History – late July 2020: GiGi is a Mini-Nubian (F6) doe born 2/11/2019. She kidded a single doeling, Mia, on 4/28/2020 without assistance and is still nursing her kid but has not been milked. I have been concerned about scurfy hair despite topical and injectable lice treatments, have de-wormed multiple times with various chemical drugs, give natural de-worming herbs on a schedule, provide copper sulfate as a supplement (despite this she is still showing a copper deficiency symptom in her black hair), free choice goat minerals, Redmond salt and baking soda. We also have given 50# of kelp to the herd (3 does, 3 kids) since March this year and they can’t seem to get enough!
GiGi’s diet: free choice orchard grass (though they don’t seem to care for it), baled alfalfa from Eastern Oregon, Purina goat chow, dry COB, occasional alfalfa pellets and BOSS. Three does get fresh orchard grass and alfalfa, and are fed grain on the stand in the AM only. The entire herd gets fresh browse delivered every afternoon (maple, alder, elderberry leaves) and fresh orchard grass and alfalfa at night. Water is in a floated plastic pail, but refreshed several times daily. Occasionally add ACV is added to the water.
Below is the story of a miraculous recovery after GiGi went down hard and fast in late July. We have had dozens of goats, and besides losing a few still born kids, have only lost 1 goat to tetanus and 1 to white muscle disease following an electric net accident. We have recovered slightly ill goats before with intervention, but this is truly a rare success story of a VERY sick goat.
This story is written in reverse chronological order, so to start at the beginning you’ll have to scroll to the very bottom for the first entry. Along the way, I have had the loving and patient support of my family, and incredible skilled and understanding advice from my goat mentor, Annie. While I try to manage my herd in a holistic manner, this event called for the “big gun” pharmaceuticals to save a life. The story that unfolds below is nearly unbelievable, but every bit of it really did happen, right here on our little farm.
Over the weeks that we cared for GiGi, we experienced a wide range of emotions: love, fear, anxious, exhausted, frustrated, doubtful, joyous, utterly overwhelmed and more! We learned so much about goats, their anatomy, their complicated digestive system, their cleverness, and especially their will to survive! If not for GiGi’s daughter crying for her every day, she may have given up. As the days went by, and turned into weeks upon weeks, we continued to pledge to support her recovery. By documenting this, I hope that others may learn from our experience if they ever find themselves in the terrifying situation of having a goat “down.”
For real, my last post? Haha… I get up early, anxious to know that she had a good night… and find her up, contentedly eating hay from the inside rack with her herd. I lure her out to the morning sunshine for some loving head scratches… and her eye is NORMAL!! So amazing!! I pledge to continue to get her out alone for special nutritious meals and herbal plant walks, ensure she remains hydrated and comfortable, and administer extra Vitamin B’s whenever she may endure stress… but mostly I just plan to let her body work on the rest of her healing. I give much credit to Annie, to my supportive husband and son, and to the early efforts that we all made to keep this goat going and fighting: good hydration, lots of movement, good medicines and supplements (and the knowledge to use them properly), and tons of patience and love!
My friend stopped by yesterday (he is a nurse) and was truly amazed at her success and recovery! I hope that you will be amazed, too… and find inspiration and useful tips in this story. Please reach out if I can help you in any way, though I pray you never have to recover a “down” goat. I can be reached at WWF.ReaganAcres@Gmail.com. Never stop educating yourself, learning from your mentors, and take good care of those goaties you love!
Well, I thought yesterday would be my last entry, but there IS a great update! Her blind eye seems to be mostly healed! (In the photo, you can see just a small amount of cloudiness remaining… the tears are from the eye wash that I’ve been using.) I can see her iris, she is moving it and tracking with it, and has good touch reflex! She now holds her head normally, and I didn’t realize until today that she was actually holding her head preferentially to see from her good eye.
Patrick stops by the feed store on his way home to get her more hay pellets (she is a slow eater now, and with her weight loss I want to ensure good nutrition) and he arrives home to find me hanging out with her in the backyard. In between feeding her green stuffs and a nutritious bowl of fruit, seeds, alfalfa pellets and grape Gatorade (it’s still over 90 degrees!) she insists on lots of loving, head and chin scratching, and bawls when I step out of sight (I am trying to water nearly 100 tomato plants by hand while hanging out near her!)
