The Role of Thiamine for Goats and Other B Vitamins

What You Can Do to Prevent or Treat Goat Polio Symptoms?

The Role of Thiamine for Goats and Other B Vitamins

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While most of the time you shouldn’t need any supplemental thiamine for goats or other B vitamins, it is a good idea to have some on hand for emergencies. Read on to discover why and when you may need to give a shot of vitamin B complex for goats without delay.

A healthy, mature goat rumen should be able to make all of the B vitamins that a goat needs. The beneficial bacteria that live in the rumen give off various B vitamins such as thiamine and vitamin B12, which are both very important to goat health. However, these bacteria need certain nutrients, minerals, and pH atmosphere in the rumen in order to provide these. If a goat becomes ill, the health of the rumen may suffer, especially if they are not eating. This can cause a drop in available B vitamins. Even a change in diet, if given too quickly can throw the rumen off enough to cause a vitamin deficiency.

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Thiamine for goats, or vitamin B1, helps in the digestion of carbohydrates into glucose. Glucose is essential for the brain to work because the brain cannot utilize protein or fats. If there is not enough thiamine, your goat’s body will run out of available glucose for energy and brain function even if your goat is still eating well. When the brain runs out of food and essentially starves, brain cells begin to die. This causes the classic symptoms of polioencephalomalacia or “goat polio.” While it goes by the shortened name of polio in goats, it is not in any way related to poliomyelitis or polio that infects humans. Goat polio is manifested by neurological symptoms such as apparent blindness, staggering, circling, head pressing, “stargazing,” muscle tremors, or disorientation. These signs can be acute and severe or subacute and ongoing. A goat with acute signs of goat polio needs help immediately or they will die. A goat with subacute signs of goat polio has more time, but the longer they go without treatment means the more likely they are to have lasting neurological damage even if they recover.

A healthy, mature goat rumen should be able to make all of the B vitamins that a goat needs. Even a change in diet, if given too quickly can throw the rumen off enough to cause a vitamin deficiency.

When treating goat polio symptoms, your goat needs thiamine in the fastest way possible. Supplementing by feed is not fast enough. Wondering where to buy thiamine for goats? Pure injectable thiamine is available through your vet by prescription and is the best option because it is most concentrated. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, “The treatment of choice for PEM regardless of cause is thiamine administration at a dosage of 10 mg/kg, tid-qid, for cattle or small ruminants. The first dose is administered slowly IV (intravenously); otherwise, the animal may collapse. Subsequent doses are administered IM (intramuscularly) for three to five days. Therapy must be started early in the disease course for benefits to be achieved.” (Lévy, 2015) Dexamethasone may be given to reduce cerebral swelling.

Thiamine deficiency in goats can have multiple causes. The rumen may be unhealthy in which the good bacteria aren’t creating enough thiamine. A change in the pH of the rumen, often caused by a goat ingesting too much grain, can cause certain “bad” bacteria to give off thiaminases which will destroy the available thiamine. Other thiaminases include some plants such as bracken fern, horsetail, or kochia (summer cypress). An excess of sulfur in a ruminant’s diet also causes goat polio, although it is unclear exactly how because blood thiamine levels typically are not low in recorded cases of sulfur toxicity (THIAMINASES, 2019). Medicines to treat coccidiosis in goats can also hurt thiamine production if used for too long.

Vitamin B12 is important for goats suffering from anemia. Because vitamin B12 aids in the formation of red blood cells, it can help jumpstart a goat when they are low. A deficiency of vitamin B12 causes pernicious anemia, so ruling out a deficiency can be a good step in your anemia protocol. Supplemental oral vitamin B12 for goats can be purchased over-the-counter. Injectable forms are available by veterinary prescription.


Having a supplemental fortified vitamin B-complex on hand is important when caring for goats. Even though the level of thiamine is half that of a typical pure thiamine prescription, it can still be enough to keep your goat going until you can get a prescription for thiamine. Be sure that you buy the fortified variety as it has much more thiamine than the non-fortified. A good fortified vitamin B-complex can also help a downed goat. Goat Journal editor Marissa Ames was able to save a doe that was fading from anesthesia by administering a fortified B-complex injection. It gave the goat enough energy to keep breathing until the anesthesia effects began to wear off. Since the vitamin B-complex injection dosage for goats is almost never mentioned on the label, contact your veterinarian if you have dosage questions.

A goat will need B vitamins almost any time that they are off their feed. If they are not eating then their rumen is not creating thiamine and other important B vitamins to keep them healthy and alive. It is hard to go wrong when you supplement vitamin B. Because the B vitamins are all water-soluble, any excess will be urinated out rather than accumulating in the body. That is also why your goats can become deficient so easily and quickly: they have no true stores of these important B vitamins.

Whether your goat is suffering from goat polio, anemia, or simply off their feed, having injectable B vitamins on hand can save your goat. They can treat deficiencies or give the energy to pull through something like anesthesia. However, it is always important to also address the original reason that your goat may have a deficiency by adjusting feed.


Lévy, M. (2015, March). Overview of Polioencephalomalacia. Retrieved May 16, 2020, from Merck Manual Veterinary Manual:

THIAMINASES. (2019, February 28). Retrieved May 15, 2020, from Cornell College of Agriculture and Life Sciences:

3 thoughts on “The Role of Thiamine for Goats and Other B Vitamins”
  1. How much rooster booster would you give daily to assist with correcting anemia. My does seem to all have signs of anemia since kidding.

    1. Hi Marie! Unfortunately, we cannot give dosing information as that is the job of a veterinarian. I recommend giving them a call!

  2. Hi Rebecca. I, too, am seeing signs this may be what seems to be the situation with my two Nigerian dwarfs. I live in a rural town hours away from a large animal vet. What would you recommend?

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