Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, Texas
Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, TX
Lohn, Texas
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DEHYDRATION: DEADLY TO GOATS

Goat producers sometimes don't recognize how sick a goat will become when it lacks sufficient water in its body. A dehydrated goat can and will die. Even a partially dehydrated goat often requires human assistance to survive. The rumen must be about 70% water to function properly.

Wide swings in outside temperatures make it difficult for a goat to control its internal body temperature; this is especially true of young kids. Life-threatening dehydration often occurs. Dehydration is not just a hot-weather issue. Think of how thirsty you are in cold weather. Adult or kid, a goat cannot survive long without adequate fluid levels in its body.

Nearly every illness or injury to a goat involves some level of dehydration. A good indicator of dehydration is lack of urination. (Note: A goat that is straining to urinate has a different problem. Refer to my article on Urinary Calculi on the Articles page of the Onion Creek Ranch website at www.tennesseemeatgoats.com.) Both diarrhea and fever remove large amounts of liquids from the goat's body. Anytime a goat is off-water and/or off-feed, dehydration is imminent. Sub-normal body temperature, which is either an indication of rumen-related problems or that the goat's bodily functions are shutting down and death is near, goes hand in hand with dehydration. Shock, toxicity, and infection all involve dehydration. If you don't rehydrate the goat, no amount of medication will save it.

Diarrhea in both adults and kids is a symptom of illness rather than an illness itself. Something is wrong that is causing the diarrhea. You must determine the cause of the diarrhea before trying to stop it. Sometimes diarrhea is beneficial (aiding in the elimination of toxicity), but it always requires rehydration. See my article on Diarrhea on the Articles page of www.tennesseemeatgoats.com.

You cannot adequately rehydrate a goat, adult or kid, by using a syringe filled with fluid. A 60 cc syringe is only two ounces and is too cumbersome to dribble liquid into the goat's mouth. Both the goat and you are going to stress out before a beneficial amount of fluid has been delivered via syringe. The less the goat is handled, the better for both of you. A 100-pound goat needs a gallon of liquid a day to maintain hydration. One gallon is 3,840 cc's. The only reasonable delivery method of this much liquid is a stomach tube. If you don't have an adult goat stomach tube and mouthpiece, make your own by following the directions in my article on how to do it on the Articles page at www.tennesseemeatgoats.com.

Dehydration and hypothermia (low-body temperature) are a real threat to newborn kids. A newborn kid comes into the world empty and vulnerable; immediate intake of colostrum is essential to its survival. If the kid does not get this life-starting liquid within about six hours (weather conditions may cause this timeframe to be shorter or longer), it will dehydrate quickly and die. To save a kid whose dam is either unwilling or unable to nurse it, you must supply colostrum from the dam or colostrum replacer. Weak, premature, and dehydrated newborns (kids with sub-normal body temperatures) must have easy-to-digest sugars (molasses/water or Karo syrup/water -- not honey/water) administered orally and Lactated Ringers Solution (vet prescription) given sub-cutaneously. Do not put milk products in the stomach when body temperature is 100*F or lower because when the goat's body is trying to keep from dying, blood is diverted to essential organs like heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys, while blood flow to the stomach is reduced, making the stomach unable to digest its contents. Undigested food becomes toxic and the goat dies. Electrolytes (Bounce Back, ReSorb, Pedialyte, or even Gatorade) should be kept on hand for oral rehydration. If these products are not available or if you do not know how to administer them, then the kid needs immediate veterinary intervention to survive. In many cases, both oral and sub-cutaneous rehydration techniques are necessary to save a weak or dying kid. (This information is also applicable to sick adult goats.)

For kids, an example of needed fluids: a ten-pound kid needs 10% to 12% of its body weight in ounces over a 24-hour period. Ten pounds = 160 ounces; 10% to 12% of 160 ounces = 16 to 18 ounces of liquids ( milk, water, or electrolytes -- depending upon its rectal temperature).

It is difficult to get enough Lactated Ringers sub-cutaneously into an adult goat; stomach tubing (or IV infusion by a vet) is necessary. Stomach tubing an adult goat is easier than tubing a kid if you can get someone to restrain the goat or can secure the animal to a fence or post. Stomach tube the sick adult goat two to four times over a 24 hour period until it begins eating and urinating. When stomach tubing a medium-sized-breed adult goat, begin with about a quart of liquids per tube feeding to keep from overwhelming the goat's digestive system.

Stomach tubing newborn and young kids can be more difficult than tubing adults because (a) they are often harder to hold without risking injury, (b) getting the kid stomach tube into the stomach and not the lungs may be difficult for the nervous beginner, and (c) it is easier to over-fill a kid's stomach and make the situation worse. However, with determination and practice, one person can do it if no one else is available. Read Stomach Tubing Sick Goats on the Articles page at www.tennesseemeatgoats.com.

The first step in dealing with a sick or injured goat-- kid or adult -- is to take its rectal temperature. Then address the likely situation that the goat is dehydrated, as well as the need for antibiotics or other medical treatments. Remember that a goat can be very ill as the direct result of dehydration. It doesn't take much dehydration to knock the rumen off its proper pH and put the goat into a life-threatening condition.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto ONION CREEK RANCH 4-1-12/2nd revision

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Important! Please Read This Notice!

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.

The author, Suzanne Gasparotto, hereby grants to local goat publications and club newsletters, permission to reprint articles published on the Onion Creek Ranch website under these conditions: THE ARTICLE MUST BE REPRODUCED IN ITS ENTIRETY AND THE AUTHOR'S NAME, ADDRESS, AND CONTACT INFORMATION MUST BE INCLUDED AT THE BEGINNING OF THE REPRINT. We would appreciate notification from any clubs or publications when the articles are used. (A copy of the newsletter or publication would also be a welcome addition to our growing library of goat related information!)

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