Respiratory Conditions in Goats

respiratory conditions in goats

When a goat has a runny nose or cough, people often assume it has a respiratory infection or lungworms. But those symptoms could be caused by something as simple as dust from hay or living on a gravel road. Ammonia buildup in a barn, as well as smoke or exhaust from machinery, can also cause coughing and runny noses in goats.

Treating respiratory issues caused by environmental factors will be a waste of time, as they will not go away until the environmental problem is corrected. This is why barns should not be insulated. In fact, we keep a door open year round unless we are in the midst of a blizzard with blowing snow.

A goat can develop a runny nose following any type of injury to the bones in the head, such as disbudding, a damaged horn, an infected tooth, or a cracked bone in the face.

Something as simple as a tight collar can cause coughing in goats. If a goat starts to cough only when being led by the collar, the problem is not illness in the goat. Holding a collar too tightly can restrict a goat’s airflow resulting in the goat falling to its knees. This is not an uncommon sight at goat shows when someone is showing a goat that hasn’t been trained to lead or simply does not like to lead.

There are many types of pneumonia in goats, and in spite of how common it is, it can be a challenge to diagnose and treat. It can be caused by parasites, fungus, and a long list of viruses and bacteria. Treatment with antibiotics may or may not be effective, depending on what is causing the pneumonia. Sometimes pneumonia can be a symptom of a much larger problem, especially when occurring with stillbirths and abortions.

A kid with pneumonia may cough or have a runny nose, but the only symptoms in adults may be lethargy and going off feed. You may hear rattling in the lungs or base of the throat by using a stethoscope. A stethoscope is inexpensive to purchase and can be used to familiarize yourself with the sound of healthy goat lungs for comparison. Although a goat with pneumonia will usually have an elevated fever, a temperature below normal is even more of a concern because that means its body is starting to shut down and it is near death.

Inhalation pneumonia will appear in a goat after being drenched with medication that accidentally goes into the windpipe instead of down the throat. It may also happen when a goat throws up, which they do so rarely that some sources say goats don’t vomit. However, when a goat does vomit, it is usually because it has consumed something poisonous. A kid born with a cleft palate can develop pneumonia from aspirating milk.

Determining the cause of a cough in goats or respiratory ailment can be tricky, and if the goat has a fever of 104°F or more, is off feed, or lethargic, call the vet. If antibiotics were recommended and you have been treating a goat for 48 hours and are not seeing improvement, the antibiotic is not working. You might need a different antibiotic, or the cause of the pneumonia is a virus, which won’t respond to antibiotics. If you have seen an improvement, it is recommended that you continue treatment for at least 48 hours after symptoms have disappeared. Stopping antibiotic therapy too early contributes to the development of antibiotic-resistant bugs.

There are a number of different organisms that can cause pneumonia, and vaccines are only available for a couple of them. Even if you vaccinate for pneumonia, you still need to make sure your goats get plenty of fresh air and do as much as possible to create an environment that is not conducive to respiratory infections.

This is an excerpt from Raising Goats Naturally: The Complete Guide to Milk, Meat, and More, 2nd Revised Edition by Deborah Niemann.

Raising Goats Naturally

 

 

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37 thoughts on “Respiratory Conditions in Goats”

  1. Do you use antibiotics on your goats? I had to use several antibiotics to save a doe during a goat plague epidemic. The virus is incredibly strong and the secondary infections are so varied and simultaneous, it was the only way. Oxytetracycline, cipro, gentamycin and ceftriaxone. In the case that this doe needs antibiotics again, will any of these work for her again? I’m so disappointed as I wanted to raise my small herd organically.

    Reply
    • I will definitely use antibiotics if necessary. Keep in mind that antibiotics don’t work on viruses at all — they only work on bacteria — so your goats must have had some type of bacterial infection, if the antibiotics helped them. I’m not aware of any research on antibiotic resistance in goats, so there’s nothing engraved in stone about whether or when an antibiotic will work again. We only use them when absolutely necessary, which is maybe on one or two goats per year max with most years being zero, and they have always worked for us. The more often you use them, the more likely you will have an issue with resistant infections. So if you only used them with a few goats once, then it’s probably not a big deal.

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  2. Thank you for the reply. Yes, goat plague/PPR is a virus, but most of the fatality occurs due to a large amount of secondary bacterial infections, each of which need different antibiotics. I expect that is why the antibiotics helped. I hope I never need them again.

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  3. I have a buckling that has been ill since I got him. Battling upper respiratory, bronchial pneumonia, coccidia. He still lives after to months, 3 round of antibiotics now on anti fungals. Coccidia treatment. I have done everything herbal, homeopathic, allopathic I know to do. He still eats and tries to survive. This is now over two months in. He has a little more energy and is eating better since I have been giving him cud from other goats. The cough is back. Thinking of trying cough free or even Benadryl.

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  4. I have a barn full of adult goats that one minute they have a snotty nose and the next they appear fine. It has had me puzzled. They don’t act sick and temps are fine. I am getting my hay from the same guy but did just get in a new batch. Could it possibly be from that?

