When Things go Wrong
Written by Administrator-GL   
Thursday, 14 June 2007

GoatPedia™ Article

GoatPedia™ "When Things go Wrong" and There is NO Vet

So what happens when a goat gets sick? How do you determine what is wrong if you don’t have a vet or maybe you cannot get a hold of him/her? How do you treat a goat when you don’t know what is wrong?.. What DO you DO?!

I can only tell you what I do and maybe something I say will prompt a thought when you have to deal with a similar situation, after all -, my reason for writing to you all is to provide some help if only to one person.. Possibly save valuable time if by chance you come across a situation you need to address that you have already read about and “click” a light may go on when time is of the essence..

As most of you already have experienced. It is easier to help someone else’s goats than your own, you can step back and look into a problem and not be hindered by emotion. I will admit there are times I get incredibly stupid when it comes to tending to some illnesses with my own goats. I have a tendency to start to panic inside. The first thing you need to do if you are like me. Is to STOP for a moment, take a deep breath and think- I close my eyes to block out everything around me.

Then start taking vitals and write them down, chances are you may not remember the goat’s temperature 5 minutes after you have read that thermometer. Look at the goat, notice anything unusual about her/him. If there is someone else there have them go with you- ask them questions -ask if they see the same things you are seeing. Write everything down. I have also found that asking a non goat person what they notice about the animal is more helpful, because they do not have pre-conceived ideas as to what and how they should be acting.

Goat Normal Physiological Vital Signs:

Temperature 101.5 º F ~ 104º F

Respirations Adults: 12 ~ 20 per minute

Kids: 20 ~ 40 per minute

Pulse Adults: 70 ~ 80 beats per minute

Kids: 100 ~ 120 beats per minute

Rumination 1 ~ 3 rumination movements per minute

1. Take the temperature first and foremost.

Use a non-glass digital thermometer. Use it rectally with vasoline as lubricant. Insert it 1 inch to 1 1/2 inches in an adult and half inch in a kid goat. Hold it until it beeps. Note the time and retake the temp every hour. Document the temperature each time as well as the time you took it. Some illnesses are characterized by fluctuating fever, so it is important to re-take the temperatures of a goat who is showing symptoms of illness. Do this every hour.

2. Count respirations and note shallow or deep or labored breaths.

3. Take the pulse. Use the inside of the front leg - this is easiest for me-or the side of the throat.

4. Count ruminations. You should be able to see the left flank moving with each rumination. If not, place your ear to the left side and listen for the characteristic gurgle sound ruminating makes.

------------------------------------ Read More....


  1. How old is the goat?

  2. Is anyone else in the herd showing any of the same symptoms?

  3. Are siblings and parents healthy or have they shown signs of the same over time?

  4. Are they away from the rest of the goats?

  5. Close your eyes and think of yesterday- Did they act at all unusual? Did any of the goats?

  6. What time was it when you first noticed something was off?

  7. Are there any wounds?Is there teeth grinding or vocalization? (Teeth grinding is an indication of pain)

  8. When did you worm last? With what wormer?

  9. Is she pregnant? If not, does she have nursing kids?

The Head and Face:

  1. Is the nose wet? Snotty? Dry?

  2. Are the eyes clear? Runny? Pupils dilated? Responsive to light and finger flicks?

  3. Are the ears warm or cold?

  4. Any sign of paraylsis in the facial movement?

  5. Are there any swellings around the jawline?

  6. Head pressing- are they leaning their head into a wall or in a corner?


  1. When is the last time you watched them urinate? What color was it? How much?

  2. What do their berries look like? How much was there? What color were they?

  3. If a male goat (wether or buck) are they straining to urinate?

  4. Is there any signs of blood in either urine or stool?

  5. Do they have scours? (diarrhea) What color is it?

  6. Is there any necrotic or swollen tissue around the vulva of a doe or the penis of a buck or wether?


  1. Are they eating?

  2. Has the diet changed?

  3. Is there ANY mold in Any of the feed? Hay or grain?

  4. What have they eaten in the last 24 hours?

  5. When did they last drink water? How much?


  1. How are they walking? Is there any limp at all? Are they walking straight and normal?

  2. Do they appear drunk?

  3. Are they leaning to one side? Are they walking in circles?

  4. Are there any signs of injury? Broken limbs, cuts, bites, abrasions?

  5. Hooves are not showing signs of rot or injury?

  6. Lumps that may indicate CL OR spider, bee or snake bite?

*The best tool for helping a situation like this is a video camera-Now I don’t want you to think I’m morbid but think about it. If you have the goat on video and by chance you did miss something, or you and your family cannot remember exactly how the goat was acting.. It can be the most valuable tool you own.