Realizing that I found her in various places (laying down in the shade) in the barnyard today (meaning she could move or actually get up & down alone though I didn’t witness it…) we decide for the first time in 3 weeks to leave her up with the herd rather than put her to bed! We check on her at dark, then again about an hour past dark, and the entire herd is still up in the cooler evening air, eating and comfortable. So, I’m praying that she has a good night, and I head to bed.
I think this will be my last entry for a while… unless I have a really big update! Today was incredible!! Though the temp was over 102, the goats were comfortable and happy. GiGi continues to improve, and we are now hopeful that her blind eye heals to full vision as well. We still have to get her “up” and help her lay “down” and make sure she isn’t stuck somewhere uncomfortable, like in the sun, for too long. She has a great attitude and an endless appetite. I estimate that she lost about 15# in this ordeal!
Today’s forecast is to be a scorcher with temps pushing 100 degrees. Yikes! What was I saying about how grateful I am that nursing this patient back to health is occurring in the summer?? Well, we install a fan in the barn and water misters in the goat run and hope that helps them stay comfortable. GiGi is gaining in strength and stamina every day… today she only needs help getting up and lying down – she can get in & out of the barn (with a step!) by herself. I keep her hydrated, offering her watermelon & barley sprout salads and Gatorade. She has a great day!
Yesterday, Patrick bought a scale, so we rig her up one last time to weigh her… uh-oh… this big girl is nearly 80# and I know she’s lost a good deal of weight and muscle! Well, now we have some much needed tools – just in case (but praying never again!)
At bedtime, Killian accompanies me out to see them in and we find a swallow fledgling sitting on the outside hay feeder. He picks it up to put it back in the nest and it seems so comfortable that he is able to hold it for a long while. (He really IS an animal whisperer!)
Again, Killian and I have her care all to ourselves with Patrick on a job in Portland. This (human) kid and I are really enjoying this quiet time together, caring for our sweet goat! This morning GiGi is getting feisty and taking herself all around the yard on a quest for tasty herbs & greens. We have to redirect her constantly from eating the potatoes & groundnuts, but allow her to freely browse the Jerusalem artichokes, wild elderberry, maple, blackberries and weeds in the lawn! Enjoying the morning sunshine, she has her breakfast (hay pellets, banana, sunflower & flax seeds, kelp, and barley sprouts.)
Mid-day and Killian is packing up his things to get ready to go to work, so I just head to the barn by myself. The new sling we ordered has just arrived in the mail, but I forget to take it with me! Oh well, maybe I can just get her up by myself? I find her sitting up, using her front legs, and eager to get up all the way… so I simply wrap my arms around her middle and lift her gently. She stands up solidly on all fours, stretches and shivers, then heads around the barn, walking COMPLETELY on her own!! She checks out everything before settling in to stand at the hay feeder! So, I oblige and feed her lunch and a bowl of electrolyte water right there in the hay feeder tray. She is up and about for over an hour before I insist that I have things to do, so I help her lay down and watch her happily doze off. Oh, my happy heart!
Went to check on GiGi at 7am – she is sitting upright and chewing her cud!! At 8am, we got her up and she had a full breakfast but refused to drink (not too worried as she drank nearly a gallon yesterday and appears to be very well hydrated.) She seems to only want to go outside to urinate (fine with us!) and seems really grateful to be able to squat and pee like a normal lady.
Her RF foot feels nearly normal in size and is no longer warm to the touch – she is bearing weight on it just fine. I am still applying salve on the LR knuckle every time we get her rigged up, though she is now using it gingerly to walk on. She is a little straight legged and robot-like in her slow and careful gait, but is obviously glad to be able to go outside to browse and enjoy the sunshine. We will continue this regimen to increase her strength and stamina as walking really tires her out.
I left her with the herd able to come in the barn, and a small handful of alfalfa to nibble on. Patrick and I returned to tuck them in just before dark and she wanted up again to join the others at the hay rack! We helped her find her place at the feeder and she was SOOOO happy to be feeding alongside her daughter and herd mates! What a morale booster… to her AND us!
