It’s hard to deal with a sick goat- you are worried and you aren’t sure what to do to make the animal feel better. Your goats can’t tell you what’s wrong and you have to rely on what their actions and bodies are telling you.
The number one illness I get asked about isn’t actually an illness, but a symptom.
Scours. (And if you don’t already know, scours is simply another name for diarrhea in animals.)
A lot of times people get misinformation on treating scours in goats. I have heard many old timers give the advice of giving Kao-Pectin as the only treatment, and while this can help dry up the scours and help prevent dehydration, it is not a cure and will not treat any underlying conditions.
So what causes scours in goats and how do you treat them?
Pick up a copy of my Busy Homesteader’s Goat Management Binder to help you keep track of all the most important tasks, records, and information all in one place. Includes to-do lists, checklists, dosage guides, and more to keep track of prevention, medications, breedings- and everything else!
What Causes Scours in Goats?
It’s not a simple answer, but here are some of the most common causes of scours in goats.
Parasites. If I see an adult goat with scours I will usually check for anemia or other signs of parasites. I will also go ahead and worm her just in case.
I start with a big dose of herbs and if that doesn’t work after a day or 2 I’ll go for the chemical dewormers like Prohbit or Ivomec. (Here’s how to dose and give Ivermectin to goats.) Also check out my article on Preventing Worms with Herbs including a simple dosage ball recipe.
Related Reading: How to Diagnose and Treat Anemia in Goats
Coccidiosis: If you have a younger goat kid who seems to have sudden onset of scours, Coccidia is usually the culprit. Unless I see signs of another cause, I will treat with Sulmet or Di-Methox (these are now only available by prescription only.)
Coccidiosis in goats can cause a lot of problems so you want to catch it early and treat it so that the goat isn’t affected long term.
Learn more about diagnosing and treating coccidiosis.
Changes in Diet: Often times scours in goats are not caused by a major illness, but simply eating too much of a new thing. Maybe you just upped their grain or moved them to a new green pasture. This can temporarily mess up a goat’s rumen and cause a bout of scours.
If the symptoms comes on after an escape you might want to look at possible plant toxicity.
If accompanied by other painful symptoms you might be looking at a more severe condition such as Acidosis which will require additional treatment or Enterotoxemia.
Related Reading: Why Your Goat Needs B Vitamins
Stress: Things like moving, kidding, or other stressors can also cause a brief bout of scours in goats. In this case keeping the goat calm and giving some electrolytes is the best course of action.
Just keep an eye on her to see if things progress and become more serious or if other symptoms emerge.
Those are of course, not all the causes, and in my Busy Homesteader’s Management Binder I have a symptom checker flow sheet that can help give you a place to start when trying to diagnose and treat a variety of common illnesses.
Don’t forget to keep any goat with scours hydrated! Make she has access to fresh water and whip up some electroytes at least once a day to help even more. After treatment, give a dose of Probios to help get the rumen healthy again, and just keep an eye on the goat for a few days to make sure she’s back to pellets and acting herself.