CHILTON, Wis. — Siri, what do I do when my goat has scours? OK, Google, how do I treat a dehydrated goat? Alexa, what are electrolytes? When your goats experience scours, you’re looking for quick, helpful answers.
“Scours can be common when raising goats,” said Julian (Skip) Olson, DVM, technical services manager for Milk Products. “It’s important to know what scours are, what causes them and how to remedy, so you can help your goats bounce back and thrive.”
Here are some commonly asked questions about scours, dehydration and electrolytes and answers:
Q: What are scours in goats?
A: Scours is a common name for diarrhea in goats. They can vary in color and consistency — from pasty white to watery brown.
“Scours can lead to dehydration, depression, loss of appetite, weakness and even death when left untreated,” Olson said. “That’s why it’s critical to catch them early and quickly take action to remedy.”
Know the causes and complications of scours so you can identify them early and avoid severe health implications.
Q: What causes scours in goats?
A: Many stressors trigger scours in goats.
“Common stressors in goats include cold and wet weather, poor sanitation, transportation, exposure to new animals, dehorning, vaccination, weaning, temperature fluctuations and reduced feed intake. All of these stressors can increase susceptibility to scours-causing pathogens,” Olson said.
Monitor newborn goats closely as they are more susceptible.
Q: How do I know if a goat is dehydrated?
A: To determine if your goat is dehydrated, perform a pinch test. Pinch the skin on the side of the goat’s neck. If the skin “tents,” a slow return of the skin to its normal position after being pinched, the goat is dehydrated and in desperate need of hydration. Know what normal looks like by practicing the test on healthy, bright and alert kids.
“In goat kids, dehydration can be very serious as it could lead to death if not quickly and properly treated,” Olson said.
Consult your veterinarian immediately if a goat appears to have severe dehydration. Watch for signs of weakness, sunken eyes, dry nose, pale and sticky gums or weight loss. They may need to receive fluids intravenously.
Q: What are electrolytes?
A: “Electrolytes are a concentrated nutritional supplement fed at the first sign of stress or scours,” Olson said. “They restore nutrients and help the body maintain fluid balance to prevent dehydration.”
Electrolytes consist of acids, bases or salts. These could include sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium and chloride. Sodium is the main electrolyte found in body fluids, which helps maintain fluid balance.
Other electrolyte ingredients include:
- Dextrose (glucose): Provides energy and helps maintain body condition
- Sodium bicarbonate: Helps regulate blood pH levels for proper organ function
- Direct-fed microbials or probiotics: Support immunity during times of stress
- Prebiotics: Support digestive health
- Glycine: Enhances the absorption of glucose for energy
Look for an electrolyte containing a balance of these ingredients to ensure goats receive proper hydration.
Q: When and how do I feed electrolytes?
A: If stress or scours are present, feed electrolytes immediately. Mix electrolyte powder into warm water according to package instructions.
“Always feed electrolytes separate from milk or milk replacer. They should be fed between normal milk feedings to provide additional fluids and energy,” Olson said.
It’s also important that electrolytes don’t replace a milk feeding.
“Electrolytes do not contain all of the nutrients in milk or milk replacer,” Olson said. “Offer electrolytes in addition to the goat’s normal milk diet.”
Offer electrolytes one to three times a day. Continue to feed them for two to three days until scours have stopped and hydration is normal, or as directed by your veterinarian. Remember to offer plenty of clean, fresh water.
Watch for signs of severe diarrhea where the goat is weak, depressed, not eating or responding to oral electrolytes. Severe diarrhea is a medical emergency which requires intravenous fluids and other medications from your veterinarian.
Q: Can I give electrolytes to adult goats?
A: Yes, even adult goats can benefit from electrolytes. Feed adult goats electrolytes ahead of stress events such as transportation, environmental changes or during kidding.
“In these situations, offer electrolytes free-choice as the only source of drinking water for one hour, two to three times daily,” Olson said.
Proactively feeding electrolytes can help goats during times of stress to keep them healthy and thriving — regardless of age.
“Goats respond well to electrolytes,” Olson said. “Always keep electrolytes on hand — they’re a simple solution if your goats are experiencing scours or dehydration.”
Stock up on electrolytes for your goats by finding a retailer at savakid.com.
Milk Products, based in Chilton, Wis., manufacturers high-quality animal milk replacers and young animal health products. Using its innovative manufacturing technology, Milk Products produces over 700 unique animal nutrition products for numerous independent feed manufacturers, wholesale distributors, and large retail chains. Our customers choose whether these products are sold under their private label brand, or under the Sav-A-Caf® brand which is manufactured and marketed by Milk Products.
— Milk Products
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