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There are many common goat diseases, some of them treatable at home and some requiring a veterinarian. Some home treatments may include changing diet, keeping current on shots and making sure your goat has enough clean water and food. Veterinarians should be consulted for more serious problems or when home treatments don't help. They can provide prescription medications when necessary and diagnose more serious illnesses. The first step in treating common goat diseases is to keep a close eye on your goats. Being familiar with your goat’s normal behavior will help you to notice any subtle changes in their health.
A goat normally displays symptoms right away if there is a problem. Usually the first symptom is depression, and the goat will hang its head, lose its appetite or generally act miserable. If the goat has a virus or other kind of infection, it is important to isolate the goat from the rest of the herd so the infection doesn’t spread.
Owners also can feel around the goat for swelling, bloating and check it for fever. Sometimes goats simply eat too much rich food and become bloated, which can be relieved by administering baking soda or mineral oil. It is important to keep in mind, however, that worms or other infections can cause bloating as well. Making sure worming schedules are up to date is important to ensure healthy goats. Another common problem caused by too much rich food is laminitis, which causes lameness. Laminitis often can be treated by giving the goat a soft bed and starting it on a non-protein diet, such as hay.
If your goat doesn’t have bloat and you know it doesn’t have worms, but it is acting sad and looks swollen, it may have ingested bacteria from the soil and contracted blackleg. Blackleg is a potentially fatal disease that causes spongy swelling, fever and rapid breathing. Swelling generally is noticeable in the neck, back, shoulders and hips. It typically hits very quickly, and the only cure is antibiotics.
Goats also tend to be susceptible to coccidiosis, a parasitic disease causing diarrhea and dehydration. Coccidiosis and other goat diseases caused by parasites and viruses must be diagnosed and treated by a veterinarian unless you are very experienced in recognizing specific symptoms. Some forms, such as foot and mouth disease, are so serious that the goat must be put down.
Another common, yet serious, goat disease is listeriosis. It is recognizable by the peculiar way one side of the goat’s face will become paralyzed, as if it had a stroke. A veterinarian should be called if symptom arise — if left untreated, the goat can die within 24 hours. It can carry this disease for years without any symptoms, and then suddenly display them. The goat will usually not survive, and the only thing you can do is keep the animal comfortable. It is contagious, however, and if you put the goat in a barn stall or other place, it should be completely sterilized before other goats have access to it.
A small farmer should rarely see goat diseases in their herd with proper care and prevention. Keeping water and hay clean, and pastures and barns clear of manure can help prevent the spread of infection. Checking goats daily for proper feeding and behavior can prevent most problems.