These are the main things I think about and write down. Then you begin the process of elimination. You eliminate the obvious first, then onto the second "maybe" items. What you are left are the possible symptoms of the illness or injury. You can then evaluate your possibilities from the symptoms you have in front of you.

Use whatever means you have to determine what is happening to your goat. Take out the books, call another goat breeder - if you can. Get online if you have a computer and ask the goat related email groups or go to a website that has information on goat disease. Use all of your resources and have your written information right in front of you to help the others help you.

Not everyone has a vet available to them who will deal with goats. Wonderful for those who do. But frightening for those who do not, or whose vet is unavailable at the time of illness. Bottom line is to do the best you can with what you have.

Try to have the necessary medications on hand that you may need in time of illness (which like any child- often times happens in the middle of the night or on a weekend) .. Have books close at hand and phone numbers where you can easily find them. I tack mine onto the wall in front of my desk.

And PLEASE.....

Do NOT get hysterical, Do NOT fall apart. You may do this after the goat has been tended to. Even if you have to take an extra 5 minutes to calm down before you proceed, you are better off doing that than to run around like a chicken with it’s head cut off the entire time.. You will do the goat no good or yourself.

Closing your eyes to quiet your mind works very well. I even close my eyes when I am checking respiration, pulse and ruminations. It helps me to think and concentrate better. Many times your goat will calm down along with you, to match your already calm state of being - this helps tremendously.

Once you have checked the books, called a friend, gone online and are waiting for information from whomever you contacted. Done what ever medical deeds you need to do for the goat in question. Double checked the goat who by now is somewhere you can keep a close eye on - even if it’s in your kitchen ( this works well in the cold weather). You can have a cup of whatever it is that you prefer. And take a breath for a moment. Personally, if I have a sick goat at night I just give up the idea of sleeping that night, unless there is nothing more to monitor until morning. If it’s a little goat it probably will end up in bed with me that night.. Now I don’t expect you all to do that, but remember sheets, and bedding wash. Plastic under the sheets protects your mattress, floors mop and vacuum. It’s easier than sleeping in the barn. With big goats I have often made myself a bed on the kitchen floor along with the goat. The slightest movement I will feel and wake up.

Make sure to also note all the symptoms, and when you cannot find one symptom in a book or in an article look up the next symptom. Sometimes what you think is the most important symptom isn’t the determining symptom.

Check . Check and recheck. Have someone else look it up as well. Many times you may see something in a totally different light than someone who isn’t as close to your beloved goats as you. It is when they are sick that you especially wish they could talk and tell you what is wrong and where it hurts. But they can’t and they depend on you to make the best choice you can -, and that’s all you can be expected to do. Make the best decision based on the knowledge of you and whoever you can recruit to help you...be it a friend, spouse, child, vet, parent, whoever you have available..

I personally find it valuable to send pictures of the goat in question to e-mail lists. Again, they may see something you had not noticed. Not because you are incapable, but because you are too close to the situation to see things as a neutral observer.

On a final note: There will eventually be those times when no matter how quick you caught something... Or how much you tried.... Or how much you wanted it to be ok.... You will lose one. It is never easy..It is never nice - AND It isn’t fair! You have to be able to let it go. I’m not saying don’t grieve. There is time for mourning and then TRY to let it go without guilt. This is easier said than done, I know. As I am the first to admit when I have lost a goat, I spend the next weeks wondering ..... If I would have just...... or If I was faster to determine the illness.... or the list can go on and on.. Use your gut feelings on these things. My son calls it “A mom thing” you will know when it is time to let the little one go. You will see it in their eyes. You will know. And then the only thing you can do is to help them peacefully pass on with your love near to them.