GiGi was so tired from her walk yesterday that she slept in one position all night – on her “bad side” – but seems really okay! When we rigged her up, she stretched all her legs and was even able to shiver and shake. The day proceeded as before, and we were so glad to show Patrick our progress when he returned just before dark. He declared it a true miracle, but acknowledged that our quick and aggressive action saved her life! This evening felt like a time to finally celebrate her progress, so I reached into the wine cooler, and what should I pull out first but a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon by Standing Goat! Oh my word!! It was meant to be, and was oh, so good!
Patrick left for a job in Bend at 4am, so Killian and I had GiGi care all to ourselves! At 6:30am, I found GiGi upright, alert, and hollering for me! She had all four legs comfortably tucked under her and had moved across the barn to get away from her soiled wet hay. I knelt down and she loved all over me with her head, making the sweetest sounds and pressing her forehead into my chest and chin, and I couldn’t help but cry tears of pure joy! Her eyes were bright and wide open, with no twitching at all, though the left eye is still quite cloudy. At 8am, Killian and I get her rigged up, and she only has one weak foot (LR) and is standing well-supported with no help from us at all. Killian is the very best helper – he is so kind, gentle and patient with her… he will truly make a wonderful Veterinarian!
GiGi ate a 24oz tub of hay-beet-alfalfa pellets but refused to drink, so I gave her 32oz of water with raw honey and probiotics by oral drench. I added an iron supplement as her eyelids are slightly paler than yesterday. We re-bedded her and she immediately began to eat the long-stemmed orchard grass “bedding” all around her. I think our next step will be to slightly lower her and move her food further forward to encourage her to flex her muscles: pushing, pulling, and stretching toward her heart’s desire (food, of course!)
I continue with the eyewash and note that her eye is a bit reddish (normal?) but that her 3rd eyelid is up more today than ever – this seems to be good progress. I’m sure that I am more squeamish about squirting cayenne pepper in her eye than she knows!
Killian and I went back to get her up again mid-day, and after eating she drank her full measure of soup by herself! Then she proceeded to walk as far as the rigging would allow, so we unhooked her to walk her around the barn. However, she had other plans and went straight for the milk stand! We wouldn’t allow that, but continued with her walking right out the door into the yard! Killian kept the sling on her just for safety, and… we repeated this in the early evening, with her eating & drinking without assistance. By bedtime she was exhausted. But, praise the Lord, she’s walking!!
Meanwhile, my friend has lost her buck (a fast 3-day illness!) and is so heartbroken. Turns out she had just agreed to sell him to the lady from Salem! What a terrible turn of events! I rush to check all of my goats and am pleased to see that their health looks great, their eyelids are pink, their coats becoming shiny and sleek, and their hooves in really fine condition. I will take time over the next days to really observe the whole herd and ensure they are all eating and drinking properly, their elimination is good, and that they are happy and content.
Monday August 10th
This morning I remove the compresses on her feet, and am amazed to see that everything – even the comfrey leaves – has been absorbed by her body! She allows me to freely flex her knuckles, knees, hips and turn her over a few times. I can tell that she can’t wait to get “up” today!
I’ve started making these “power salads” for GiGi with all sorts of herbs, shredded veggies, wild greens, seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, flax), fruit and much more! She gets hay pellet “croutons” and a raw honey & apple cider vinegar “dressing.” She is fully eating & drinking all by herself! We are down to just a 6cc inj. of Vitamin B Complex once in the morning. I continue with the oils, herbal teas, and salves on her feet. She is responding so well to our loving care! But my friend’s buck continues to suffer and I am so concerned!
I do some reading about blindness, and find in my Accessible Livestock Herbal book by Kat Drovdahl, a remedy for cataracts that calls for an eyewash tea made from cayenne & slippery elm. While it sounds frightening, she reassures that it works if the tea is well diluted… so I begin washing GiGi’s blind eye to bring on the healing tears. I will repeat this about 4-6 times daily over the next week, and while she doesn’t cry (vocal) about it, she does close her eyelids for several minutes while the crying tears flow.
