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By: "Gary Pfalzbot, 2002"
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Causes and Common Sense Prevention of Bloat
There are a number of reasons why a goat will suddenly begin to bloat. One should first know that bloating can be a serious condition which if left untreated, can result in death to the goat.

One of the most commonly reported causes of bloat is simply due to overeating; a goat that raids the feed bin is a likely candidate. These escape artists will from time to time, find their way to a grain bin and consume as much grain as if they are starving. The result is a goat that becomes uncomfortably bloated and usually unable and unwilling to get up. On the other hand, raiding the hay bin for cured hay or grass hay is not likely to cause bloat as a goat has a daily fiber requirement that is greater than grain.

Another common cause of bloat, especially for goats left out on pasture or on brush detail, are weeds. Certain weeds will create an imbalance within the rumen thereby creating a bloat condition. For the most part this can be controlled by always leaving a pan of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) available to your goats. Sodium bicarbonate aids in balancing the pH level in the rumen and helps to keep the digestive processes in tune. Uncured hay and grass hay, such as hay that is still wet or moldy is very likely to cause bloat if consumed in excess.

It should be noted that while goats are very selective eaters (browsers), they will from time to time accidentally ingest a certain amount of weeds that they would not otherwise eat. Some of these weeds may be the direct cause of a bloating condition. Milkweeds are just one of several weeds that can produce bloat. It is highly advisable that a person know the type of weeds their goats will have access to, and to be aware of the lists of poisonous plants and effects they can produce.

Changing the diet of a goat quickly can also lead to bloat. When a goat is fed the same basic diet day in, day out, their rumen stays adjusted within a certain range of effective digestion. Disrupting this balance can lead to bloat and/or a change in stool matter. A goat that is producing 'berries' might suddenly be stricken with a case of diarrhea or clumped berries. A goats diet must be changed slowly over several days to avoid bloat and other conditions that can affect their overall health.

In young goat kids, bloat can occur when milk replacers are administered as opposed to real goat milk. This especially holds true for milk replacers that are soy based. NEVER use a milk replacer that contains soy. It is recommended that if you intend to use a milk replacer, wean the kid(s) slowly for the first two weeks before giving them only milk replacer. Tallow is another cause of bloat in kids which have been fed milk replacers that contain processed or plain tallow. No therapeutic measures work for this type of bloat since the tallow coats the inside of the alimentary canal and nutrients cannot be absorbed as a result.

Recent research has also shown that a lack of potassium and magnesium in the goat diet can cause bloat, especially in pastures where clover is dominant. The addition of the minerals into the diet of the goat is highly recommended, either through a commercial feed mix, or through the free-choice feeding of seaweed meal (kelp). It is not advisable to provide either mineral as a separate, free-choice mineral such as plain magnesium oxide.

Recognizing and Detecting Bloat
It has been reported by many people that a person can distinguish the cause of bloat by simply observing if the bloat condition is frothy or gassy. A frothy type of bloat is more likely to be caused by weeds and grasses whereas a gas type bloat is more likely to be caused by grain.

The bloated goat's abdomen will be obviously distended, especially on the left side. The goat may still be up and able to walk, albeit not to willingly, or, down on its side in obvious discomfort.

Methods of Treatment for Bloat
For goats that are still able to walk, you will need to drench a quarter of a pint of mineral oil or cooking oil down the goat's throat and then exercise the goat (through walking) and massaging of the sides. This most often will cause the built up gas to escape through the mouth or rectum. Once you have gotten the goat relieved of the gas, one treatment prescribes giving a small amount of sodium bicarbonate (approximately one tablespoon) mixed in a small amount of warm water or molasses. Another treatment encourages giving the goat a tablespoon of lime (dolomite) and seaweed meal mixed in a half pint of cider vinegar which will help to replace the missing magnesium and potassium.

For a goat that is down and in distress, it is highly recommended that you contact a veterinarian immediately because the pressure caused by the bloat in the abdomen can often stop the lungs and heart from working. The veterinarian will release the gas by making a small incision using a trochar. The incision is made four fingers width behind the bottom of the ribs on the left side of the goat as it lies.

Author note: Some may be critical of the use of a trochar. The use of a trochar or "puncturing" to release the gas bloat should only be used as a last resort. In the various cases of severe bloat I have seen, once the goat is down, barely able to breathe and barely able to bleat, the trochar method is essentially the only way for immediate relief, other the internal pressure placed upon the vital organs such as the heart and lungs makes death imminent within a very short period of time. Again, this measure shoul donly be used as a last resort and when all other efforts to relieve the bloat have failed.

When a veterinarian is not immediately available, you can perform the incision yourself using the information previously stated - just be sure to use a sharp, pointed knife that has been disinfected. Insert the knife or sharp, pointed object until the gas begins to escape, twist slightly and remove. Bandage the wound once the bloat condition has been relieved. In either case, it is a good idea to contact a veterinarian to provide follow-up care or advice.

References
Portions of this material were taken from collections at the National Agricultural Library.
Pat Coleby, Natural Goat Care, 2001

About the author: Gary Pfalzbot is a Service Connected Disabled Veteran and the webmaster of GoatWorld as well as some other web sites. He has raised goats over the years, been involved with 4-H (as a young boy) and currently resides in Colorado where he and his wife Pam raise a few breeds of goats and other animals, and primarily author the GoatWorld web site to continue to inform, educate, and promote the industry.

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