Although pneumonia is a year-round killer of both kid and adult goats, summertime is prime time. Regardless of season, dramatic changes in temperature and climatic conditions -- such as wet weather coupled with high daytime temperatures, heavy humidity, and much lower nighttime temperatures -- may result in pneumonia. Kids in particular have trouble controlling their body temperatures and pneumonia can occur. Pneumonia is not just a cold-weather illness.
The most easily recognizable form of pneumonia usually has as one of its symptoms a nasal discharge of yellowish (not white or clear) mucous and is sometimes but not always accompanied by heavy, labored breathing. Elevated body temperature above the normal 101.5*F to 103.5*F range indicates infection.
White or clear nasal discharge is usually (but not always) allergy-related, but if above-normal body temperature is present, then infection or inflammation exists and must be treated. A good rule-of-thumb is to use antibiotics only when fever or inflammation is involved. (See exception below regarding Interstitial Pneumonia) Overusing antibiotics decreases their effectiveness when they are really needed because the goat's body builds up a resistance to repeated use. The ineffectiveness of penicillin with certain illnesses is an example of antibiotic overuse.
The first step in determining appropriate treatment is to take the sick goat's rectal temperature. Body temperature tells the producer which way to proceed treatment-wise. Fever indicates infection or inflammation. Example: A newborn with "weak-kid syndrome" will have sub-normal body temperature that requires a different treatment regimen from a kid running a fever caused by e.Coli or other bacteria. Without taking rectal temperature, the breeder might misinterpret visual symptoms, wrongly diagnose the cause of the problem, and medicate the goat incorrectly. The animal would probably die from being improperly treated. See this writer's article entitled Diagnosing Illnesses in Goats on the Articles page at www.tennesseemeatgoats.com.
The most most difficult to detect and quickest-to-kill type of pneumonia is Interstitial Pneumonia. Death can occur in 12 hours or less. Example: At night the goat appears healthy, but in the morning it is down and dying. No runny nose and no fever -- . just a goat that is off-feed, may or may not occasionally cough, and standing away from the herd because fluids are building up in the lungs (not sitting or laying down, unless it is already at death's door), but may not appear to be seriously ill. The only clear diagnostic symptom is high fever and it may not be present when you discover the sick goat. High fever peaks quickly and then body temperature rapidly drops below normal, misleading the producer into diagnosing the problem as ruminal. Sub-normal body temperature is often a sign of ruminal problems. Temperatures under 100*F should be considered critical, regardless of the cause of the illness.
If high fever is present, it must be brought down quickly or the goat is going to die; fever-reducing medication and appropriate antibiotic therapy must be started immediately. If fever is not present but all other symptoms indicate pneumonia, antibiotic treatment is also essential. (This is an exception to the "no antibiotic usage if fever is not present" rule.) If the illness has progressed far enough, the goat will try to sit down, moan with discomfort, and immediately stand up --- because fluid has begun to accumulate in the lungs and abdomen and the kidneys are shutting down. A goat in this condition probably cannot be saved but the producer should try until efforts prove either successful or futile. The genetic strength of the goat plays a big role in its ability to survive. A goat that wants to live can overcome amazing obstacles. However, once the lungs fill with fluids, survival is unlikely.
Banamine or generic equivalent (veterinary prescription) is an anti-inflammatory drug that lowers fever-induced high body temperature. Banamine may be used once every 12 hours for several days but normally no more frequently, because it can cause stomach ulcers. Common sense dictates that if nothing else is available to drop the fever into normal range and the goat is likely to die, use Banamine more frequently. If it is a valuable breeding animal, a goat with stomach ulcers is better than a dead goat. Administer Banamine intramuscularly (IM) based on 1cc per 100 lbs. body weight. A newborn kid (depending upon breed and weight) should receive 1/10th to 2/10th's of a cc (one-tenth to two-tenth's of a cc) of Banamine. If Banamine is not available, baby aspirin can be used. Treat kids with 1/4 to 1/2 baby aspirin and adults with at least one baby aspirin. A reasonable aspirin dosage would be to compare the weight of the goat to a human being and medicate accordingly. Do not use other pain relievers, such as Advil, Aleve, Tylenol, etc. --- only baby aspirin.
Producers should keep a supply of prescription medications on hand for emergencies. Nuflor and Excenel RTU are excellent antibiotics for respiratory illnesses and do not require refrigeration. Being relatively thick liquids, Nuflor and Excenel RTU must be administered through an 18-gauge needle and into the muscle (IM) to get into the bloodstream quickly. Use a luer-lock syringe so that the the needle does not blow off the syringe when injecting. For maximum benefit in goats, Nuflor should be injected daily for five consecutive days at a dosage of 3 cc's per 100 pounds bodyweight. Minimum dosage for a newborn kid is 1/2 cc. Nuflor is my antibiotic of choice for adult goats with respiratory illnesses.