Sunday August 9th
GiGi is really weak in her LR and RF legs, especially the knuckles. She doesn’t want to touch them to the floor and with opposite bad legs can’t really support herself. I get back into my books and find a joint remedy for a homemade salve (coconut oil, raw honey, peppermint oil and cayenne) wrapped in a comfrey leaf poultice and held in place with vet wrap. I gather supplies, and the next time we get her “up” I set to work dressing her two bad feet. No sooner than I set out all the materials and SHE gets to work eating the comfrey leaves! Haha! If you only have room for one herb on your farm, I highly recommend comfrey.
The lady from Salem decides that she wants a different buck, so I proceed with neutering our buckling. In a preventative measure against stress, I give him an injection of Vitamin B Complex, an oral drench of slippery elm and molasses, and the banding procedure goes off without a hitch while he rests comfortably on Patrick’s lap. Afterward, he softly cries when walking for about half an hour, so I let him in to rest with GiGi. After his nap, he is as normal as if nothing has happened (and days later continues to show no adverse signs to his wethering!) Today I am sure grateful for a husband who loves our goaties and is always quick to roll up his sleeves and get involved. I love farming with him!
Saturday August 8th
I am saddened to hear that my friend has a sick goat, a buck that I gave to her last year. He was the buck that GiGi was bred to – Mia’s sire. He has diarrhea and isn’t eating or drinking! We chat a bit, and she thinks it may be from a combo of eating nightshade and a parasite load. I offer some suggestions and am grateful that Annie is helping her too.
When I arrive home from the Saturday Market, Patrick has done something purely ingenious… he mounted a boat trailer winch to the barn wall!! We fashion our firewood carrier into a quick sling for her, and hoist her up. Ahh! The relief of not having to bend over and keep her up with a towel is immediate bliss! We pull a bale over in front of her… instant buffet table! In her excitement, she slurps down a full 32oz of electrolyte water and begins on her lunch. Amazing! What joy it will be that she can now feed herself! Still, she is incredibly weak and can only stand with Patrick providing support lest she list sideways and tips right over.
Friday August 7th
Today I am contacted by a lady from Salem who is interested in our buckling for sale. I was planning on wethering him tomorrow, as no buyers have come forth, and agree to wait a couple of days while she considers the purchase. Meanwhile, I am grateful for the barn entertainment… the duck sitting on her clutch under the kid shelter and the new brood of barn swallow fledglings… the original Angry Birds! Just look at these grumpy little faces!
I am grateful for the encouragement I get from my family and friends when I share the progress & struggles that GiGi is experiencing, and the gentle reminder to take time to care for myself, too. My mom & sis are especially responsive to the many photos and stories that I am sharing about our difficult farm life right now!
Thursday August 6th
Thankfully, the numbness in my hand is gone, but I still need to ice a very hard and painful bruise. I have conversations with my friend that still owns GiGi’s mom, and we talk about how strange it was that GiGi’s mom was pregnant with her when she suffered this same illness. I look online but find nothing about contracting listeriosis being a genetic disposition, but I do find it curious about GiGi’s mother, Ivy. Nor am I encouraged to hear that Ivy was down for a full month, and took another 2 weeks to walk afterward. We are hopeful that this journey to recovery does not take so long. My friend suggests that we spend a little extra time with her, to boost her spirit, so I take some time today to just sit quietly with her, hand feeding her tender leaves and greens, and singing to her or quietly cleaning the barn. I decide that the other goats need to spend more time in the barn with her during the day too, though they’ve been awesome at staying out (without objection) most of the daylight hours – laying under the apple tree chewing their cud and snoozing.
Wednesday August 5th
Whelp… made a pretty big mistake today. I signed up to give a blood donation in town (I really wanted the free coronavirus antibody test!) and so trekked in around noon for some errands and blood giving. *Note to self: don’t do something that can compromise your hands or arms when you need them so much for care giving & nursing! Anyhow, the draw went really wrong with the technician hitting a tendon in my elbow, unable to complete the donation and unsure if I would get my free test! In addition to the excruciating pain, my arm burned and my hand was numb… and I am contemplating a visit to a physician! I keep ice on it the rest of the day and limp along with caring for GiGi… but with great discomfort and regrets! (It will be over 2 weeks before that bruise fades…)
Tuesday August 4th
Back to work for me today. I really enjoy being home and having this time on the farm. It’s going to be difficult to return to the office and a 2-hr daily commute! GiGi is improving a bit more, with no apparent fevers lately, and it’s enough progress that Annie and I agree to cut her Penicillin back to every 12 hours, but continue the Vitamin-B injections every 6 hours. The regimen with soup, oils, massage, etc. continues round the clock. I continue to gather tender herbs and greens from the garden and woods for her to enjoy. We are SO thankful for our camp “retreat” where we can slip away when the burden of caring for her gets too much. Daily we head up the hill to sit in the sun, talk, play cards, look at the clouds… in a few weeks we’ll be archery hunting for elk and hope to catch them hanging out right by the tent!
