Their are several classic symptoms of a goat that is not feeling well.
- A goat that won't eat or has little interest in food.
- A goat that won't drink or has little interest in water.
- A goat that has irregular bowel movements: diarrhea or clumpy stools.
- A goat that is not urinating or is urinating painfully.
While these are certainly not the only symptoms a sick goat will display, they are among the most common symptoms and should be dealt with as symptoms.
The two immediate signs of an ill goat is the goat that is standing or sitting down away from the herd, and just not acting itself. Perhaps the worst sign is a goat laying on its side appearing nearly lifeless or frantically paddling its legs from time to time. The first sign means you should pay attention to that goat. Take some extra time and look the goat over real well. The second sign means jumping into emergency mode right away.
A great deal of the inquiries I receive about sick goats turn out to be cases of bloat. This very painful condition can become severe and if left untreated, kill the goat. Bloat is characterized by a goat appearing to swell up dramatically around and behind the midsection and is often accompanied by pitiful bleats and moans.
The goat with a droopy tail, rough looking coat of hair, white colored gums, standing hunched, shaking its head, shivering, bleating or moaning, is usually giving a sure sign that something is not right. A goat, especially a buck, that frequently tries to lay down, gets up and cries and tries to lay down again is also a prime candidate for not feeling well and is a prime candidate for a condition known as Urinary Calculi. The goat is giving you one of its first signs that it is not feeling well and you should act immediately.
A pregnant doe should also be watched and listened to as she will have her own behavior that is unique. Does preparing to kid will often display a behavior of pawing at the ground with front hooves, lie down, stand up and paw some more, and proceed to lie back down. Also, a pregnant doe will also bleat occasionally as if to signal that she may be going into labor. Immediate preparations to accommodate her impending kidding should be made.
Any one or all of these "signs" should be taken as warnings of a potential crisis in full bloom. Recognizing these early warning signs and taking immediate action is your only hope and possible solution of avoiding a potential crisis. Quite often, a pet owner will recognize the warning signs but fail to take immediate action and the result is usually a fatality. Goats are no different than any other animal, but they can die within a very short amount of time if not properly cared for at the first signs of a problem. Act immediately!
It would not be practical to list all the specific causes of goat illnesses as there are many great books and articles written that deal specifically with symptoms, diagnosis and treatment. Some symptoms can be indicators of several conditions or illnesses. New goat owners and those considering purchasing goats should become familiar with each illness and stock those items which are prescribed or recommended for treatment. Many needless goat deaths occur simply because the owner failed to have the appropriate items on hand (author included). We learn from our mistakes but at the cost of a life.
Perhaps the best indicator of your goats health and well-being is your constant observation of the habits and normal behavior they display. You will soon find that you know your goats better than you thought you did and be able to tell when something isn't right. Just be prepared to act when something isn't.