    Reply
    • Dusty hay can cause a runny nose, or is you haven’t had as much rain as usual, so there is more dust in the air. If it’s coming and going like that, it sounds like something environmental that’s coming and going.

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  5. I tend to try to use herbal and alternative medicines first for myself and the creatures under our care. This includes goats, a horse, chickens, cats and a dog.

    For snotty noses, if the discharge is clear, I suspect pollen allergies or dusty conditions. I wipe out nostrils and make sure hay troughs are kept cleaner. I add or increase Vitamin C.

    For deep raspy coughs and colored nasal discharges (green or yellow) my first go to remedy is olive leaf extract capsules and oregano oil capsules. Both are potent antivirals and antibacterials, as well as provide immune support. I start with 1 capsule of each twice a day, but give up to 6 each twice a day depending on size of the animal and severity of the symptoms. I do continue the treatment for 5-7 days.

    I use pitted dates or pitted prunes as pill pockets. Everyone thinks these are great treats.

    I also have a good acupressure redlight laser that I can use on acupressure points to fight illness, promote healing & relieve muscle strains and even speed healing of broken bones.

    Most of the animals I’ve used the red light on, thoroughly enjoy the process and frequently will turn or position themselves so the light has the most effect on whatever the problem is. Animals seem to instinctively know where the appropriate acupressure points are to help their condition.

    I do have antibiotics in the fridge, but save those for very infrequent use. I have not noticed a reduction in effectiveness using the herbal remedies or the acupressure points.

    I also have not had any of the severe illnesses in my animals the article discussed. Most of what I deal with are conditions brought on by sudden weather changes, getting wet from downpours and cold north winds.

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    • Hello BDN, I am interested in learning more about your method and dosage for the olive leaf extract capsules and oregano oil capsules. Can you please email me so I can ask you a few questions? Thank you for your time! Marandaluper@gmail.com

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    • I just got my first 2 goats, they are just over 4 months. I would love more info on your herbal remedies please. I just noticed one has a little cough that wasn’t there earlier today so I will keep a check on that, I did just clean there pen yesterday but it is a concrete storm shelter with an ave door and a fan in it for now. I do close the door at night in fear of coyotes at night. If you wouldn’t mind sending me some info and types I would be very grateful. Sidney_aldredge@bellsouth.net

      Reply
  6. Good Morning!

    I have 2- 3 week old newly banded bucklings that I picked up yesterday. They are bottle babies. They are both eating from the bottle fine but the have a phlegmy sounding cough and when I went to feed them this morning both their noses were almost completely crusted shut with snot. This is my first experience with keeping goats. Does this sound like something I should be calling the vet about? I’ve tried to do research online but its quite a range from could be a reaction to the stress of being banded and transported to pneumonia. Any help would be appreciated.

    Reply
    • Are they running around, climbing over each other, bouncing like tiggers? Are they consuming 15-20% of their body weight in milk eagerly? Is their temp between 101 and 102 or close to that? If yes to all questions, they are probably okay for now. If not, I’d call the vet. If the snot doesn’t go away within a couple of days, I’d probably call anyway to at least talk through their symptoms with the vet. You could also put your ear up to their chest and see if their breathing sounds clear. If not, I’d call the vet.

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  7. We have a bottle baby goat that is 8 weeks old. He has had a cough for the 2 weeks that we have had him and now his nose is running clear. With the Corona Virus it is hard to get in contact with a local vet. Any suggestions on what we can do or give. He acts fine. Full of energy and very playful. Thank you!

    Reply
    • If he is full of energy and very playful, that’s a great sign. As you can see from this article, there are so many potential causes of a cough or runny nose, that it would be impossible to give you any sort of educated guess on what’s happening in your particular situation. As long as he is eating, drinking, and running around, I wouldn’t worry too much.

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  8. I have a 10 week old kid, he sounds raspy when walking around , doesn’t have any runny nose, eating like normal, actually big for his age, I am in Oregon where it is wet, and I see slugs in the grass,do you think lungworms? if so how do I treat them?

    Reply
    • I’d ask your vet if lungworm is a problem in your area because it’s pretty uncommon.

      Did you buy this goat, or was he born on your farm? If you bought him, it’s hard to know anything about his condition because you haven’t seen him for that long. If he was or is kept inside, there could be an air quality problem that is causing breathing issues. Ammonia is a problem before humans can smell it. Could the hay be dusty, or do you live on a dusty road?

      Keep in mind that lungworm is a parasite, and a goat infected with lungworm is usually in poor body condition. Also, a goat with lungworm coughs. They are actually coughing up the worms, then swallowing them which is how they get into a fecal. So coughing is a really important symptom. If he just sounds congested, it’s probably something else.

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  9. I bought a healthy ND Doe in milk about a month ago. She had a slight cough that I noticed in transit as I brought her home.

    Now her cough is a real cough from time to time.

    Her FAMACHA is 2 to 3, she is rubbing her neck and sides like she has Mites, but I don’t see any yet. I am getting a product to treat in case she has them.

