pneumonia develops.

A mature goat's immune system is usually able to combat a mild lungworm infection. Kids are the hardest hit, since their immune systems are still developing. Allergic reactions to dust and pollens are sometimes mis-diagnosed as lungworm infestation. Unless the producer raises goats in an area of heavy rainfall and/or standing water, lungworms are probably not the cause of coughing. Coughing can also be caused by something as simple as the goat's eating or drinking too fast. Humans cannot become infected by lungworms and meat from infected goats is safe for human consumption.

There are two ways to diagnose lungworms: (1) Baermann fecal testing, which is a somewhat tricky fecal sedimentation procedure that is easy to perform incorrectly. Having a trained technician perform the Baermann is recommended. Oftentimes very few larvae are found, even by experienced operators. (2) Necropsy examination of the lungs and bronchial tissues after the goat has died. Both of these approaches have costs attached to them that the goat rancher may not want to expend. If other causes have been eliminated and lungworm is still suspected, prevention is best by keeping goats off wet, undrained pastures. Don't allow them to graze early in the morning when larvae, snails and slugs are still out. For treatment, oral administration of levamisole, Ivomec 1% cattle injectable (or generic equivalent 1% Ivermectin) before new pasture season arrives and again in early fall. Pasture rotation may be beneficial in controlling the spread of lungworms.

Liver Flukes: I include liver flukes in this discussion of coughing goats because some people, for unknown reasons, tend to confuse lungworms with liver flukes. Liver flukes are flatworms that live in the goat's liver, not the lungs. Liver flukes can cause anemia, but it develops slowly and at nowhere near the speed that occurs from the Barberpole stomach worm. The real damage done by liver flukes is when the immature liver flukes migrate through the goat's liver, causing scarring and loss of liver function. When the liver fails, the mucous membranes become yellowish (icteric) and the goat becomes lethargic and depressed. Adult liver flukes live in the bile ducts and usually don't cause much damage other than blocking the bile ducts unless there are a huge number of them. Diagnosis is done by using a fecal sedimentation technique to find fluke eggs. Albendazole (brand name Valbazen) and Ivomec Plus (which contains clorsulon) kills adult but not immature liver flukes. The best time to treat is in late summer or fall when pretty much all the flukes have matured into adults. To my knowledge, we don't have a product available in the United States that kills immature liver flukes.

Pasteurella pneumonia abscesses (sub-clinical): Several years ago during an unusually wet West Texas spring, I allowed pastures to stay overgrown and 15 Tennessee Meat Goat™ bucks contracted pneumonia. After what I thought was successful treatment because the symptoms went away and the bucks' behavior returned to normal, one by one the bucks got sick and died over the next 24 months. A necropsy of the last surviving buck identified pasteurella pneumonia abscesses in his lungs. They had only appeared to get well. Sub-clinical (symptoms not visible) and chronic (recurring) pasteurella pneumonia infected and killed these bucks. I am positive that had I mowed that horn-tip-high pasture and allowed the ground to dry out, these bucks would not have contracted chronic pneumonia (from eating new shoots of grass at wet ground level ) and died. They were not adapted to these usual climatic conditions that occurred so suddenly and happen so infrequently in dry West Texas. An important comment about pneumonia: Any time a goat (or a human, for that matter) has pneumonia, there is always some residual damage to the lungs that makes the chance of recurrence just a little bit more likely and deadly. Now I always vaccinate against pneumonia with either Texas Vet Labs' Poly Bac B Somnus or Presponse HM. Goats usually don't cough with pneumonia, but they do cough with pasteurella pneumonia abscesses.

Allergies: If you have ruled out lungworms, understand that liver flukes don't cause coughing, and know that chronic pasteurella pneumonia doesn't exist in your herd, then the problem is likely allergies. Products like oral Benadryl or its generic version that contain expectorants and antihistamines may be helpful. If secondary bacterial infection exists, then antibiotics are useful. Always take the goat's temperature to determine if elevated body temperature exists; that is usually an indication of bacterial infection.

My thanks go to Dr. Jim Miller, parasitologist at Lousiana State University, for reviewing this article and providing input to insure accuracy of the data.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Texas 6/6/13

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All information provided in these articles is based either on personal experience or information provided by others whose treatments and practices have been discussed fully with a vet for accuracy and effectiveness before passing them on to readers.

In all cases, it is your responsibility to obtain veterinary services and advice before using any of the information provided in these articles. Suzanne Gasparotto is not a veterinarian.Neither tennesseemeatgoats.com nor any of the contributors to this website will be held responsible for the use of any information contained herein.

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