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I have had people write me, concerned that their goat/kids were "bloating" when in fact they were fine. But, real bloat, if untreated, can cause death, so it is something to be aware of. We have only had a couple cases of bloat in our herd over many years. These cases were all cleared up with oil and massage.
Do you think your goat is fat?
You cannot tell fat from the belly. Goats are tricky because what looks fat to us is just a healthy goat. We call it "good condition". If you look at their belly, or width side to side, and this is really big or wide, that is not fat. That is good rumen development and a sign of a healthy goat. A goat's rumen is a big fermentation vat, and the bigger it is the better they process their food. A big rumen is a good thing.
A goat's rumen is a big fermentation vat which produces carbon dioxide and methane gas These gasses are eliminated by the goat burping and pooting... A goat needs to expel their gas, no matter how rude or funny you may think it may be. If they cannot expel the gas, the pressure builds up and the goat "bloats". When this happens, the left side of the goat will become distended which might even cause difficulty in breathing.
SInce being wide is actually a good thing, how can you tell if your goat is bloating?
When you look at him or her head on, are either of his sides wider than the other? In cases of bloat, the goat's left side will be wider than the right. If both sides are the same size and the goat is showing no signs of distress, it's probably nothing to worry about.
Be aware that all goats are different and they have different body styles. Some are wider than others. We had a doe named Burrita who we said had "saddle bags" because she was always so wide. Her sister never got wide like her.
When it isn't bloat:
If the goat is wide, but his sides are evenly large, and they are what you think might be "bloated" for an extended period of time, such as weeks or months, they are not really bloated, but just in "good condition". Their rumen is well developed, which is a good thing.
What causes bloat?
Eating foods which produce lots of gas over a short period of time
A sudden change in diet; too much of a new food
Certain weeds, such as Milkweeds, can create an imbalance within the rumen, thereby causing bloat.
Uncured hay and grass hay, such as hay that is still wet or moldy can cause bloat if consumed in excess.
In kids, bloat can occur when they are fed milk replacers as opposed to real goat milk.
Obstruction of the oesophagus
Paralysis of the face such as with Tetanus
This goat is not bloated.
She may look a bit bloated, but this goat is not bloated. This is normal for her; she has just been out all morning grazing.
Signs of bloat:
The abdomen is obviously distended, especially on the left side.
Signs of discomfort such as "mawing", kicking or grinding their teeth. Depression
In more serious forms: difficulty breathing.
Make sure to offer baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) free choice so the goats can regulate their rumens on their own. Baking soda aids in balancing the pH level in the rumen and helps to keep the digestive processes in tune.
Always make changes in diet gradual (especially with grain)
Restrict grazing time on rapidly growing rich pasture, or administer oil before turning them out on the pasture.
Don't turn out very hungry goats onto rich pasture; fill them up on hay first.
Stop the goat from eating any more.
1/4 - 1/3 cup of vegetable/peanut oil.
The oil breaks the tension of the bubbles in the stomach/fermentation vat, so they can then pop and the gas expelled.
not use mineral oil. Because mineral oil is tasteless,
the goat may not know to swallow and the mineral
oil could get into their lungs.
Massage goats sides, especially the left side (rumen) until the goat
to burp and fart.
If the bloat is really bad, call a vet immediately because the pressure in the abdomen can could stop the lungs and heart from working. The veterinarian will release the gas by making a small incision. The incision is made four fingers width behind the bottom of the ribs on the left side of the goat as it lies.
If the goat is near death, as a last resort, you may try puncturing the rumen with a stabbing action, using a very sharp, pointed knife or preferably a trocar and cannula. Aim for the highest spot on the left side and plunge into the rumen. The danger with this is that the rumen contents and/or dirt from the outside can get between the layers between the rumen, peritoneum and skin and cause a very serious infection called peritonitis. But if the goat in near death, anything is worth trying to save her.
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