Last Thursday, 2/9/17, my husband called me saying there was a goat kid that was weak and walking around “drunkenly” but still able to get around and nurse. Immediately my mind went straight to what is called goat polio which is essentially a thiamine deficiency. The name makes it sound more complicated, but it is dangerous and the afflicted goat can die rapidly. So, I told him to give the kid a dose of IM Thiamine and check on him again in a couple hours. We really didn’t want to take him from his mama because goats don’t like that and get lonely really easy and he was only 4-5 weeks old. It’s hard on them.
The first dose of thiamine seemed to really boost the little guy so my husband was hopeful and decided to go over to the farm first thing in the morning and give the kid another dose of thiamine. I got another call. The kid was alive still, but down (unable to stand), had his head pulled to his flank with a rigid neck, and was having muscle twitching/uncontrolled movements of his head and couldn’t lay normally. He was lying on his side. BAD. To our house he came.
The first time I laid eyes on the little guy he looked bad. Much worse than my husband described. He was cold, twitchy, and couldn’t sit upright or control his legs. He was basically a noodle body with a rigid neck that constantly wanted to be turned and tucked into his right flank. I immediately gave him a good dose of more IM thiamine and started him on a high dose procaine penicillin we had on hand. From what I’ve read, goat polio and listeriosis (an overgrowth of a listeria bacteria in the gut from improper feeding) present very similarly. So I immediately started treatment for both. I never had him register a fever so I’m hopeful it wasn’t listeriosis.
I am an RN so I have quite a bit of education and understanding of medications/dosages and treatments. What I have treated my goat with and for is purely my own opinion and it is always recommended to treat under veterinary supervision and advice. The problem is, we don’t have a vet readily available all the time and with both goat polio and listeriosis, you don’t have a whole lot of time before things go sour and the goat inevitably dies. Fast and effective treatment is key.
Since the goat kid was so floppy and weak, I brought him inside where it’s warm for the first night. Had him propped up with towels and blankets to help him lay like a normal goat and instated a turning and repositioning routine. Nurse problems. But seriously, a goat that can’t move themselves is just as much at risk for bed sores as a human is. I also knew he hadn’t eaten for a while. Thankfully, we always have whole cows milk in the fridge. I’ve always read and been told that milk replacer kills goat kids and if goats milk isn’t available, whole cows milk is fine. This kid was so weak he didn’t have a suck to drink the bottle. So I syringe fed him and thankfully he swallowed. I desperately didn’t want to have to tube him to feed him.
And so started my routine. I work 3rd shift at the hospital, so being home during the day to care for the goat wasn’t an issue. It was just exhausting. I quickly fell into a routine. 4oz milk in the AM with probiotic powder mixed in + IM penicillin + IM thiamine + IM banamine for pain. The goat kid looked rough the first night, just miserable. I was certain he was going to pass away through the night so I started giving him banamine twice a day to help with pain because that’s what I had on hand. I tucked him and rubbed him and loved on him to keep him comfortable until the time came. But he never gave up those first 72 hours. I knew he had what it takes to survive. He would make it. He had to!
This is my dog Zeke and the goat kid laying upstairs while I cleaned on Saturday (2/11). I had to keep repositioning him to keep him sitting up. I was attempting to try and have him sit up on his own to build strength. But as you can see here, he doesn’t look very comfortable and his legs are all over the place!
I wanted to break this story up into a series for several reasons. It’s a long story. I think it’s a neat story. It’s a miracle. And I hope for it to be a good reference for anyone and everyone who may, God forbid, run into dealing with a goat polioor listeriosis case and know exactly what to do!
Until next time, friends