Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, Texas
Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, TX
Lohn, Texas
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Prussic acid toxicity, also known as cyanide poisoning, occurs usually within 15 minutes of the goats' ingesting the toxic plant material. Symptoms include excessive salivating or frothing at the mouth and an increased respiratory rate. Ruminants are more susceptible to prussic acid (cyanide) poisoning than non-ruminant species, probably because the rumen releases larger quantities of hydrocyanic acid.

Mouth breathing develops within five to fifteen minutes. The heartbeat is rapid and weak. Muscle twitching occurs quickly and spasms precede death. Mucous membranes are bright red, indicating a lack of oxygen transfer throughout the body that is necessary for continued survival. Death from respiratory paralysis comes during severe convulsions. The heart continues to beat for several minutes after struggling ceases and breathing stops. Blood often passes from the nostrils and mouth near the time of death.

This entire process seldom takes longer than 30 to 45 minutes. If animals survive for more than two hours after the onset of signs of this illness, a high percentage of them will recover.

Intravenous administration of sodium nitrite in a 20% solution is the treatment for prussic acid poisoning. Because of the importance of speed in treating cases of cyanide toxicity, sodium nitrite and sodium thiosulfate are usually administered together. Some success has occurred by using oral preparations of sodium thiosulfate.

If you think that the goat's problem is prussic acid/cyanide poisoning, call your vet immediately. This is not something you are likely able to handle yourself.

Cyanide-containing plants include Gregg's catclaw, acacia, catclaw acacia, devil's catclaw, mountain mahogany, iris, blue flag, common flax, western choke cherry, pine cherry, wild red cherry, bird cherry, fire cherry, wild black cherry, apple, Johnson grass*, sudan grass*, common sorghum*, poison suckleya, white clover, arrow grass, goose grass, sour grass, pod grass, maize, corn*. The plants indicated by an asterisk (*) are most commonly encountered by goat breeders in my part of the United States (Texas). Several of these crops are used as hay or grain feed.

Prussic acid poisoning can and does occur in crops which have NEVER been fertilized.

NOTE: You can reduce the risk of prussic acid/cyanide toxicity by feeding commercially-prepared sacked goat feed before turning animals out to graze. Do NOT ever feed wet or moldy hay or grain to goats. Wet grain must be thrown out, but wet bales of hay can be broken and aired out until thoroughly dry, then used as goat feed, IF the bales are lightly wet and all mold and mildew has disappeared.


Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Texas 8.1.22

Meat Goat Mania

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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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