I read every goat publication I could get my hands on, but for some reason, I always thought “it won’t happen to my goats.” Unfortunately, I had to learn the hard way. How many times have I read about enterotoxemia? How many times have I thought, “oh it won’t happen, but if it does, I’ll know what to do?” WRONG!!! If just one goat can be saved because someone read about the mistakes I made, then maybe my little buckling didn’t die in vain.
First of all, what is enterotoxemia? As goat owner’s we’ve all heard the term, but how many of us really understand the disease? Enterotoxemia is caused by Clostridium perfringes, a bacterium that is normally present in the rumen of all goats. It can affect kids as young as three days. Older animals are affected when the normal bacteria in the gut multiply so rapidly that the gas produced interferes with normal digestion. Some causes of enterotoxemia in older goats are: being turned out on lush pasture in early spring, switching their grain suddenly, and rapidly increasing their feed.
Since it is far easier to prevent enterotoxemia in goats than to treat it, you should have all your goats on a regular vaccination schedule. The recommended schedule that I now follow is to vaccinate kids at 12 weeks of age, booster 21 days later, and annually thereafter. There are many varied opinions on which vaccination and schedule to use, so I recommend talking to other goat breeders in our area and see what they use and then be your own judge. Another recommendation is to vaccinate does three weeks before they are due to kid which is supposed to cause the doe to produce antibodies in her colostrum to protect new kids until they are old enough to vaccinate. If you are unable to vaccinate three weeks before kidding or you obtain a doe that has already kidded and you don’t know their vaccination history, then you can administer CD Antitoxin every 2-3 weeks until the kid is old enough to receive their CD/T vaccination.
Since vaccinations sometimes fail, we fail as owners, or whatever the circumstance may be, you should know some of the symptoms of enterotoxemia. If you catch it early, it is possible to treat and save the goat. Symptoms include depression, diarrhea, bloating, staggering, bawling due to intense pain, coma, and death. If you’ve ever had a gallbladder attack, then you can imagine what a painful way this is for a goat to die.
If you are lucky enough to catch the onset of enterotoxemia early, then start treatment immediately. Treatment includes the administration of CD Antitoxin and two to three ounces of an antacid to soothe the abdominal pain and reduce the acidosis. A well respected lady in the Boer goat industry named Coni Ross, recommends the following treatment and this is what I would follow personally: For kids, 5cc oral penicillin, 5cc SQ penicillin, 15cc Pepto Bismol oral, 7cc CD Antitoxin SQ, and Banamine (for pain) 1cc per 100 lbs . Repeat the SQ penicillin, and CD Antitoxin in 4-6 hours . The penicillin works topically to kill the clostridial bacteria growing in the gut and the Pepto Bismol is an antacid , anti gas, and reduces pain.
Now, with all this information, you’d think I would be able to save a goat, but as the title of this article states, “It won’t happen to my goats.” I made all kinds of crucial mistakes and if you can learn from my mistakes, then it was worth writing this article. My first mistake was knowing that the doe was not vaccinated three weeks prior to kidding and not administering the CD Antitoxin. I’ve looked at this drug several times when ordering goat supplies, but kept thinking it would just be a waste of money, so I never kept it on hand. Then, my second mistake was to move this doe and kid to the barn and increase their feed intake suddenly. They were at the bottom of the pecking order in the lot I had them in and after about three weeks, I knew I was going to have to move them or they weren’t going to thrive. I should have moved them sooner and slowly increased their feed, but at the time, I thought I was doing the right thing. Next, was my third mistake. I bought a new kind of grain and was anxious to see how the goats liked it, I immediately gave the doe and buckling some of the new grain, and they loved it. So, instead of gradually changing them over, I gave them a full serving of the new feed. And lastly, my fourth and fatal mistake, I didn’t have CD Antitoxin on hand, I recognized the signs of enterotoxemia in the buckling, but I didn’t have the medication to help this little guy . I did give him the antacid and Banamine for pain, but because I didn’t have the antitoxin, I feel I lost him. I caught the onset of enterotoxemia early, because he was showing the classic symptoms mentioned earlier. He was laying with his head down, bawling in pain, and hiding in a corner (depression). If I could have followed the treatment regime with the CD Antitoxin, I believe he could have been saved. I have concluded though, all the mistakes I made led up to his untimely death and now I know…..”It CAN happen to my goats.”