Bloat can be a dangerous condition in goats, causing gastrointestinal distress and discomfort, decreasing the animal’s productivity, and leading to loss of condition and even death if not effectively treated. Understanding the causes of bloat in goats, however, can help you keep your billies, nannies, and kids healthy.
Bloat, also called ruminal tympany, is a buildup of gasses in the digestive tract when an animal is unable to burp to release the gas, causing swelling of the abdomen. This can be a very painful condition and may even be fatal if left untreated. All ruminants are susceptible to bloat, including goats, sheep, and cattle.
Other than the inability to burp, symptoms of bloat include a severely swollen or distended abdomen, particularly a bulge on the left side. Loss of appetite is common with bloat, and the goat may be kicking at its abdomen, laying down, or excessively drooling as well. An awkward gait is also apparent with bloat, as the animal tries to accommodate the overall pain, or the goat may be reluctant to move at all and will seem lethargic.
There are two major causes of bloat in goats:
While these are the main causes of bloat, other conditions, such as throat or stomach tumors, throat inflammation that closes the esophagus, or gut impaction can also lead to bloat.
Because the causes of bloat can vary and the symptoms may also indicate other digestive difficulties, it is important to consult a veterinarian immediately for a proper diagnosis and plan of treatment. Depending on the cause, gentle throat massage may help the goat swallow to clear an obstruction, or walking the goat or massaging its flank may help move the gasses around so they can be cleared. A stomach tube can also help evacuate the gas and relieve bloat, but should only be done once the cause is determined and it is clear that a tube will not exacerbate the goat’s distress.
Because bloat can quickly become debilitating, it is easier to prevent the condition and ensure goats do not suffer from excessive gas. There are several ways to minimize the risk of goats developing bloat, including:
Bloat can be a devastating illness for goats, but it can be easy to prevent and recognize. If treated quickly, a bloated goat will have an equally quick recovery and will soon be back to its energetic and quirky self.