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Goat Health Conditions and Bloat

Proper nutrition is a good start to raising and keeping healthy goats, however there are health conditions that will inevitably come along. In these cases, you or your veterinarian should try to identify the condition so you can treat it promptly to avoid further damage to your goats' health.

What is Bloat?

Goats are ruminant animals that produce lots of gas as they digest their food. Goats normally release gas by belching. Bloat is a common condition in goats that causes the inability for the animal to burp, or release gas.

If the goat has swallowed something that is stuck and blocking the esophagus, you may be able to feel the obstruction by placing your hand on the animal's throat and gently trying to work the object downward. If you cannot make the object go down gently, contact your veterinarian. Do not try to force the object to move because you don't know exactly what it is or if it has sharp edges.

Bloat is also caused by a rapid change in the animal's diet which causes a change in the rumen pH balance. Eating soluble carbohydrates such as grain or the first fresh grass and clover growth in the spring can cause bloat because the normal level of naturally occurring microbes in the rumen is disrupted, leaving "bad" microbes to produce a froth that fills up the rumen and blocks the entrance to the goat's esophagus.

How to Identify Bloat in Goats

Identifying bloat is somewhat easy. The animal will have a large bulge on the left side of its body as if the goat had swallowed a basket ball. If you are unable to feel any obstruction in the throat and you think your goat has gotten into grain or eaten fresh spring pasture growth, you may need to contact your veterinarian to determine a treatment for this type of bloat.

How is Bloat Treated?

Common treatments for bloat in goats include feeding goats mineral oil. This is known to settle the froth in the rumen. However if this does not work quickly, your veterinarian can administer a more powerful surfactant that will eliminate the froth and allow the goat to belch until the gas has subsided.

How to Avoid Bloat

Here are some preventative measures you can take to avoid bloat in your goats:

  • Keep goats away from food sources they are not supposed to eat, such as grains containing soluble carbohydrates and new spring growth of grass and clover.
  • Make diet changes for your goats gradual, and avoid sudden changes in feed. If you need to change what you are feeding your goats, consider mixing together the new feed with the old feed, gradually increasing the ratio of new to old, until you are feeding them all new feed. This will allow the goat's rumen pH balance to adjust as needed.