Excenel RTU is a ready-to-use shelf-stable form of Naxcel that requires no mixing and no refrigeration. These advantages make it more convenient to use and store than Naxcel. Excenel RTU is dosed at 3 cc's per 100 pounds bodyweight for five consecutive days and should be given IM (into the muscle) through an 18-gauge needle. During the first 24 hours, two injections 12 hours apart are required, then daily for the next four days. I prefer Excenel RTU when dosing kids, but Nuflor is an acceptable alternative choice. Minimum dosage for a newborn is 1/2 cc.
Naxcel is a good antibiotic but is limited convenience-wise by (a) the requirement that it be kept refrigerated, and (b) the need to mix and use the entire bottle within seven days or freeze remaining dosages in individual syringes. Naxcel must be given to goats in dosages stronger than indicated on the label. A newborn kid must receive at least 1/2 cc per day for five consecutive days to be effective. A one-hundred pound goat needs three to four cc's per dosage. As with all other injectable medications, never give more than six (6) cc's per injection site to prevent tissue damage. If necessary, split the dosage, giving half into one location and the remaining amount into another injection site.
Never stop administering antibiotics before the prescribed treatment period is complete, even if the animal is looking better. Relapses are likely. Consult your goat veterinarian, establish a working relationship, and use these medications under vet supervision.
If access to prescription antibiotics is not available, then the producer will have to use over-the-counter Tylan 200 (not Tylan 50), penicillin, or oxytetracycline 200 mg/ml (LA200 or generic equivalent). With Tylan 200, use 4 cc per 100 pounds body weight for five consecutive days. Administer this thick liquid (Tylan 200) with an 18 gauge needle on a luer-lock syringe and inject into the muscle. Penicillin, which is also a thick liquid, should be dosed at 5 cc's per 100 pounds body weight for five consecutive days; use a luer-lock syringe with an 18-gauge needle and inject SQ over the ribs.
If the producer has no antibiotic other than oxytetracycline 200 mg/ml (LA 200 or equivalent), use it in an emergency and acquire appropriate medications for future use. Previous concern about possible malformation or discoloration of teeth and bones in utero and in young kids has been overstated; oxytetracycline is the antibiotic of choice in treating abortion diseases and foot rot/scald.
Nuflor and Excenel RTU are far superior to over-the-counter products for treating pneumonia and are worth the extra expense.
Chest congestion can be relieved by giving an expectorant/antihistamine/decongestant orally to the sick goat twice daily at a dosage of approximately six cc's per 100 pounds bodyweight.Children's antihistamine/decongestant/expectorant syrups (Robitussin is an example) may have to be used since Expecthist is no longer available. Relieving chest congestion is very important in terms of a goat's surviving pneumonia. Don't discount the importance of these oral medications.
Keep the sick goat in a shaded, dry, free-from-draft location with plenty of fresh water, electrolytes, free-choice grass hay, and -- if possible -- green leaves. No sacked feed. If the animal is not drinking water, oral drenching with electrolytes (Bounce Back or ReSorb) will be needed to keep it hydrated. If pneumonia is diagnosed and treated early, the goat might continue eating while ill. If dehydration is severe, sub-cutaneous (SQ) delivery of Lactated Ringers Solution (vet prescription) is necessary in kids. SQ administration of Lactated Ringers Solution in adults is not a realistic option because of the volume required to rehydrate the goat. Stomach tube electrolytes into a sick adult goat in order to get sufficient fluids into it. A 100 pound goat needs one gallon of fluids over 24 hours for good rumen function. Refer to my articles about (a) dehydration and (b) how to stomach tube a sick goat on the Articles page at www.tennesseemeatgoats.com.
Never forget the beneficial effect of green leaves -- its natural food -- on a sick goat. Oak, elm, and hackberry are favorites. Fresh green leaves have a positive effect on a sick goat by providing nourishment that is easily digestible. Never try to feed grain concentrates to a sick goat. The rumen is *off* and cannot properly digest them.
Follow up all antibiotic treatments with oral ruminant gel, but use them after the antibiotic regimen has been completed. Live bacteria are necessary for proper digestion, and antibiotics destroy "good" bacteria as they work to kill the "bad" bacteria that made the goat sick. Jeffers livestock supply in Alabama (1-800-533-3377) carries a variety of suitable probiotics.
Colorado Serum makes a pneumonia vaccine which I use with my goats. While no vaccine is 100% effective, this one is safe and inexpensive and I encourage goat producers to use it. Each goat gets 2 cc's SQ thirty days apart in the first year, then an annual booster each year thereafter. Jeffers carries it; call 1-800-533-3377.
Goats raised on forage/browse or under free-range conditions are less likely to have as many health problems as goats raised under intense management. Sound practices that include good shelter during bad weather, clean pens, fresh water, grass hay, and no overcrowding go a long way towards reducing many goat health problems. Producers who must raise goats under less-than-ideal conditions must be aware of these facts and be prepared.
Suzanne W. Gasparotto (Updated 7/10/10)
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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.
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