Nigerian Dwarf Dairy Goats

for people who love the littlest dairy goats

Yesterday morning, my five month old wether had foamy green drool coming out of his open mouth.  His mouth was stuffed with chewed hay/leaves.

I dug it all out and felt his throat and there didn’t appear to be any blockage.  When I let him loose, he immediately went and nursed, so I figured he was fine and went about my day.

Five hours later, he had the foamy drool and hay and leaves sticking out of his mouth.  Again, his mouth was stuffed with chewed up hay/leaves.

While searching for those symptoms (drool and open mouth), listeriosis came up, so I started treating for that.

I ruled out bloat because his rumen wasn’t extended.

The only other thing I think it could be is poisoning.  He can get outside the fence and eat whatever plants are around.

Other symptoms he’s displaying:

Bottom right eyelid is drooped away from his eye.

He CAN swallow, but not strongly; he’s been drinking water and milk but hasn’t swallowed anything solid.

Spends a lot of time standing with tail down and head dropped a bit.

Temp last night was 104.9 and twelve hours later was 104.8.

I’m giving him Pen G and vit B complex at the dosage and timing outlined here:

He’s had four rounds at this point.

He’s been back outside less than two hours and already got outside the fence twice.  First time he was alone and drinking nasty old rainwater and the second time he and his sister were eating leaves.  I got about five unchewed leaves out of his mouth.

He’s definitely moving slower, but is in no way down.

I was thinking of maybe blending up some Timothy/alfalfa pellets, or regular goat feed pellets that my milkers get (everyone else only gets hay and a bit of chaffhaye), in water and seeing if he can ingest that.

Am I missing anything?

I’m guessing it’s not polio so I don’t really need to be giving the vitamin b, but besides poking him twice as much I don’t think it should hurt.

Any suggestions?

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Did you actually talk to a vet at Cornell? I've never heard of anyone calling a vet school and just being given an estimate of costs, including Cornell in the past. 

I'm really looking forward to learning more about what is actually going on inside that little guy.

Yep, they had a vet call me back.

It wasn’t what I expected, but it was my first time calling so I figured maybe that’s just how they handle these things there.

of course it could’ve just been that vet, or maybe they’re really busy today.

The vet was able to squeeze him in today.

She did a rectal exam and there was fresh soft poo.  He’d had two bms in the past 24hours, both small hard berries clumped with something softer.

Did another X-ray and his rumen looked pretty much the same as it did last week.  But it was the first time she got to feel it since it became softer.

She didn’t hear any sounds coming from it so is still working off the theory that there isn’t any blockage (so surgery didn’t come up again) and that it’s just not working.

So, we’re hoping to do a rumen transfer.

The OSU vet said to get some cow stomach contents from a slaughterhouse and tube him.

I found one that can provide the stomach contents Wednesday afternoon (after the vet closes for the day), so I left a message for the vet asking if she thinks that’s too long to wait or if I should take him to a university hospital, but I don’t think I’ll hear back until around noon tomorrow.

He’s started acting a little worse.  Less energy and doesn’t easily take his electrolyte/milk/probios/yogurt mixture from the drenching syringe.  I’ve actually had to force him today, which I haven’t had to do since the first time.

So, depending on how he’s doing in the morning, I might just take him to a university hospital anyway.

He’s able to be out with the others unsupervised now, so maybe spending the evening with other goats will help.

I'm glad you spoke to someone at OSU. I've never heard of a goat surviving this long without eating. I can't imagine he'll last much longer. OSU sounds like a good option. Hopefully it isn't as expensive as Cornell. 

Of course, I feel like I should say that if you decide it's not worth the cost, I'd understand. The other person on here who had a goat with a blockage chose not to treat because they couldn't afford it. They cut the goat open themselves (after she was dead, of course) and found the bag in her rumen. 

He was pretty much the same yesterday morning, and I was getting impatient, so I took him to Cornell (it’s closer to me, and even closer to where I work, so I chose it over OSU for time).

Going to a vet school hospital was a pretty interesting experience.  I liked listening to the vets and students discuss what might be going on with his ‘unusual presentation.’

They were concerned about his jaw being dropped (something I don’t think I’ve mentioned) and that it didn’t seem like he could get water from a dish on the floor to the back of his throat to actually swallow it, so they had a small animal neurologist from the companion animal hospital next door come over and look at him.

They determined there was nerve dysfunction causing his dropped jaw and inability to swallow.  They said that whatever was causing it was probably progressing, making it even more difficult to swallow, explaining why in the previous couple days he started fighting the drenching syringe.

They all left for while to research this kind of thing (i was kind of hopeful at this point because this issue in dogs generally goes away three weeks after onset, but with dogs it’s just the dropped jaw, they still swallow their food) and waited for his bloodwork to finish.

The only thing they could find in the literature about something like this in goats is caused by a plant (they didn’t say a name) that grows in the southwest, meaning it was being caused by something bacterial or was maybe an autoimmune thing.

His bloodwork showed that he was probably digesting blood, meaning he’d probably developed an ulcer.

They said they could do a spinal tap, but it probably wouldn’t turn up anything, and they could’ve started trying to treat with steroids and antibiotics.

But given his current condition, and especially with his not being able to swallow sufficiently, they said his prognosis was very poor.

So I had him euthanized.

They’ll be doing a necropsy, so in a few weeks I might have some more answers.

Wow! That is fascinating! As you were describing the jaw, I was wondering if it was broken. The dropped jaw is definitely a huge piece of the puzzle, whatever is causing it. Sometimes a physical thing can have a huge impact on their overall health, such as a goat losing teeth and then losing weight. You can drive yourself crazy if a goat doesn't have parasites but is really thin, and sometimes it's a really simple thing like bad teeth.

Developing an ulcer does not surprise me since he has not been eating and has been taking pain killers. I've been warned whenever pain killers are prescribed that they should be given as little as possible because goats can get ulcers quickly.

This is why I don't even bother with local vets. I'm so spoiled by the quick diagnostics available at the university, and I love the conversations between professors and students. And it's so cool that a neurologist actually saw your goat. I learn so much from every visit. It is totally worth the two hour drive for me. 

I'm sorry you lost him. You tried so hard, and sometimes that makes it even harder when you lose one! But you know you tried as much as you could.

Let us know what the necropsy finds.

So sorry you went through this, Jess!

Thank you for contributing your experience to the body of knowledge.

I got the necropsy results and the bill last week.

I didn’t get an itemized bill, so I don’t know what exactly was charged, but it was just under $400 and the following is everything that MAY have applied:


Exam - small animal neurologist




Individual cremation and shipping

The necropsy pretty much confirmed what the vets thought was happening.

His brain stem and trigeminal nerves were inflamed and caused his jaw muscles to atrophy.  Brought on by some kind of bacterial infection.

Probably listeria, but they couldn’t confirm which bacteria.

The vet said the most likely scenario for something like this is he got a cut in his mouth and the bacteria entered there and ended up in the brain stem.

Despite the initial bad impression via the phone call, dealing with the Cornell farm animal hospital has been a positive experience surrounding a horrible circumstance.

Thank you, Deborah, for this forum and for being so responsive.  It’s helped me through this so much.

Thanks so much for sharing your experience! I'm glad you had a good experience at Cornell -- and that our group was helpful! It's always tough when you have a sick goat. I'm glad I was able to help, even if the best thing I suggested was to call a vet school. I'm very spoiled by the type of diagnostics I get from our vet school. 

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