Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, Texas
Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, TX
Lohn, Texas
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Clostridium tetani, the causative agent of tetanus, is found widely in both soil and animal feces. When this spore-forming rod is confined to an oxygen-deprived area, such as a deep puncture wound, a potent neurotoxin is released. Because tetanus anti-toxin is not usually effective once the toxin has reached the spinal cord, injecting it immediately is vital if the goat is to have any chance of surviving.

Goats can contract tetanus through puncture wounds, disbudding, fights between bucks, dog bites, castration, tattooing, dehorning, and kidding difficulties (dystocia). The constant rubbing of the neck of a chained or tethered goat can produce skin lesions that result in tetanus. Elastrator bands used for castrating young males can provide an environment for the introduction of tetanus. Many vets recommend against using elastrator bands, instead preferring "open" castration, in which the testicles are removed with a knife and the sac is left open to drain. Tetanus flourishes in areas where oxygen is not plentiful, i.e. anaerobic conditions.

Maintaining a clean environment, particularly in barns where horses are or have been kept, is essential. Horse feces is a well-known repository of tetanus. Tetanus spores accumulate in the soil in vast numbers where livestock is crowded and kept under intensive management conditions.

The incubation period for tetanus can be from a few days to several months,but is usually ten (10) to twenty (20) days. Early symptoms include a rigid gait, mild bloat, and anxiety. Tetanus quickly progresses to the animal's being unable to open its mouth (hence the term "lockjaw"), a rigid extension of the legs (front legs extended forward and together, with back legs extended backwards and together in a rocking horse- like stance),excessive salivation, constipation, inability to stand, neck stiffness with the head pulled hard to one side and accompanying tail and ear rigidity, and seizures. It is not a pretty sight. Once the goat is down and can't get up, death occurs quickly (usually within 36 hours or less).

Diagnosing tetanus can be complicated by the fact that some symptoms resemble those of other diseases. Polioencephalomalacia (goat polio),strychnine poisoning, nutritional muscular dystrophy (white muscle disease), and even laminitis have similar symptoms are certain stages of these diseases.

Treatment involves immediate administration of tetanus anti-toxin, before the wound or infection site is located and cleaned; this is because disturbing the sight while cleaning it can actually result in spreading the toxin. Then flush the wound with hydrogen peroxide as hair, dirt and other debris are removed from it. Penicillin injections for five consecutive days at a rate of 5 cc per 100 pounds body weight will help inhibit the release of more toxin.

Tetanus anti-toxin should be continued every 12 hours for at least two injections and longer if the infection site has not been located or is not easily reachable (i.e., internal infection resulting from kidding difficulties). Keep the goat isolated, quiet, and in darkened surroundings. Milk of Magnesia (15 cc per 60 pounds body weight given orally every 4-6 hours) or an enema may be used to relieve constipation. Electrolytes should be generously given and probably will have to be orally drenched into the goat's mouth, since it is not likely to be able to drink or eat on its own. Intravenous (IV) administration of glucose for nutritional purposes is recommended. For most producers, a vet is needed to do IV treatment. The goat may have to be tube-fed by a person knowledgeable in how to use a gastric tube. This will also relieve some of the bloat that is present with tetanus. Do not give the goat mineral oil, because its throat cannot recognize this substance as something to be swallowed and the mineral oil may be aspirated into the lungs. The goat must be turned from side to side every thirty (30) minutes to one hour to prevent skin ulcerations. Complete recovery in severe cases can take up to several weeks. But recovery is by no means assured. Tetanus is often fatal.

Prevention is easily accomplished by regular vaccination with tetanus toxoid, combined with maintaining clean facilities where the goats live. It is both cost- and time-effective to vaccinate kids with the combination injection for Overeating Disease Types C& D and Tetanus at one month of age and again at two months of age. Vaccinate pregnant does one week before the first doe is expected to kid; this will provide passive immunity to the newborn until it is old enough for its vaccination series to be given. And don't forget to vaccinate all bucks.

When castrating males, give the tetanus anti-toxin injection if the goat is not old enough to have received both toxoid vaccinations. If the goat has already had both toxoid injections, then give a booster of the toxoid vaccine when castrating.

This combination Overeating-Tetanus vaccine is sold under several brand names, two of which are Bar-Vac CD/T and Fermicon CD/T. Annual boosters are necessary for all goats. Do not assume that recently-purchased goats, whether they are adults or kids, have been vaccinated. Instead,give them the entire two-injection series one month apart to maximize protection. CD/T toxoid, tetanus toxoid, and tetanus antitoxin injections can be purchased across-the-counter from animal health supply houses such as Register Distributing (goatsupplies.netfirms.com) and Jeffers(1-800-JEFFERS). Tetanus anti-toxin injections are available in single-dose vials. All three types must be kept refrigerated. Watch expiration dates on the bottles. None of these vaccines are expensive.

It is easy to confuse toxoid and anti-toxin. Toxoid is the vaccine used to prevent the disease; it requires weeks to become effective, must be boostered with a second injection after 28 days, and one vaccination per goat must be given annually thereafter. Anti-toxin is the single-injection immediate protection needed when the disease is present. If the goat survives, wait at least five days from the last anti-toxin injection and begin anew the two-shot series of toxoid injections.

Tetanus is everywhere, but it is very preventable. A responsible,knowledgeable goat producer will provide conditions in which it is not likely to flourish and will preventatively vaccinate all animals.

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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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