    We keep a clean Barn, but it has a sealed wood floor that we spread Lime over and then 6″+ of pine shavings. She and one other Doe ares closed in each night with an open hogwire security door. There is good ventilation.

    Could you advise me concerning the cough?

    Reply
    • You can see lice with the naked eye, although you might need a magnifying glass if your vision isn’t perfect. You need a skin scraping by a vet to confirm mites because they are invisible to the naked eye.

      If the goat appears healthy, the cough might not be anything to worry about. But if you want an accurate diagnosis, you’d need to see a vet and possibly get lab work.

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  10. This is my first time dealing with goats and I could really use some advice or direction please. We just got this batch of baby goat/lambs from an auction and the smallest size seems to be sick. When we got her she was energetic and happy. Now she just stands in a corner, barely sits and if she does her breathing sounds heavy, her nose is always wet and her lips seem like they’re chapped. The temperature inside of her mouth fluctuates from slightly warm to hot. She shows some excitement when I come to see her (Ive kept her separate and indoors as of last night). We been having a quite a bit of rain and wind for the past 4 days not sure if that made her sick.

    Reply
    • I don’t recommend getting goats from an auction for this reason. It is not unusual to bring home a health problem. Without a thermometer to get her actual temperature, it’s impossible to know if she has a fever and may be dealing with some type of infection. Parasites are the most common problem in sheep and goats, so I’d suggest checking her eyelids to see if she’s anemic and/or taking a fecal to the vet and/or taking her to the vet for a proper diagnosis.

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  11. My doe kidded on Monday with triplets, one of whom was extra small and weak, and had trouble standing or nursing. The doe wasn’t aggressive with it, but would kick out impatiently if she tried to nurse and ignored it in general. I brought her in and take her out every 3-4 hrs to nurse after tying up mom. Recently, she seemed to not get enough from her mother(sunken sides, crying) who has always had twins and singles before. I started giving her a bottle of whole cow’s milk in between feedings. She drinks really fast and tonight, she coughed a bit after her bottle. Do you think she aspirated milk? She’s still active and has a normal temp. Thanks.

    Reply
    • It’s not unusual for a kid to cough sometimes if they are drinking too fast. If she’s acting normally, sounds like she’s fine.

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    • Losing weight is always a concern. Combined with respiratory conditions could indicated lungworm. It’s fairly uncommon in the US, but if other goat people in your area have seen it, I’d probably treat for that and see if there is an improvement. If you don’t see an improvement within a week or so (or if the goat stops eating), I’d call the vet.

      Reply
  12. I haven’t had my little Nigerian goats very long, but couple months and they have either matted eyes, snottty noses or even coughing. I have washed out eyes and faces, cleaned noses , changed bedding, wormed, gave LA200, and done everything I possible can but I’m still fighting this. What in the world I’m I doing wrong? They all still eat and drink well and have shelter. Can you offer any advise for me?

    Reply
  13. I have a 2 month old kid goat that was fine and thriving. 5 days ago she was unable to stand and had a raspy cough. Her temperature is normal, she eats and drinks, but when I help her stand her legs are too weak to hold her. I gave her a shot of Clostridium perfringens Types C and D +Tetanus, and completed a 5 day series of Sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim. She’s still eating and drinking, but her breathing and cough is very raspy and she still can’t stand.

    Reply
        • That is terribly underweight for a 2-month-old boer. That is what my Nigerian dwarf kids weigh at 2 months! When you talked about the symptoms, it sounded like a kid that’s starving, and her immune system is also compromised because she’s not been getting enough milk. Is she still nursing or being bottle-fed? If she’s nursing, I’d be concerned that the dam doesn’t have enough milk or has mastitis. I really hope she was NOT pulled from her mom and sold to you because she needs a LOT more milk. I’m surprised she doesn’t have diarrhea as coccidiosis is usually the first thing that happens to kids when they are not getting enough milk. When I know more about the situation, I can make further suggestions.

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  14. Thank you. I think I’ll make a vet visit. She is a twin, but does not appear skinny or nutrition depleted. I may have under estimated her weight, as I scoop her up without too much trouble. Her condition remains unchanged. Still eating, still drinking, but raspy breathing and wet cough. I just don’t want to start another antibiotic series she won’t benefit from. Thank you again.

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  15. I have a ND new mamma . She started coughing the day after she gave birth. No other symptoms eating good, no runny nose, no fever. She worse when she eats Could she have aspirations eating the placenta? How long would it make her cough been 3 weeks.

    Reply
    • If a goat aspirates anything, they will have pneumonia within a day or two, best case scenario, so that’s not the problem. Choke bloat where something gets stuck in the throat will kill a goat very quickly, so it has nothing to do with her eating the placenta. Sounds like she is having issues swallowing, and it’s just a coincidence that you noticed it after she kidded. Some goats also cough when they bring up cud, so if she’s not eating when she coughs, you might notice that the other times she coughs is when she brings up cud. Goats basically spend most of their day eating, bringing up cud, and then re-eating everything, so they are swallowing or upchucking most of their waking hours.

      Reply

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