HOW TO EVALUATE LAMENESS, WHAT ARE THE CAUSES?
What Should I Look For?
Each day, twice a day, you are given an opportunity to practice livestock management. Each time you feed; evaluate your goat or lamb from head to tail looking at the eyes, ears, mouth, feet, stance and tail set. It’s in these moments that you can catch an injury or illness in the early stage!
So you’re getting ready to feed and you notice that your goat or lambl is limping or looking like something hurts. What do you do? Your goat or lamb may be lame.
LAMENESS IS DESCRIBED BY MERCK’S VET MANUAL AS:
“An abnormal stance or gait caused by either a structural or a functional disorder of the locomotor system. The animal is either unwilling or unable to stand or move normally. It can be caused by trauma, congenital or acquired disorders, infection, metabolic disorders, or nervous and circulatory system disease. Lameness is not a disease per se but a clinical sign. It is a manifestation of pain, mechanical restrictions causing alteration of stance or gait, or neuromuscular disease.”
That’s a lot of fancy words for saying my animal isn’t moving right and I need to find out why! Before you make a call to your advisor, breeder or vet, there a number of questions that you need to answer and have written down. This will help determine the correct plan to fix your problem!
IS THERE AN OPEN INJURY? DO YOU SEE BLOOD?
Blood – If you see blood,
- Clean – Clean the wound with water to reveal how minor or major the injury is. Sometimes a scrape or cut can cause swelling and limping but still be considered an easy fix. If the cut is still actively bleeding, call for help and apply pressure to see if it will stop. There are products to get the blood to coagulate (which is to stop bleeding).
- Take a picture – Take a picture of the wound and send to your adviser for evaluation. This is a safe way to make sure that a serious injury gets the medical attention needed.
Minor Cut or Wound – If there is a cut,
- Rinse – Rinse with water and then apply a blend of 50/50 solution of Betadine/Water to disinfect the wound.
- Apply an Antibiotic – Apply a topical antibiotic spray.
- Repeat Cleaning – For the next few days, rinse and reapply topical medicines to see if the limping improves. Sometimes as the wound heals, the limping will improve. It’s like having a small cut on your foot, it’s not life threatening, but you may walk a tenderly on it for a few days! Report all changes to your adviser. See article Cuts and Scrapes for more details!
ARE THE HOOVES OVER GROWN?
DO THEY NEED A TRIM?
Overgrown hooves can cause lameness in goats. Are the hooves looking like they are causing discomfort? If so,
Reference article on “Trimming Hooves”. Secure the goat on a grooming stand and attempt to trim the feet using nips and a hoof knife. Always wear heavy gloves when trimming feet to avoid a cutting injury or make an appointment for your adviser to come trim the feet.
IS THERE ANYTHING STUCK IN THE BOTTOM OF THE HOOF OR TOE?
ITEM LODGED IN THE TOE AREA -
Evaluate – Is it a nail or just a rock stuck in the wall of the hoof? If it’s a rock, pluck the rock out and look to see if there is any blood or other irritation. If it’s a nail or some other type of metal, you may need help getting the nail out and soaking and cleaning the hoof of any debris. Your animal will most likely benefit from a C&D Tetanus Toxoid shot or other vet recommended antibiotic to ensure adequate healing.
Watch – Pay attention for the next few days to see if the limping improves. Report any changes to your advisor.
ARE THERE ANY SWOLLEN AREAS ON THE LEG?
Young animals are active and are always jumping, climbing and bouncing around and they can easily strain a muscle or get a cut or puncture wound from their activities.
- Examine all four legs for swelling. Look for any cuts, scrapes, bruises, punctures or bites. Bites can be from insects, spiders, or dogs. Swelling will look puffy and may be warmer. To see if it’s warmer than normal, touch the other legs to see their temperature.
- Injury – Does it look like the leg was caught in the fence or wire? If so, walk around the pen looking for wire or sharp edges sticking out. FIX THE FENCE! Do not leave to re-injure your animal.
- Swollen legs can be symptoms of minor cuts, soft tissue damage, joint injuries or a fracture. It will take more evaluation from your advisor or vet.
HOW IS THE LAMB STANDING? IS HE WALKING IN A STRAINED MANNER?
IS HE WALKING STRAINED OR UNCOMFORTABLE LOOKING?
Examine Body Stance – This little goat is an example of a hunched back, distressed body position. If your lamb is standing hunched backed and feet together, this position may indicate a stomach irritation or other internal illness. When caught early, most illnesses can be fixed quickly. Look at the symptoms of Acidosis, overeating disease, urinary calculi, and other gastric issues. Be sure to tell your adviser of what you are seeing and what you are doing to help. Check the Medicine Cabinet for stomach based issues. Before you call your adviser, answer the these questions:
- Off Feed? – Did your goat finish his food? Is there any left overs in his bucket? Does the feed smell fresh or rancid? Are there bugs in the feed? If it’s bad, throw it out, scrub the bucket and give new fresh feed.
- Lack of Water – Does your goat have access to fresh water? Is the water on? Sometimes lack of water can cause stress & heat related health issues that show up in the movement and stance of your goat. If the water is the issue, provide fresh water and electrolytes if the weather is really warm.
- Poop Piles – Is your goat or lamb pooping? Walk around and see how many fresh piles there are. The normal amount should be around 5-7 piles per day. Does your goat look constipated or messy with diarrhea? Intestinal issues can cause your goat to look lame because their stomachs hurt.
The basic lesson here is to look at your goat or lamb and watch their movements, attitude and interest. They’ve got all day to nose around and get into trouble. The sooner you look and see that there is a problem, the sooner you can get them back to health! All lameness issues need to be evaluated and treated. Some will be an easy fix while other may be complicated and require attention from your vet.