Normal Goat Temperature and Goats Who Don’t Follow the Rules
Get a temperature reading before starting goat antibiotics.
Reading Time: 5 minutes
“My goat has normal goat temperature!” you smugly declare.
“So, what is it?” I ask.
“Oh, it’s always 101.5.”
Maybe for a goat in a padded cell, but real-life goats in the real-life world have fluctuating temperatures. We like to say that goats read the goat health books and then purposely do the opposite! Temperature is one of those!
Normal goat temperatures should range from about 101.5 to 103.5 degrees F. If my caprines temp below or above, I start investigating for an issue in progress. Things that may affect temperature include sounding air temperature, age, illness, toxicities, stress, and exercise (or lethargy).
My yearlings and older tend to run temperatures around 102.5 degrees F during the moderate-temperature times of the year. On a really hot day, they may go to 103 before I start watching them closely, and during the cold months, they may sit around 101.5. Paying attention to the weather will help determine if your goat’s temperature is out of range. Some goats also vary a little from “normal” and that may be normal for it or its family line. Kids tend to run warmer temperatures than adults, which is common in all mammals. I expect my kids to be ½ to 1 degree warmer than the adults that are in the same situation, stressors, and temperatures. Kids will often range about 102-104 degrees F.
Bacterial and viral issues certainly can cause increases in temperatures. Some, such as listeria in goats, can command a dangerously high temperature in the 107-108-degree Fahrenheit range. Knowing the temperature of your goat is one of the clues that you or your vet can put with the list of their symptoms to sleuth out what may be challenging your beloved barn buddy. The immune system knows what temperature to run for each type of challenge, to speed up the immune system macrophage production so that it can annihilate invaders faster.
Toxicities can often cause normal goat temp to decrease to a hypothermic mode. Ingesting poisonous plants for goats or overeating on too much of a nontoxic feed that causes enterotoxemia can cause hypothermia as their body becomes stressed with the toxins and start to sustain kidney damage. Bug and creature poisons may cause an initial hyperthermic episode as toxins begin circulating, followed by a hypothermic stage once a lot of damage has been done and the goat starts slipping away.
Stress from shipping, exhibitions, herd management procedures, or veterinary procedures often will also cause an increase in temperature. For the most accurate temperature, take it after the goat has been quiet for 30 minutes, not right after some stressful situation. Playing and other activity causes muscle movement which also generates heat and could make you think you have a high temperature when in fact you just had an active goat. As long as the goat otherwise looks healthy, I personally would retemp them again in about a half-hour after they mellow out.
Whenever a goat appears abnormal, I take their temperature. Those goat symptoms include: feeling hot to the touch, feeling sweaty, panting, hunched up, hair sticking out, crying, dull eyes, lethargic, picky with feed or off feed, coughing, and sometimes even just looking at me “sideways” or acting in a way that would be abnormal for goats or that goat.
I use a human digital thermometer to check for normal goat temperature. To do that we restrain the goat on a milk stand as I do not want to injure anal tissue by unnecessary movement. I also lubricate the tip by dipping the end into room-temperature olive oil. Then I carefully insert the thermometer into the anal area so that the entire metal sensor is in the anus, but no further. After one to three minutes, depending on how much you spent on your thermometer, you can have a readout. I write these down on a record sheet, also noting the time, any other of the above situations I think may be involved, and the air temperature. The second reading I like to get in 30 minutes and after that, I go hourly, then every two to three hours depending on how closely I need to watch the situation. By all means, if you have other symptomology, be sure and start some type of protocol to help them overcome their problem. If you call for veterinarian assistance (and you should if you aren’t comfortable handling the situation), they will want to know the temperature first, so please have that and list any other symptoms or situations you notice.
If my goat is hypothermic, I definitely want to get them warm. I coax (or carefully drench) some hot water with blackstrap molasses into them for minerals, B vitamins, and energy, and I give them a large pinch of cayenne to help their body bring core temperature up faster. I also get them in an area protected from wind, with deep and warm, comfortable bedding (I like straw for this) and a goat coat on. If it’s cold outside, I throw a wool blanket over that and put gallon jugs of hot water under it to make a nice, warm heat tent for them. I also begin to work on the problem that is causing the hypothermia. Of course, being me, I’m going to choose herbal methods.
If my goat is hyperthermic (too hot) what I do is going to depend on the cause. If it’s a day with temps over their body core temperature, they can overheat just as a person can. So, days in the upper 90s and hotter (and lower if you have humidity causing a 90 or higher heat index) I watch for goats that are lying around panting. A panting goat, if it’s hot out, is a goat emergency as they are quite overheated. In those cases, while watching that I don’t overheat, I carefully hose each hot goat down to help them lower their temperature faster. I usually start by running water on the feet and legs and then moving up to the body. I’ve had to hose off goats as much as three times a day in over 110 degrees F weather. I also provide coconut water for them to top off electrolytes and make sure each one is drinking water. Any weak animals may have to be brought into the barn and have water brought to them.
If my goat is hyperthermic because of a health condition, or a bite or sting, then along with giving them specific products and care for their condition, as long as it’s not above 90-95 degrees F (watch your goats temperature and keep them in the shade) I blanket them. A goat with a very stressed system will not regulate their body temperature and can move into hypothermia. In these situations, it’s imperative to monitor their temperature hourly to see when you can remove the blanket.
When I’ve had a goat with an abnormal temperature and I’ve needed to blanket them, I need to be careful about when I remove the blanket. I prefer to remove them after they are quite on the mend with a good attitude and appetite AND usually about midmorning on a nice, sunny day. This gives their body the rest of the day to adjust back to being without a coat. Having said that I sometimes will recoat them come evening for a few days. I’m currently coating newborn dairy goat kids at nighttime (our night temperatures are in the fifties even in the summer) until they are a few days old and then removing them in the mornings for the day.
May your goating adventures always be healthy and happy! Blessings all.
Katherine and her beloved hubby keep busy with their LaManchas, livestock, and gardens beneath the shadow of the Olympic Mountains. Educated with a Master of Herbology as well as other alternative degrees and her lifelong love of livestock are combined in her over 500-page book, The Accessible Pet, Equine and Livestock Herbal. Her popular herbal products and signed copies of her book can be purchased at www.firmeadowllc.com. You can follow her at www.facebook.com/FirMeadowLLC
Originally published in the Goat Journal 2020 special subscriber issue — Goat Health, From Head to Hoof — and regularly vetted for accuracy.