Monday August 3rd
Today, Patrick is gone on a job, so Killian and I have to take our yellow Labrador pup to the vet for a scheduled spay surgery (an hour drive each way) and retrieve her in the afternoon (four hours total on the road!) We would totally reschedule, but during this pandemic, it was hard enough to get a spay appointment, and we don’t want to wait another few months to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. I hurry to & from the farm to care for GiGi in between the road trips. Today is terrible for GiGi. My doubts for her recovery creep in, and I am very sad today.
But I don’t wallow long – that simply isn’t me. I am one for positive action! For inspiration, I get online to find some success stories for the treatment of listeriosis and am surprised to find that a healing crisis often occurs around day 5… goats that were on the mend suddenly take a downhill turn for the worse before improvement really begins. I also read that the success rate is less than 30%, and that’s with aggressive treatment under the care of a Veterinarian! Today is just so horrible that my spirit falls and I shed tears of frustration.
Since I have formally taken the day off from work, I keep reading. Suddenly, I am inspired to grab some of my best goat books and dig more deeply into treatments for polio, blindness, muscle atrophy, neurological issues and more. I feel well-equipped with the “big gun” medication plan we have, but feel there must be more that can I do holistically to treat her? Whoa! Why have I not thought of this sooner?
I recover my “nursing” spirit and go on a quest to find supportive care ideas. I am led to teas, herbs, supplements and much more. Suddenly, I realize a series of bright spots exist amidst this challenging time! First, I am working remotely from home and have the time & energy to do this! Secondly, it is summertime and that helps me care for this goatie while “booting” the rest of the herd outside to the sunshine! My list of bright spots goes on. The barn is warm and dry and there is a nest of fledgling swallows in sight to entertain me during long sessions of sitting with her! I had just put a 2nd hay feeder in the outside pen that allows feeding the other goats easily… and I haven’t spent an immense amount of money with expensive vet care on GiGi yet! I sure could go on… but this moment of realization and perspective is really rejuvenating for me.
I add to her regimen: lavender oil on her nose and ears to calm her while flipping her over and massaging her limbs; rosemary & frankincense oil (in an olive oil carrier) rubbed into her brain stem and along her spine at each feeding/massage session; teas made from herbals in our woods – a long boiled tea made of Oregon grape root, fresh garden beets, dock root, dandelion stems and root, burdock leaves and root, cinnamon bark, fresh ginger and fennel seeds; and a 20-minute steeped tea made of raspberry leaves, usnea lichen, and fresh peppermint, rosemary & parsley; more vitamins and supplements are added to her “soup” (raw garlic, apple cider vinegar, vitamin E & C, b-complex, selenium, omega-3s, cayenne, local raw honey, nutritional yeast, and echinacea.) I stop by the feed store again and get real livestock electrolytes (I have been using Gatorade), probiotic powder, and hay pellets (timothy, alfalfa, beet pulp & flax mix.)
I sit with her and hand feed tender green leaves and herbs. As I work her muscles I sing to her my favorite songs by Mary Chapin Carpenter. She makes the sweetest sounds and eats a lot! The other goats are allowed more visits during the day, and her daughter, Mia, even snuggles up to her. These efforts start to work, and when I check on her later in the day, she happily has a mouth full of hay gathered from the bedding around her! By the late evening, she is getting restless enough that we decide to box her in with hay bales for the night, lest she roll across the barn and out the door!
We all feel encouraged and hopeful once again. Keep fighting, sweet GiGi!
