Diarrhea should not be considered an illness in and of itself but rather
symptom of other more serious health problems in goats. Before
treating a goat for diarrhea, it is essential to determine why the animal
is scouring. Diarrhea-controlling medication can make the situation
worse. Slightly soft stool is sometimes the body's way of ridding
itself of undesirable products through the purging effect of diarrhea.
If the scouring is slightly soft stool, let it run its course. When body
temperature is above the normal range of 101.5 to 103.5 degrees F., use a
fever medication and an antibiotic to control infection. Obviously, very
watery diarrhea requires a different approach and much more intervention
on the producer's part. For purposes of this article, my definition of
"diarrhea" is anything other than perfectly formed goat pills.
There are four major causative agents of diarrhea in goats: bacteria,
viruses, parasites, and management practices (i.e., overcrowding, poor
sanitation, or nutritionally-induced problems such as overfeeding).
Diarrhea can be the symptom of many different illnesses, including
bloat, ruminal acidosis, laminitis/founder, copper deficiency, aflatoxin
poisoning, anaphylactic shock, plant toxicity/poisoning, renal failure,
selenium toxicity, coccidiosis, enterotoxemia (clostridium perfringens
type C&D), salmonellosis, E. Coli infection, caprine herpes virus, heavy
parasite infestation, and goat polio. Always run a fecal examination on
the goat's feces before attempting any treatment. See my website's
article on how to do your own fecals (www.tennesseemeatgoats.com).
However, diarrhea is not always the result of an infectious disease. It
can be nutritionally induced by overfeeding on milk or grain, by using
poor-quality milk replacers, or by sudden changes in feeding schedules or
in the type of feed being offered.
Neonatal Diarrhea Complex, which is the term used to describe diarrhea
occuring in kids under one month of age, the cause of which may not ever
be diagnosed, usually occurs during kidding season when extremes of
weather take place . . . . excessive heat or cold or heavy rains. Kids
less than one month of age do have not fully functioning immune systems,
so diarrhea can take a heavy toll. Dehydration, acidosis, electrolyte
depletion, and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) can result. The kid
becomes weak and can't stand, has a dry mouth and cold extremities, body
temperature drops below normal, and the sucking response is often lost.
Sick kids should be isolated from the herd, placed in sanitary
facilities, and fed in containers that are well above ground level to prevent further
contamination. Administration of oral and sub-cutaneous electrolytes
along with an appropriate broad-spectrum antibiotic is the recommended
treatment. The preferred oral electrolyte product is ReSorb; sterile
Lactated Ringers Solution (vet prescription) should be used for
subcutaneous rehydration. In the case of Floppy Kid Syndrome, one step
in its proper treatment involves the use of a laxative (Milk of Magnesia) to
induce mild diarrhea so that the kid's body is rid of the stagnant toxic
milk that has overloaded its digestive system.
Coccidia and/or worms usually are the cause of diarrhea in kids over
one month of age. Both of these conditions are transmitted by
fecal-to-oral contact and occur most frequently in intensive management
situations where pens and troughs are not kept clean and dry and where
overcrowding exists. Accurate diagnosis of worm or coccidia oocyst
infestation is possible only by doing a microscopic fecal count.
Adult-onset diarrhea is less common than in kids, but nevertheless is
possible. Overfeeding on grain (such as shell or cracked corn) can cause
severe ruminal acidosis . . . literally shutting down the goat's digestive
system . . . and can result in death. Heavy parasite loads can cause
diarrhea in adult goats. Almost anything which negatively affects the
proper functioning of the goat's rumen may cause scouring.
When a producer sees diarrhea in one of his goats, do not run for a
bottle of Pepto-Bismol, Kaeopectate, or Scour Halt. First figure out
what is causing the scouring, then treat appropriately. Use a rectal
thermometer to take the goat's body temperature. Do a microscopic
examination of the feces. Check the goat for dehydration. Pinch the
skin; if it snaps back into place, the goat is not seriously dehydrated. If
the skin stays "tented," like beaten egg whites, the goat is seriously
dehydrated. Mix electrolytes (ReSorb or equivalent) and orally drench
the animal to prevent dehydration. Administer sterile Lactated Ringers
Solution electrolytes under the skin (sub-cutaneously) if the goat is
already seriously dehydrated.
Never use Immodium AD to control diarrhea in a goat. This product can
stop the peristaltic action of the gut, bringing the digestive process to a
halt, and death is not uncommon under such circumstances.
Producers should recognize diarrhea as a symptom of a more serious
health problem and investigate further to find the cause before running for the
Scour Halt bottle. Sometimes, but certainly not always, the diarrhea is
helpful in clearing up what is wrong with the goat.