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Dehydration in Goats: The Risk and Treatment For Your Herd

dehydration in goats

Dehydration is a serious and potentially fatal condition that can affect goats of all ages.

Believe it or not, dehydration isn’t just something you need to worry about during the hot summer months.

The primary cause of dehydration in goats is the loss of fluids through sweating, urination, and defecation, as well as limited access to clean drinking water.

This can be particularly problematic during hot, dry weather or when goats are being transported or subjected to other stressful conditions. Still, it can occur at any time and often without warning.

So how do you treat dehydration in goats, and more importantly, how do you prevent it from happening in the first place?

In this post, we’ll take a closer look so you can keep your goats happy, healthy, and of course, well-hydrated.

Causes of Dehydration in Goats

Dehydration is a serious concern for goats. It can cause a range of health complications and, in severe cases, even death.

Understanding the various causes of dehydration in goats is crucial in preventing this issue and ensuring their well-being.

One of the most common causes of dehydration in goats is scours, a condition characterized by diarrhea.

Scours can deplete the goat’s body of fluids and electrolytes essential for maintaining proper hydration levels.

Hot weather can also contribute to dehydration, especially in areas where access to water is limited.

However, temperatures don’t have to be extremely hot for your goats to become dehydrated.

During cold weather, goats may still get dehydrated because of reduced access to water due to frozen water sources or lack of adequate shelter.

Poor sanitation in the goats’ living area can result in contaminated water sources, increasing the risk of dehydration.

Transportation can also cause dehydration, as goats become stressed and can’t stop drinking water during the journey.

Diseases such as mastitis and pneumonia can also lead to dehydration, as affected goats may not eat or drink enough, causing fluid and electrolyte imbalances.

Reduced feed intake doesn’t necessarily cause dehydration, but it can exacerbate dehydration, as the goat’s digestive system requires water to break down food.

Parasites such as roundworms can also contribute to dehydration, as they can cause damage to the goat’s digestive tract, leading to poor nutrient absorption and diarrhea.

Rabies in goats symptoms: lethargy and change in behavior

Signs of Dehydration in Goats

Dehydration can occur due to a number of factors, including hot weather, poor quality forage, insufficient water access, and sickness or disease.

Now that you know some of the potential causes, here are some signs that your goat is dehydrated. After all, your goat can’t simply tell you that it’s thirsty!


One of the most common signs of dehydration in goats is weakness, which can manifest in the form of lethargy, muscle fatigue, and decreased activity levels.

Unfortunately, this can lead to a lack of appetite and reduced water intake, exacerbating the problem even further.

Sunken Eyes

Another clear indication of dehydration in goats is sunken eyes, which can occur due to the loss of fluids in the body.

The dehydration process draws fluids away from the eyes, causing them to appear sunken or droopy.

While you might not notice this symptom immediately on its own, sunken eyes can make goats appear tired, sickly, and less alert, further emphasizing the need for proper hydration.

Sudden Weight Loss

In addition to weak muscles and sunken eyes, goats suffering from dehydration may experience sudden weight loss, which can be a direct result of water loss.

Rapid weight loss is a significant concern, as it can lead to malnutrition, decreased milk production, and, ultimately, death.


One of the most telling signs of dehydration in these animals is lethargy.

If a goat seems unusually tired or sluggish, it may be an indication that it is not getting enough water.

Skin That Doesn’t Bounce Back

Another important sign to be aware of is skin that doesn’t bounce back when pinched.

Normally, the skin on a goat’s neck or back will quickly return to its original position when pinched and released.

However, if a goat is dehydrated, the skin may take longer to rebound, signifying that it lacks the necessary moisture to maintain proper elasticity.

Failure to Urinate

Equally concerning is the failure to urinate. This is often a strong indication that a goat is experiencing severe dehydration and requires immediate attention.

The buildup of toxins and waste products in the animal’s body can lead to serious health problems, including kidney damage or failure.

diarrhea in baby goats poop

Scours (Diarrhea)

Another sign of dehydration in goats is scours or diarrhea.

While diarrhea can be a cause of dehydration, ironically, it can also be a result.

Dehydrated goats may have loose or watery stools, which can lead to dehydration if not properly addressed.

When a goat’s body is having trouble processing nutrients due to dehydration, it may release whatever it does eat in the form of diarrhea or loose stools, too.

Pale Pink Gums

Pale pink gums are also a strong indication of dehydration in goats. This is because when the body is lacking in fluids, the blood becomes thicker and less oxygenated

This can cause the gums to lose their normal color. In severe cases, the gums may even appear white or pale blue, indicating a potentially life-threatening situation.

Dry Nose and Mouth

A dry nose and mouth is another tell-tale sign of dehydration in goats.

This can lead to difficulty swallowing, as well as a lack of appetite and decreased interest in drinking water.

A dry nose can make it difficult for the animal to regulate its body temperature, as moisture in the nasal passage is essential for maintaining an optimal level of hydration.

Lack of Interest in Food or Water

One of the most obvious signs of dehydration in goats is a lack of interest in food or water.

If you notice your goat not eating or drinking water as much as it typically would, it could be a clear indication of dehydration.

Poor Milk Production in Does

In addition to a lack of appetite, poor milk production is another sign of dehydration, particularly if it is a sudden and substantial decrease.

This reduction in milk output is a result of a decrease in the animal’s body fluids, which directly affects milk production.