Sunday August 2nd
Yesterday we stocked up on some things from the feed store, and bought two 60cc syringes to make drenching her faster – should have done this before!! With a helper, I can now feed & hydrate her quickly, allowing more time to massage and work her muscles & legs. Because this syringe has a longer tip, I have to angle it nearly in-line with her muzzle to avoid poking her gum. I still have to hold the left side of her mouth closed, but she is drooling less and her tongue is working better. She LOVES this soup (maybe it’s the good stout beer?) so much that she just settles into drinking it. (A quart of soup takes only 16 drenches with the larger syringe!)
I recall a remedy for “shipping sickness” (from my friends at Breezee Creek Farm) that helps get the rumen healthy again, and so I add to her soup: slippery elm powder, and ground ginger, cloves & cinnamon. She loves it… and now smells sweetly like pumpkin pie!
We plan another camp out under the full moon tonight!
Saturday August 1st
Refreshed! What an awesome idea to set up camp on our hill. The quiet night and fresh air was good for both of us. Today we continue with the medication regimen, giving injections of Penicillin and Vitamin B Complex 4 times daily. She poops 5x today and all are normal pellets – so grateful she doesn’t have diarrhea but we know this is more symptomatic of listeriosis than polio. She really hates lying down to pee and cries loudly about it – not sure if it’s from discomfort or frustration. I am so thankful that I asked Patrick to build the barn floor on a slight slope – I can angle her rump “downhill” to allow urine to drain away from her body! Even so, she had a full body sponge bath today and all new bedding to keep her as clean as possible.
I give her 2 quarts of her soup in 2 big meals, plus another 3 quarts in between of molasses water and electrolytes. I flip her over 3 times a day to her paralyzed side and massage all of her muscles and move all of her legs – she resists at first but then settles in to the relief of laying on the other side and gives in to the massage and finally falls asleep – luckily she can wake and flip herself back to her preferred side now rather than waking up terrified, blind and helpless. Due to her thrashing to get herself turned over when we were not with her, I now have to medicate and bandage some pressure sores that are developing on her joints and chest, but finally today don’t have to milk her.
We talk as a family and decide to keep working on her, as she is in no apparent pain, is responsive and vocal, tracks our movement with her right eye and seems to hear us with her right ear. I talk to Annie and hear that a friend (who has some of my herd) went through this with GiGi’s mom when she was pregnant with GiGi – and it took a month for that goat to improve! Praying for quicker improvement than that!
Friday July 31st
Anniversary weekend… feeling pretty sorry for ourselves. We keep apologizing to each other over circumstances we can’t change. And then… a genius brainstorm! Why not set up “camp” on our own property? We’ve never camped out on our hill… it could be fun, right?! So while I’m caring for Ms. GiGi, my sweet husband treks up to the top of our property and sets up a sweet little campsite just out of sight of the rest of the world (farm included!) The day continues with compassionate care for GiGi, but also looking forward to a night under the stars!
Thursday July 30th
Every time I head out to the barn, at dawn, I am terrified of finding her passed away. I realize that I really want her to live! Today I am so pleased to say that GiGi loves her “soup” and has easily consumed 32oz of it, by 20cc oral syringe. This is quite a feat, and makes all parts of my body sore as I have to perch awkwardly on a stool, support her head, and use one hand to keep the left side of her mouth closed lest it all spill out the other side. I have found this task easier with a helper who can load the syringe for me so I can fill her up faster. Keeping up on her medication regimen and round the clock care: turning her over, moving her limbs, getting her up to stand, etc. is utterly exhausting for us all. I am off work due to requesting vacation time for the trip we aren’t taking now so am able to rest between nursing duties.
GiGi is still talkative, but prefers to hold her head back on her hip, and that really bothers me (I saw this sign in two goats we lost years ago: one to tetanus and one to white muscle disease from a run-in with an electrified fence). I am getting low on Penicillin since we increased the doses for a better guess of a 60# weight, so Patrick heads out to get some. Uh-oh… EVERY store is out of Penicillin! We get some ordered through our awesome local feed store owner, expected in 4-5 days. I hope my bottle lasts until then. (I hear of more ill goats today, too.) She is not looking good at all.
Wednesday July 29th
At dawn, I head to the barn, and to my surprise, GiGi is laying comfortably OUTSIDE, having moved herself about 25 feet! What the heck?!? I run to her and she is conscious and alert, but appears fully paralyzed on her left side: both legs and her ear, and she seems to be completely blind in her left eye, with just small reflexes in her right. Oh my gosh! I’ve never dealt with this!
