Goat Polio

08 Mar

Let me start by introducing you to Dusty.  

Dusty is a 1 year old pygmy wether.  He is a lot of fun and just as often a pain in the butt.  A few weeks ago when I went out to see Dusty and his pen mates (at the time that was another miniature goat and 2 bummer lambs). I noticed that Dusty was laying face down not moving.  Now this is NOT normal behaviour for Dusty.  Usually my arrival is met with jumping about and lots of noise.  I went in to the pen and tried  to stir him,  no luck.  He made a pitiful sound and fell forward.  I tried to pick him up and place him on his hooves, he held his weight less than 20 seconds and collapsed.  At this point I was panicking,  I was not raised a farm girl and ailing animals still really freak me out.  So doing what I always do when faced with an animal problem, I called Lauren!  She too was unsure what was going on and told me to load him up and get to the vet!  Now to be honest I didn’t know if the poor guy would make it to the vet,  his breathing was slow and laboured, he had no muscle strength and was making some very scary noises.  

I loaded him in the back of my mini van and headed for the vet.   After giving him a once over my vet old me Dusty was blind and in very rough shape.  He told me he believed it to be “goat polio” and that if we had caught it in time it was reversible, if not…… we all know what that means.  He gave dusty a intravenous injection of thiamine and said he would keep him and call me when he knew something.

I had no idea what the heck “goat polio” was and after a quick call neither did Lauren. So I went home and got out my goat books and did some research,   Goat polio or Polioencephalomalacia also known as PEM (which has no relation to the “human” polio) is a neurological condition caused by a thiamine deficiency that causes the brain to swell and start to die.  Caught soon enough is reversible  with thiamine treatment.   Now this left me pretty stumped, if Dusty was deficient shouldn’t his pen mate be as well?  NO just like people some goat require more of some things an another.  That being the case even though I gave Dusty all the right minerals and salt supplements, he wasn’t getting what he needed!  

The vet called at the end of the day and said that Dusty hadn’t improved enough to come home and would have to stay at the vet overnight.  I have to say I was feeling pretty hopeless, he looked really bad when I brought him in.  The next morning the vet called and to my huge relief said Dusty could come home.  He was still blind, and would require injections at home but he could stand on his own.   I brought him home and continued to give him twice daily injections for a week. He was not overly impressed, but by the end of the week he was almost completely himself again.  

It’s been about 2 months now and Dusty is completely back to normal!  

For all you first time goat owners here is a list of symptoms of “goat polio” to look out for. (Ps “goat polio can also affect cattle, sheep and llamas)

Disorientation, depression, stargazing, staggering, weaving, circling, tremors, diarrhea, blindness, convulsions and eventual death.

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Posted by on March 8, 2015 in Goats


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