Goats as a species have difficulty maintaining internal body temperature, especially when weather conditions change rapidly. Pneumonia is often the result. They can tolerate hot and cold if the changes in temperature are gradual, but they have serious problems coping with wet and wind. Goats need roofed three-sided shelters to provide wind and rain protection (and shade, if your property doesn't have trees). Goats are not the "tin-can eaters" that people think they are. Most peoples' conception of goats is 180* out of sync with reality. This is a prey species with multiple births to counter its high mortality.
Pneumonia can be a year-around killer, but spring and summer are prime time for it to kill goats of all ages. Wide swings of temperature and sudden 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, making them susceptible to pneumonia. The two most common causes of death in goats are worms and pneumonia. Wormy goats are more likely to develop pneumonia.
Interstitial pneumonia is the most common and deadly form of pneumonia in goats and its symptoms can be easily missed. Interstitial pneumonia has only one symptom: quick onset of very high fever (as high as 106*F or even higher), followed by rapid fall of core body temperature. When body temperature falls below 100*F, the goat's lungs are filling up with fluids and it is dying. The goat can appear healthy at night and be dead by morning. Death can occur in as little as four hours. If you aren't tuned in to your goats' normal behaviors ("thinking like a goat"), you can easily miss the onset of Interstitial pneumonia. If you do catch it and don't have appropriate prescription medications on hand, the goat is probably going to die.
Example: A goat that seemed healthy the night before but is not eating and is standing off by itself with tail and head down in the morning. Something is obviously wrong. If it has interstitial pneumonia, it is probably standing because fluids are building in the lungs. If down and unable to get up, the goat is likely already dying. If fever is present, that's a positive. Fever is easier to bring down than sub-normal body temperature is to bring up. You have a chance to save the goat with Nuflor Gold and Banamine injections. If rectal temperature is below 100*F, the chances are greatly reduced.
My personal experience (Texas) has been that goats can handle rapid hot-to cold cycles better than quick cold-to hot temperature changes. Regardless, wide and rapid swings of temperature make it difficult for all goats, adults and kids, to maintain body temperature. Having an immature immune system, kids are at high risk. Goats don't catch interstitial pneumonia from each other. Existing in the environment , this opportunistic bacteria latches on to an immuno-compromised goat, much like worms do to a lactating doe.
The first step in determining appropriate treatment is to take the sick goat's rectal temperature. Body temperature tells you which way to proceed. 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 an infection. Without taking rectal temperature, you might misinterpret visual symptoms, wrongly diagnose the cause of the problem, and medicate the goat improperly. The animal may die because of incorrect treatment. See my article entitled Diagnosing Illnesses in Goats on the Articles page at www.tennesseemeatgoats.com.
If high fever is present, it must be brought down quickly. Fever-reducing medication and appropriate antibiotic therapy must be started immediately. If the illness has progressed far enough, the goat may try to sit down, moan with discomfort, then 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 I always try until efforts prove futile. A goat that wants to live can overcome amazing obstacles. But once the lungs fill with fluid, survival is unlikely. If I cannot save it, I do the humane thing and euthanize the goat to stop its suffering.
Banamine or generic equivalent (veterinary prescription) lowers high body temperature and helps alleviate pain and inflammation. Banamine should be used once every 12 hours for perhaps two days but normally no more frequently, because it can cause stomach ulcers. Occasionally in difficult-to-control situations, I have had to use Banamine for longer than 48 hours because that is what it took to save the goat. I administer Banamine into the muscle (IM), dosing 1cc per 100 lbs. body weight. A newborn or young kid with fever (depending upon breed and weight) is given 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. Baby aspirin is not an equivalent or desirable alternative to Banamine, so buy a bottle of generic Banamine (flunixin meglumine) from your vet and be prepared.
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 needle does not blow off the syringe. Always carry prescription Epinephrine when giving injections in case of anaphylactic shock. 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 used with goats must be dosed for five consecutive days. Remember that we goat raisers have to use almost all medications off-label/extra-label, so label dosages aren't correct for goats.