Patrick joins me – absolutely amazed – and we bring her back into the barn, cover her with towels, and begin slowly feeding her warm molasses water orally, 20cc at a time with an oral syringe. I have to hold her head up for this, and navigate some tricky handwork. Cleverly (I think), I soak some alfalfa pellets in warm Gatorade and begin hand feeding that as well. She also needs assistance holding her head up to eat, and I have to use one hand to hold the paralyzed side of her mouth shut and keep her tongue in so she can eat & drink without it just coming out the other side of her mouth! After resting a bit, we get her up in a towel sling to stretch her legs, but when she lays down again, her head is on her hip and I know that is bad, bad news. I have seen this before, but never had a goat recover from being this far “down.”
I return mid-day, and am surprised that she is responsive, talking, and warm and dry, so we feel that she is fighting to live! We are heartbroken to not be heading out right now on our anniversary trip, but then a call comes in: the job gets canceled due to a forest fire and we feel that we are being called on to save this dear goat! We talk again, and opt to give her the best chance that we can.
The day continues with round the clock medications, hand feeding, stretching (even milking, the poor girl!) and by evening we are very surprised to see bright red gums and eyelids again! In all of our maneuvering of her, we realize that she is likely more than 50#, and talk with Annie about increasing the medication doses. (Hindsight: we should have a scale! Why don’t we have a scale?? We order a scale for “next time”.) By this evening, she is less rigid and can stretch her neck out straight to rest more comfortably. She is standing with a lot of support, but is still blind and drooling. Now she is drinking with assistance from a bowl, increasingly talking to other goats and her daughter, and eating yogurt with honey in an oral drench.
Later this evening, Annie provides me with a recipe for “A Goat That is Down” that includes sweet potatoes and beer! It just so happens that I have ALL the ingredients on hand! We laugh about it including beer, but I begin to make it up for her, a bit skeptically.
*As the days pass, I’ll add more ingredients, but here is the basic recipe. (Patrick is sure it should read: half a can of beer for the goat, half for the goatkeeper! Haha!)
Tuesday July 28th
Crap. Bigtime Crap! I take one look at GiGi this morning and am immediately messaging my beloved goat mentor, Annie. Now, GiGi has watering eyes, is very droopy, isn’t looking directly at me, and is stumbling quite a bit! I pull out my medicine kit and find outdated bottles (yikes! but better than nothing…) and go ahead and dose her with 3 cc each: Penicillin, BoSe and Vit B Complex. I send my husband Patrick on his way to the farm store for fresh medications and I take GiGi for an herbal walk – but she barely nibbles anything at all. Not cool. I do note that she is eliminating normally, with no diarrhea, thank goodness. She appears to have a fever, but I cannot locate our thermometer (note to self: update the goat’s medical kit!!)
Several text exchanges with Annie lead us to pursue immediate treatment for Listeriosis and Polio, as we suspect that some form of stress (temperature? predator? parasites?) may have triggered a bacterial overgrowth in her gut and is inhibiting Vitamine B1 (Thiamine) production. We guess her weight to be about 40-50# (later determined to be quite the error… another big mistake!) and Annie re-directs my husband to swing by her farm rather than the feed store for some medication that I don’t have and can’t get from the Vet on short notice: Injectable Thiamine, fresh Penicillin, Dexamethsone, a treatment for coccidiosis just in case, and a medication for fever. Annie relays how strange it seems that she has “seen this happen a few different times, all at different farms this year.” Annie also relays that the Safeguard dose was likely too low to have an effect, and recommends 1ml/10# orally for a goat. So much to learn!
By the time Patrick arrives home with the “medicine kit” from Annie (bless him for skipping other errands to bring things back to me straightaway!) GiGi now has a drooping lip on her left side. She’s going down fast! We all agree on an aggressive course of treatment: Procaine PenG (1cc/10#) and Fortified B Complex (1cc/20#) by Sub-Q injection every 6 hours. Additionally, we will administer Thiamine (Vit B1), Exceed (for fever) and Dexamethone (in staggered dosing as it can’t be started/stopped suddenly: Day 1: 3cc, Day 2: 2.5cc, Day 3: 2cc, Day 4: 1.5cc, Day 5: 1cc, Day 6: 0.5cc) for possible brain swelling (this ONLY should be used since she is NOT pregnant, otherwise she would abort).