Heat stroke in goats treatment

How Do You Treat a Dehydrated Goat?

Dehydration can be a serious issue for goats, especially in hot and humid weather conditions.

It can lead to various health issues, such as weight loss, decreased milk production, and even death in severe cases.

To address the (potentially dire) situation, here are some tips:

Take Its Temperature

The first step in treating a dehydrated goat is to take its temperature. The normal body temperature for a goat ranges from 101.5°F to 103.5°F.

If the goat’s temperature is above this range, it may indicate a fever or some underlying health condition.

Provide Electrolytes and Offer Plenty of Water

The next step is to provide the goat with electrolytes.

Electrolytes are essential minerals and nutrients that help regulate the body’s fluid balance.

Electrolyte solutions consist of acids, bases, or salts and may include ingredients like sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and chloride.

Sodium, in particular, is the main electrolyte found in body fluids, which plays a crucial role in maintaining fluid balance.

Other important ingredients that may be found in electrolyte solutions include:

  • dextrose (or glucose), which provides energy and helps maintain body condition
  • sodium bicarbonate, which helps regulate blood pH levels for proper organ function
  • direct-fed microbial or probiotics, which support immunity during times of stress.

Prebiotics, which support digestive health, are also important, as is glycine, which enhances the absorption of glucose for energy.

Administer the electrolyte solution according to the goat’s weight and severity of dehydration.

These solutions can be given orally or, in severe cases, intravenously by a veterinarian. The goat should also be encouraged to drink water frequently.

Ensure Newborn Kids Have Access to Milk, Colostrum, and Electrolytes

For newborn kids, access to milk and colostrum is vital, as they are still developing their immune systems and require proper nourishment to grow and thrive.

In cases of dehydration, additional electrolytes may also be necessary for newborns, as they may not be able to consume enough milk or water to properly hydrate themselves.

Can You Give Pedialyte to a Goat?


A goat’s water intake should be monitored closely, and fresh, clean water should be provided at all times.

In cases of dehydration, electrolyte solutions such as Pedialyte or Gatorade can be added to the goat’s water to help replenish lost minerals and fluids.

Electrolyte solutions should not be used as a substitute for water but rather as a supplement to it.

Treat the Underlying Cause of Dehydration

Dehydration is usually a symptom of other health issues such as scours, parasites, or even stress.

Therefore, identifying and addressing the root cause of dehydration is crucial in effectively treating the goat.

You can address the dehydration all you want, but if you haven’t taken care of the issue causing the dehydration, it’s going to keep coming back.

thiamine in goats

Administer IV Fluids in Extreme Cases

In extreme cases, administering intravenous (IV) fluids to the goat is an excellent way to replenish its body fluids quickly.

IV fluids should only be administered by a veterinarian who understands the appropriate dosage to avoid further complications.

Get the Goat Out of the Sun and Limit Access to Grain

Another vital step in treating dehydration is to get the goat out of the sun and limit its access to grains.

This is because grains require much more water to digest, and feeding them to a dehydrated goat could further worsen the situation.

Instead, provide your goat with plenty of fresh, clean water, and feed it juicy fruits and vegetables.

ALSO READ: Feeding Goats: Everything You Need to Know About Goat Food

Provide a DIY Electrolyte Solution

If you can’t get your hands on store-bought electrolyte solutions, providing your goat with a DIY electrolyte solution is another effective way to combat dehydration.

The solution is made up of 2 teaspoons of salt, 1 teaspoon of baking soda, 8 tablespoons of honey or molasses, and 4 quarts of warm water.

This solution helps replenish the goat’s body fluids and electrolytes while also providing an extra boost of energy.

Preventing Dehydration in the Future

Preventing dehydration in goats is crucial for maintaining their good health and preventing a host of potential health problems.

Goats are especially susceptible to dehydration due to their constant grazing and demanding metabolic needs, along with their propensity for several different diseases.

The most effective means of preventing dehydration in goats is, quite obviously, to provide them with a constant supply of clean and fresh water.

It is recommended that goats should have access to at least one to two gallons of water a day, depending on their age, weight, and environmental temperature.

Providing multiple sources of water in different locations can encourage goats to drink more frequently.

This is highly encouraged if you are grazing a large group of goats together or if you have any animals with underlying medical conditions.

In addition to water, goats also require access to high-quality feed and electrolytes to maintain fluid balance within their bodies.

Goats tend to become dehydrated quickly during hot weather conditions. So during periods of high heat or humidity, it is important to provide shade and frequent water breaks to ensure proper hydration.

Even if you’re raising a goat breed that’s said to be hardier in hot weather, it’s incredibly important that you provide enough water.

Be vigilant for signs of dehydration and interact with your goats as much as possible.

The more you get to know each individual member of your herd, the easier it will be for you to identify if one of your animals isn’t feeling well, allowing you to take action ASAP.

Dehydration in Goats: Final Thoughts

What’s the best course of action for treating dehydration in goats? Have the number of a trusted veterinarian on hand.

That way, should any of these home remedies fail to treat your goats’ dehydration, you’ll be able to get emergency medical attention if needed.

The good news is that dehydration is fairly easy to prevent with these basic steps.

Make sure your goats have access to plenty of water and good quality feed, along with decent shelter, and everybody should stay happy and healthy no matter the weather!

Do you have other problems in your herd? Are your baby goats suddenly dying? You might want to check the article below!

READ NEXT: Baby Goats Dying: What’s Happening and How To Stop It

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