Spring/summer is prime time for pneumonia in goats, although it can be a year-round killer of both kids and adults. Wide swings of temperature and changes in climatic conditions, such as wet weather coupled with high daytime temperatures, high humidity, and much lower evening temperatures, can set the stage for pneumonia. Kids especially have trouble controlling body temperature under such conditions, causing them to be susceptible to contracting pneumonia.
While not the most common type of pneumonia in goats in the USA, easily the most recognizable kind 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 allergy-related, but if fever 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.) Using antibiotics when they should not be used decreases their effectiveness when they are really needed because the goat's body can build up 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 you 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 a bacterial infection. Without taking rectal temperature, you might misinterpret visual symptoms, wrongly diagnose the cause of the problem, and medicate the goat incorrectly. The animal may die from incorrect treatment. See my article entitled Diagnosing Illnesses in Goats on the Articles page at www.tennesseemeatgoats.com.
Interstitial pneumonia is the most common type to occur, quickest to kill, and often hardest to diagnose in goats. 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, possibly misleading you into diagnosing the problem as ruminal. Sub-normal body temperature is often a sign of ruminal problems. Body temperature 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; 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 its kidneys are shutting down. A goat in this condition probably cannot be saved but you should try until efforts prove either successful or futile. A goat that wants to live can overcome amazing obstacles. However, once the lungs fill with fluid, survival is unlikely. If you cannot save it, do the right and humane thing and put the goat down to stop its suffering.
Banamine or generic equivalent (veterinary prescription) is an anti-inflammatory drug that lowers fever-induced high body temperature and helps allievate pain and inflammation. Banamine should 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 as needed. Administer Banamine into the muscle (IM) dosing 1cc per 100 lbs. body weight. A newborn kid with fever (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 at least one baby aspirin and adults with at least three baby aspirin. Do not use other pain relievers, such as Advil, Aleve, Tylenol, etc. --- only baby aspirin. Note: I do not consider baby aspirin to be a desirable alternative to Banamine, so go to your vet and buy a bottle of generic Banamine (flunixin meglumine).
You must keep a supply of prescription medications on hand for emergencies. Nuflor, Nuflor Gold, and Excenel RTU are excellent antibiotics for respiratory illnesses and do not require refrigeration. These thick liquids must be administered through an 18-gauge needle 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. Nuflor Gold, which provides some protection against mycoplasma that Nuflor does not have, should be dosed at 6 cc's per 100 pounds bodyweight for five consecutive days. Minimum dosage for a newborn kid is 1/2 cc. Nuflor Gold is my antibiotic of choice for adult goats with respiratory illnesses. All antibiotics must be dosed for five consecutive days to be effective in goats.
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. 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 four cc's per dosage for five consecutive days. 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 of five consecutive days 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 you will have to use over-the-counter penicillin, oxytetracycline 200 mg/ml (LA200 or generic equivalent), or Tylan 200 (not Tylan 50). Penicillin should be dosed at 5 cc's per 100 pounds body weight for five consecutive days, using a luer-lock syringe with an 18-gauge needle and injecting SQ over the ribs.
If you have no antibiotic other than oxytetracycline 200 mg/ml (LA 200 or equivalent), use it in an emergency and acquire appropriate medications for future use. I dose oxytetracycline 200 mg/ml using five (5) cc per 100 pounds bodyweight given SQ over the ribs with an 18 gauge needle for five consecutive days. Previous concern about possible malformation or discoloration of teeth and bones in utero and in young kids is wrong.
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 SQ (under the skin), dosing at 4 cc per 100 pounds bodyweight for five consecutive days. I don't have confidence in Tylan 200, so I don't use it. I am a believer in using prescription antibiotics when treating pneumonia in goats.
Nuflor, Nuflor Gold, and Excenel RTU are far superior to over-the-counter products for treating pneumonia and are worth the extra expense. The two most common causes of death in goats are (1) worms and (2) pneumonia.
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 DM is an example) may have to be used since Expectahist is no longer available unless your vet will have a compounding pharmacist make it for you. Relieving chest congestion is vital for a goat to survive 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. 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 a 24 hour period. 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; do not feed cherry leaves, as they are toxic to goats. Fresh green leaves have a positive effect on a sick goat by providing nourishment that is easily digestible. Don't try to feed grain concentrates to a newly sick goat. The rumen is *off* and cannot properly digest grains.
Follow up all antibiotic treatments with an oral probiotic, but use it after the antibiotic regimen has been completed. Jeffers at 1-800-533-3377 or www.jefferslivestock.com 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. If pneumonia is a frequent problem in your herd, you should use the newer and more expensive pneumonia vaccines Polybac B Sonmus or Presponse that provide better protection. Polybac B Sonmus and Presponse work better with my large herds of bucks who live in a constant state of stress. I vaccinate bucks every six months with one of these newer vaccines. Jeffers carries these over-the-counter pneumonia vaccines.
Goats raised primarily 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, good nutrition, and no overcrowding go a long way towards reducing many goat health problems. Those of you who must raise goats under less-than-ideal conditions must be aware of these facts and be prepared. Properly-fed goats can ward off illnesses that poorly-fed goats cannot overcome. Good nutrition and vaccinations are cheap protection against animal loss.
Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Texas Updated 4/10/15
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