Excenel RTU is a ready-to-use shelf-stable form of Naxcel that requires no mixing and no refrigeration, making 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) using an 18-gauge needle. During the first 24 hours, I give two injections 12 hours apart, then daily for the next four days. Minimum dosage for a newborn is 1/2 cc. I prefer Excenel RTU with newborns and young kids.
Naxcel is a good antibiotic but it has both cost and convenience limitations. It must be mixed, then refrigerated, then the bottle must be used up within seven days or thrown out, or frozen in individual-dose syringes. Like all antibiotics given off-label to goats, 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, I never give more than six (6) cc's per injection site to prevent tissue damage. If necessary, I split the dosage, giving half into one location and the remaining amount into another injection site. Always complete the five consecutive days of treatment even if the animal is looking better; relapses are common if you don't. 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 or oxytetracycline 200 mg/ml (LA200 or generic equivalent) 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. 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.
I am believer in using prescription antibiotics to treat pneumonia in goats. Nuflor, Nuflor Gold, and Excenel RTU are far more effective than over-the-counter products and are worth the extra expense. My experience raising goats since 1990 has taught me that single-shot or every-other-day injections of antibiotics are not effective with goats.
If present, 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) may have to be used since Expectahist is no longer available unless your vet will have a compounding pharmacist make it for you.
Keep the sick goat in a shaded, dry, free-from-draft location with plenty of fresh water, electrolytes, free-choice grass hay, and green leaves. No sacked feed. If the animal is not drinking water, orally drench with electrolytes (Bounce Back or ReSorb). If dehydration is severe, sub-cutaneous (SQ) delivery of Lactated Ringers Solution (vet prescription) or IV delivery by a vet is necessary. Refer to my articles about (a) dehydration and (b) how to make and use a stomach tube on the Articles page at www.tennesseemeatgoats.com. A 100 pound goat needs one gallon (3,840 cc) of fluids in small amounts over a 24 hour period. You cannot syringe by mouth enough fluids into a goat daily, and if you try, you can cause the goat to aspirate fluid into its lungs and kill it. Stomach tubing is easy and much safer.
Never forget the beneficial effect of green leaves(the goat's natural food). Oak, elm, and hackberry are favorites; do not feed cherry leaves, as they are toxic to goats. Azaleas, lantana, and other "ornamental" plants are also toxic to goats. Fresh green leaves are easily digestible. Don't try to feed grain concentrates to a sick goat. The rumen is *off* and cannot properly digest grains. If the goat is off feed, give Vitamin B-1 (thiamine) injections IM or SQ every 12 hours dosing at 4 cc per 100 pounds bodyweight. Brain function depends upon the availability of thiamine, and it takes a healthy rumen to produce it.
You can 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 ruminant probiotics.
White or clear nasal discharge is usually allergy-related (not pneumonia), but if fever is present, then infection or inflammation exists and must be treated. Do not use antibiotics without proper diagnosis of the problem. Using antibiotics when they should not be used decreases their effectiveness when they are really needed because the goat's body develops resistance to the drugs. The ineffectiveness of penicillin with certain bacteria is an example of antibiotic overuse.
Pneumonia has become such a problem in goat herds that I have begun to use and recommend Presponse HM pneumonia vaccine by Beringer Ingleheim to prevent pneumonia. It is available over the counter from Jeffers Livestock. This is a cattle vaccine that I am using off-label for goats, so upon the recommendation of my veterinarian, I dose 1 cc SQ for all goats under 60 pounds liveweight and 2 cc for goats over 60 pounds liveweight, given four weeks apart and annually thereafter. I have found the newer Presponse HM vaccine to be much more effective than the older Colorado Serum pneumonia vaccine, even though that vaccine was made for use with goats.
Sound management practices that include good shelter during bad weather, clean pens, fresh water, good nutrition, and no crowding go a long way towards reducing many goat health problems. People raising goats under less-than-ideal conditions must be aware and prepared. Properly-fed goats usually have immune systems that can avoid illnesses that poorly-fed goats cannot overcome. Good nutrition, proper deworming, and vaccinations are cheap protection against animal loss.
Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Texas Updated 7/2/18
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