Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, Texas
Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, TX
Lohn, Texas
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Photosensitization in goats is caused either by diet (ingestion of toxic plants) or liver malfunction. The top epidermal layers of light-skinned goats are sensitive to certain spectrums of ultraviolet light. This condition shows up on hairless parts of the goat's body (lips, nose, around the eyes, udder, teats, vulva, rectal region); pigmented skin is not affected.

Primary photosensitivity occurs when the goat eats toxic plants. Lantana is a plant common to America which can cause this problem, but there are many others. Check with your local agricultural extension service for a list of the toxic plants in your area.

Secondary photosensitivity occurs when the goat's liver doesn't excrete degraded chlorophyll but insteads allows it to accumulate in this vital organ. Mycotoxins may form on fungi attached to plants such as Kleingrass, green oats, and sacahuiste, resulting in "hard yellow liver" disease.

One of the older forms of de-wormers, phenothiazine sulfoxide, if overdosed can cause photosensitization. In fact, phenothiazine can induce abortion during the last three weeks of pregnancy as well as result in liver damage. This drug gives goat's milk and urine a pinkish tinge and can cause similar symptoms in humans who are handling it. Pregnant women should not handle this product. If phenothiazine must be used as a de-wormer, keep the goats out of sunlight for three to five days from application date.

Symptoms of both primary and secondary photosensitization include itching, scratching, rubbing, dermatitis (rough, irritated skin), fluid accumulation and swelling under the skin (subcutaneous edema), blistering, and even ulceration and sloughing off of entire areas . . . particularly the lips, teats, and udder. Diarrhea is present in some goats. Eyesight can be affected; corneal cloudiness, sometimes jaundice (yellowish skin), even blindness and death can result in severe cases of photosensitivity. Symptoms may not show up for as long as 10 days after the goat encounters the causative agent. One of the first things an affected goat will do is seek shade.

Note: Photosensitivity reactions are more serious and involved than just a bad hair coat. Oftentimes a rough coat on a goat is the result of mineral and/or vitamin deficiencies, particularly copper and zinc. Indeed, a goat in need of de-worming will also have a bad coat of hair.

Once a goat has been affected by photosensitization, the solution is to remove the animal from the sun into a shaded area and change its diet from the plant causing the problem. Clear the goat's body of remaining offending foodstuffs by giving it Milk of Magnesia every four to six hours until the feces goes from normal pills to lumpy back to normal pills. Use a dosage rate of 15 cc per 60 pounds bodyweight of Milk of Magnesia and keep the goat hydrated. Laxatives remove large amounts of fluids from the body. It may be necessary to supplement the goat's diet with good-quality feed while healing occurs.

If significant areas of skin have been destroyed, broad-spectrum antibiotics and even antihistimines (Benadryl) may be necessary. Keep the goat in a shaded area until fully recovered and eliminate the plant material that caused the problem in the first place.

Since moving to West Texas, this writer has learned that ranchers raising goats for profit on pasture do not want white goats. More buyers are requesting goats with lots of black and/or brown coloration over the entire body, both for protection from photosensitization and for blending into the background to avoid predators. Fortunately, this is not a problem with my Tennessee Meat Goats™, since combinations of black, brown, and white frequently occur.

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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.

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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