Scours in Goats and a Homemade Electrolyte Recipe
Providing Electrolytes for Dehydration in Goats
Reading Time: 4 minutes
It is imperative that you keep goats hydrated during times of illness. Scours in goats is often an indication of an underlying illness or that they have eaten something they should not have. Always be prepared by having the necessary ingredients on hand for making this homemade electrolyte recipe.
To have the opportunity to raise goats is incredible, however, with having them on the property comes a lot of responsibility. Goats are human garbage cans if given the chance. Often, they consume many things they should not, which often leads to a case of scours in goats.
Once a goat’s rumen becomes unsettled or an illness sets in, the health of a goat can decline. One minute goats are healthy, bouncy creatures chewing a cud and enjoying the day. However, in the blink of an eye, you could have a very ill goat on your hands.
Scours in Goats
One of the very first signs a goat is not well is the presence of scours, also known as diarrhea. Sadly, death can occur if this condition is left untreated. However, if the condition is mild enough, a bout of scours will clear up on its own with no explanation as to what caused it.
A goat with a mild case of scours will often go about its day acting no differently. The goat remains healthy in appearance and will eat and drink normally with no indications of being anemic, weak, or having a fever. For precautionary reasons offer electrolytes to ensure the goat remains hydrated during this uncomfortable time. Contact a veterinarian the moment any of the conditions mentioned here begin to appear or if the scours do not go away within your (or the goat’s) comfort level.
Severe cases of scours are obvious. The goat displays illness by not eating or drinking, maintaining a fever, becoming lethargic or anemic, and having a severe case of diarrhea. Contact your veterinarian immediately and offer electrolytes in the meantime to keep the goat hydrated.
What causes scours in goats could be one, or more, of the following reasons:
- consuming excessive amounts of grain
- excessive worm load
- sudden change in feed or hay
- reaction to medicine
- consuming vegetation that is not easily digestible
- the worst-case scenario: an unknown illness
Many goat keepers instinctively treat for worms. Prior to offering a dewormer, it is beneficial to know which type of worms are common in your area. Also, gather a stool sample for your veterinarian to determine the best course of action to begin treatment.
Dehydration in Goats
A severe case of scours will lead to dehydration. If this should occur, immediately offer electrolytes multiple times within a 24-hour period. Contact a livestock veterinarian if the goat shows no signs of improvement.
Telltale signs of dehydration in goats include:
- dry nose
- weight loss
- sticky gums
- sunken eyes
- pinch test — the skin is slow to return to normal
When dealing with dehydration in baby goats it is imperative to contact your livestock veterinarian immediately. Dehydration can cause a baby goat’s health to decline quickly, and more times than not, lead to death.
Upon the first sign of scours, offer an electrolyte to prevent dehydration. Instead of reaching for an over-the-counter option, you can make this homemade recipe with ingredients from the pantry. These four basic ingredients will help to restore liquids in an ill goat.
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 teaspoon salt (we use fine sea salt)
- ½ cup molasses or raw honey
- 4 quarts of warm water
A drenching syringe is a must-have tool for all who raise goats. It safely administers electrolytes, medication, and dewormers.
- one-gallon mason jar
- drenching syringe, 50 mL
- silicone mixing spoon
- Add all ingredients into the one-gallon mason jar, mix until all ingredients have dissolved.
- Fill the drenching syringe with the homemade electrolyte until full, drench to the goat immediately.
- Continue to drench the goat every two hours for a 12-hour period.
Also, scours deplete the gut of beneficial bacteria, so offer a natural (if available) probiotic to reintroduce good bacteria to the gut. See below the list of healthy probiotics that can be offered. During this time, slowly reintroduce healthy bacteria back into the rumen by offering fermented foods, plain water kefir, kombucha, or a manufactured product known as Probios.
How to Drench a Goat
Goats are not calm or trusting animals by nature. They have a sense that something out of the normal is about to happen, and their guard instantly becomes heightened. This behavior often makes drenching a goat difficult for both the goat and keeper.
It is easiest to drench a goat with the help of another individual. However, a DIY milk stand can also be used for circumstances such as this. If a milking stand is unavailable, refer to plan B.
Guide the goat to the corner of the barn or stall, this will prevent the goat from backing away from you. Next, pin the goat between the wall and yourself, put your body weight into the goat to prevent it from escaping.
Do not administer the electrolytes to a goat that is down and unresponsive.
Tips on how to drench a goat:
- With one hand hold under the mouth and lift the head.
- Gently pry open the mouth.
- Insert the drenching syringe toward the back of the mouth.
- In order to prevent choking, slowly release the goat electrolyte from the drenching syringe
Keep Goats Hydrated
Knowing how and why it is necessary to keep goats hydrated is beneficial for emergency purposes. But sometimes even the best treatment does not rid a goat of a mild case of scours. This is true in the story of Malta, who had a case of scours for over nine months.
Many natural remedies consist of items from the pantry, whereas, others must be purchased. Make sure to have the necessary first aid items on hand to treat conditions until a veterinarian arrives.
Originally published in the July/August 2020 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.