We also will treat for coccidia (the stress of polio can cause coccidiosis) with Di-Methox (2.5cc orally for 5 days, even though she isn’t symptomatic). We add probiotics and redcell (3cc) to her oral meds and repeat the Safeguard at the off-label (proper) dose and add 1.2mls Ivermectin by mouth… (are we dealing with a possible Barber Pole parasite load?)
We get GiGi comfortably tucked into the shady barn and she drinks some molasses water from a bowl. But at 4pm, I am messaging Annie that I don’t think she’s going to make it! She is now flat out down, having strange “contractions,” and has yellow liquid draining from her mouth (hindsight: the liquid may be molasses water returning up her bi-directional esophagus with painful rumen contractions). With this fast progression, I immediately evaluate ALL of my goats and note that most of my herd is severely anemic. Damnit!
I spend the next hour reading about Barber Pole worms (what a horrible parasite!) and Annie and I agree to treat the entire herd with a Barber Pole regimen: Safeguard AND Ivermectin (Barber Pole treatment requires dewormer from 2 classes of medication) twice in 12 hours, then at 10 days and again at 20 days. I write this on our calendar and set a reminder on my cell phone, too.
Patrick brings home a load of 30 freshly cut, local haybales from a neighbor friend’s farm, and finally the goats have hay to eat that they really enjoy! The rest of the orchard grass will just become bedding for our “patient” over the next few days. (Weeks??)
Ah!! Tomorrow is our anniversary. We had a grand trip planned to our favorite hotsprings resort, plus Patrick was going to do a contracted job, so part of it would be paid for – yay! We decide we’ll have to cancel if GiGi makes it through the night and requires round the clock care, and this makes us both quite sad. At the end of this harrowing day, we tuck everyone in, but GiGi is still laying flat-out in the middle of the barn, and we strongly feel that she won’t make it through the night.
Monday July 27th
At morning feeding time today, I noticed a bit of depression in GiGi, but she is eager to eat her grain. I check her eyelids, as I often do in the mornings, and find them white with anemia. Holy Moly… time for action!! She stumbles just a bit while getting off the milk stand, but doesn’t go down, and I think that is quite odd. I make a plan to treat her for various possibilities and so in the afternoon bring her back on the stand (unusual as lately they only get dairy rations once in the A.M.)
So, I shave her back, apply topical lice medicine (1cc Ivermectin Pour-on down her spine), give Vitamin-B paste and Redcell orally, and Safeguard de-wormer (2.1 cc Panacur) since I’ve never used that particular drug class before. She eats well, but in hindsight she had more grain than usual because of my time spent shaving her back. And again, I don’t observe other eating or drinking, but do note normal poop. Important hindsight: these symptoms should have been (and will be in the future) important clues about a serious condition likely unfolding in her body! And the worse thing I might have done was to give more grain to a goat who was possibly not eating her hay.
Sunday July 26th
Let’s start at the very beginning with “Reflections.”
On Sunday, at the goat’s morning feeding time, I noticed a tiny teardrop leaving GiGi’s left eye and wiped it away, thinking she may have dust or hay in it. She was acting normally, though admittedly I don’t recall watching her eat anything besides her dairy ration on the stand (not that I was looking for that). The weather has been odd here in the PNW lately: cool and damp days intermixed with intolerably hot days and cool nights – like 40-50 degree temp swings! Back in mid-July, we treated 3 kids for either Cocci or enteritis (it’s possible they had too much free choice grain while we were away for 2 nights) but the adult goats seemed unaffected. I didn’t give the teardrop another thought.
Important hindsight: I MUST remember to take that extra big cup of coffee out every morning and get back into the habit of observation (permaculture principle #1 is to observe and interact!) Years ago, I attended a PNW Goat Conference and heard the legendary Lorrie Conway talk about good husbandry. One key takeaway from her was to spend time EVERY day to simply observe your goats. When one is acting off – it can indicate big trouble. I used to do this, and will get back into this habit immediately.