SYMPTOMS OF BLOAT IN GOATS & SHEEP
Ruminant Animals and Gas Management
Animals that have ruminant stomachs include cattle, sheep, goats, deer, giraffes, antelopes, and camels. Ruminant animals have 4 stomachs and can be prone to bloat. The rumen is a big fermentation vat. The four stomach are called the rumen, reticulum, omasum and abomasum. In the first two chambers, the rumen and the reticulum, the food is mixed with saliva and separates into layers of solids and liquids. The solids clump together to form the cud. The cud is then regurgitated and chewed to further mix it with saliva and to break down the particle size. You can tell when a ruminant animal is chewing its cud, because it looks like it is chewing gum. The cud chewing process helps prevent the buildup of potassium levels in the ruminants system.
WHAT IS BLOAT?
Bloat is when the belly become suddenly large from fast producing gases that are being blocked and cannot escape. Because the rumen produces carbon dioxide and methane gas, it is important that the goat or lamb eliminate the gases by belching and passing gas (farts). If they cannot expel the gas, the pressure builds up and the animal “bloats”. When this happens, the left side of the animal will become distended which might even cause difficulty in breathing and can lead to death. Bloat is easily prevented and treatable if the signs are noticed.
TYPES OF BLOAT:
Frothy Bloat – This type of bloat is more likely to be caused by weeds and grasses and foam will be around the mouth area. Severe cases usually result in death.
Gassy Bloat – This is likely to be caused by overeating grain.
SIGNS OF BLOAT:
Swollen Stomach – The abdomen is obviously distended, especially on the left side.
Distress Signs – Signs of discomfort such as kicking or biting at their stomach, or grinding their teeth.
Down and Depressed – The goat or lamb is laying down, depressed looking and unable or unwilling to get up. May moan and tender to touching the stomach.
Breathing Destress – In more serious forms: difficulty breathing, stretched out with an enlarged stomach.
RECOGNIZING ACTIVITIES THAT CAUSE BLOAT:
Overeating – The animal may get out and gain access to feed or grass.
New Food – A sudden change in diet; too much of a new food.
Milkweed – Certain weeds such as Milkweed cause a lot of gas and are toxic to grazing animals. Make certain that your pasture is free from milkweed. There are many varieties of milkweed, be sure to know which variety grows in your area.
Uncured Hay and Grass – Hay (wet or molding hay) consumed in excess (green grass or hay is uncured. Cured Hay is dried and baled or cubed).
Milk Replacers – In kids or young lambs, bloat can occur when they are fed milk replacers too quickly.
Obstruction – One of the stomachs may become obstructed or blocked.
Feed Changes – Make feed changes gradual and slow (especially with grain). See the article “How to Safely Switch Feeds”.
Grazing – Restrict grazing time on tall, fast growing pasture grass to a few minutes and increase the time over a 2/3 week period. A mineral oil drench can be administered before turning them out on the pasture (but still watch how long they are allowed to eat.
Hay Snack – Don’t turn out a hungry ruminant onto rich green pasture; feed them some hay first to curb their hunger. Browsing and nibbling is safer than aggressive eating.
Baking Soda – Add a ½ tsp of baking soda daily to the grain or sprinkle on the hay. Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) helps ruminants regulate their rumens. Baking soda aids in balancing the pH level in the rumen and helps to keep the digestive processes in tune.
No Group Grain Feeding – Individually feed grain to goats. If goats are fed grain together, those who eat fast may be consuming more than their fair share of grain and may bloat.
Probiotic Paste – Give oral probiotic paste at the first sign of bloating or upset stomach. Minor bloat can be quickly reduced with probiotic paste.
Secure Feed – Keep feed in air tight, secure bins with secure latches away from goats. Goats are very clever at opening lids and tearing into feed bags. Metal trashcans can be an easily solutions.
- Trash Can – Secure lid
- Probiotic Paste
- Baking Soda
- Drenching Gun
- Mineral or Vegetable Oil
- C&D Antitoxin & Syringe
For goats and sheep that are still able to walk:
Pull Feed – Do not allow the goat to eat anything. Pull ALL feed from the pen.
Oil Drench – Slowly administer orally ½ cup or 4 ounces of vegetable or mineral oil with a drenching gun (or turkey baster). The oil breaks the tension of the bubbles in the stomach, so the goat can then belch and pass gas. It also dislodges any clumps of feed that may be stuck. Measure and record the amount given with date & time. This will be informative if the vet needs to be
Massage – Rub the sides of the belly, especially the left side (rumen) until the goat begins to burp and pass gas. Walking the goat also helps to move the gases.
Baking Soda – If the goat begins to pass gas and is up on their feet and walking around, give 1 Tablespoon of baking soda in warm water or molasses or ½ cup vinegar which will help to replace the missing magnesium and potassium. Continue to give baking soda on their feed for the next week.
Wellness Check – Check on the goat every hour after treatment if they are on their feet and walking around. If they are down and stressed, do not leave them. Contact help.
C&D Antitoxin Shot – Administer C&D Antitoxin as a safeguard. If it is not needed in the gut, the goat will pass it in the urine. This helps balance the rumen and calms things down. Many times a after a bloat, the goat will come down with Enterotoxaemia. This can be a very fast, life threatening disease. Adult goats give 10 cc of C&D Antitoxin sub-Q (under the skin – Reference “Injection Steps – All Livestock”), a couple times over 2 days until they recover. With a young kid, 3-5 cc is sufficient.
Probiotics & Electrolytes – Along with bloat, some goats will get diarrhea. Keep close watch on them and let it run its course. Make sure the goat is staying hydrated and place electrolytes in their water and give 3 doses of probiotic paste (morning, night and next morning). The probiotic paste will aid in the overall recovery.
For goats or sheep that are down and unable to get up:
Call the vet. Do not leave the animal alone.
The vet will assess the condition to determine a remedy. This picture shows a severely distressed goat and death was imminent.
Goats & Sheep are usually happy, tail wagging, energetic and curious about their surroundings! Any time you see a goat or lamb with their tail down, standing still or lying flat on the ground, go take a closer look. They are usually sick or need some type of help.