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ENTEROTOXEMIA...HOW IT GETS STARTED
A Seasonal Reminder

By: Sue Reith
About the Author

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Spring is a dangerous time of the year for enterotoxemia because so many animals are let out on the new, lush Spring grass and bloat is common under such circumstances. The problem is, bloat is often just the beginning of the problem. Enterotoxemia is a common secondary invader that follows on its heels. You need to be prepared now to give any goat that does become bloated from eating the Spring grass a dose of antitoxin preventatively when this happens, as a stitch in time saves nine, and it is easier to prevent this disease than to treat it!

The Clostridial (enterotoxemia) organisms are always present in the goat's gut, right along with everything else. They usually cause no trouble because they just keep passing on out of the system in the feces. The gut activity needs to be stopped by something else for a long enough time to give those little bugs a chance to build up sufficient numbers to cause Enterotoxemia. Some of the gut-stoppers that are common precursors to Entero are grass bloat, too much carbohydrate, as in heavy feedings of milk replacers or milk/replacer + grain (slow to digest), Floppy Kid Syndrome, etc...

Some may have noticed that whenever anyone mentions that an animal has bloat or grain overload or etc I suggest, as a part of the corrective measures, that he/she administer a hefty dose of Enterotoxemia Antitoxin ASAP. Owners often resist (as in ignore) that part of the treatment because they don't keep Entero Antitoxin on hand and they know (or the vet has said) it is bloat, etc., not Entero... (!)

When the problem begins, that's no doubt true. And if the animal is current on all its CD/T vaccinations and over 4 months of age that still may be true. But any older animal that has not had its yearly boosters is at risk, as is a yearling that did not receive at least 2 vaccinations no earlier than 2 months of age AND a booster at 6 months of age, thus has NO antibodies left at 1 year of age!

The key here is that it takes just a few days (maybe 5 or so at the most) for whatever has stopped up the gut initially (such as FKS or grain overload or too much milk replacer or grass bloat or whatever) to turn into full-blown enterotoxemia. You see, when the naturally occurring clostridial organisms stop passing routinely out of that now stopped-up rumen it takes that long for them to multiply within the rumen until they are in sufficient number to create Enterotoxemia in the gut.

Enterotoxemia, BTW, is a disease caused by the overproduction of toxins by the Clostridium prefringens organisms that are found naturally in the rumen of the goat. As they multiply in the rumen, which they will do if it is slowed or shut down for any reason, the toxins quickly reach the level where they start to destroy the intestinal walls, eventually passing through them and into the peritoneal cavity where they systematically begin shutting the organs down, killing the host. It is a very painful way to die.

It is incredibly rewarding to me to learn that more and more owners have actually avoided enterotoxemia by giving the Antitoxin preventatively when the goat's gut is compromised in this manner. By comparison, it's so sad to learn of goats that have died unnecessarily but could have been saved, only because people (INCLUDING many vets!) didn't realize the danger inherent in a stopped up gut and prepare ahead to have Antitoxin on hand for such emergencies.

Keep in mind that the CD Antitoxin has only one function. That is to destroy on contact any entero toxins detected in the gut. So if, due to the animal's own immune system having sufficient antibodies present, there are NO entero toxins developing in the stopped-up gut, it has no other role to play and will just dissipate from the goat's system.

Addendum: FYI: Banamine kills the pain and cuts inflammation created by the toxins as they do their damage to the gut walls (whatever else you do, do not substitute dexamethasone for Banamine, as it will shut down the immune system while reducing the inflammation!); BoSe stimulates the body's own immune system so it can help itself to get better while you help it from outside; Penicillin does its part to help kill off the toxins, but is not strong enough to do that without the help of the antitoxin; electrolytes keep up the body's natural chemical balance so it won't die of dehydration while you are trying to kill off the entero; baking soda reverses the acidosis created by the toxins as they destroy the walls of the intestines; and Pepto Bismol coats the intestinal walls to help protect them from further damage by the toxins.

About the author:
Sue Reith
Carmelita Toggs
Bainbridge Island WA

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