You may have option to call a vet to have them put down, you may not. If they are in pain, the only humane way to put an animal down on a farm is to shoot them, unless you have access to a proper Penetrating Captive Bolt Gun. Or if you are lucky enough to have on hand the proper barbiturates (Which are under lock and key at the vet's office, are a narcotic and cannot legally be sold/given to a client).

I usually sing softly to them and rock them in my arms. Even a big goat can be rocked. The tears flow and I tell them how sorry I am they had to go through this and how I will miss them. I thank them for the wonderful children they have given me, or fathered for me. I let them know how proud I was of their bravery and again how sorry I am for the pain and fear they went through. And we sit as I stroke their cheeks and whisper loving words into their ears. Stealing a kiss here and there. And wait in as much comfort as we can. It’s now you must be strong for them. And when you have laid them to rest you may have your breakdown. Why put them through it as their last memory? So I try not to.... It is NEVER easy when things go wrong....

The following information is directly obtained from:

California Department of Food and Agriculture, Animal Health and Food

Safety Services, Animal Care Program

UC Davis Veterinary Medicine Extension, School of Veterinary Medicine

Situations that may require emergency euthanasia:

Road accidents

Injuries in transit

Injuries in auction yards or sale barns

Severe injury or disease on the farm

Natural or man-made disasters (such as flood, fire or earthquake)

Unacceptable Methods of Sheep & Goat Euthanasia

Ethical and humane standards of euthanasia DO NOT permit the following methods of euthanasia for sheep and goats:

  1. Decapitation in sedated or anesthetized animal

  2. Carbon dioxide

  3. Cervical dislocation in anesthetized or sedated animal

  4. Decapitation in awake animal

  5. Stunning in an awake animal

Manually applied blunt trauma to the head.

Injection of chemical agents into conscious animals (e.g., disinfectants, certain electrolytes such as KCl, non-anesthetic pharmaceutical agents).

Air embolism (e.g., the injection of a large amount of air into the circulatory system).

Electrocution with a 120-volt electrical cord.

Adapted from the report of the American Veterinary Medical Association Panel on Euthanasia (J. Am. Vet. Med. Assn. 202:229-249, 1993). The JAVMA article provides the rationale for these recommendations. The University Animal Care and Use Committee reviewed approved this table.


A .22-caliber long rifle, 9mm or .38-caliber gun can be used. The muzzle of the gun should be held at least 4 to 10 inches (10-25 cm) away from the skull when fired. The use of hollow-point or soft-nose bullets will increase brain tissue destruction an d reduce the chance of ricochet. When performed skillfully, euthanasia by gunshot induces immediate unconsciousness, is inexpensive, and does not require close contact with the animal. All humans and other animals should remain well out of the line of fire.

This method should only be attempted by individuals trained in the use of firearms and who understand the potential for ricochet. Care must be taken to minimize danger to the operator, observers, and other animals. Personnel must comply with all laws a nd regulations governing the possession and use of firearms. Be aware that firearm laws vary depending on state and local regulations.

Penetrating Captive Bolt Gun

When properly used, the penetrating captive bolt gun produces immediate brain tissue destruction that kills the animal. Captive bolts are powered by gunpowder, thus the selection of the cartridge strength should be appropriate for the size of the animal (i.e., adult vs. kids or lambs). Cartridge strength varies, so be sure to follow the manufacturer's recommendations. The penetrating captive bolt gun should be placed very firmly against the skull at the same location previously described for gunshot. Animals must be adequately restrained to ensure proper placement of the captive bolt.

Maintenance and cleaning of the penetrating captive bolt gun, as described by the manufacturer, must be followed to ensure proper operation.

Confirmation of death is essential. Immediately following the euthanasia method, a standing animal should collapse and may experience a period of muscle contraction (usually no longer than 20 seconds). This will be followed by a period of relaxation and some poorly coordinated kicking or paddling movements. The pupils of the eyes should be totally dilated. The animal must be monitored for five minutes to confirm death. Death may be confirmed by the absence of breathing, absent heartbeat, and a co rneal reflex (blinking response). To check a corneal reflex, touch the animal's cornea (surface of the eye); there should be no response to the touch if the animal is deceased. The presence of any eye movement or blinking at this time is evidence of sustained or recovering brain activity and the individual should repeat the same or an alternative euthanasia procedure.

Last Updated ( Sunday, 30 March 2008 )