Have you experienced seeing your baby goat with a wet bottom and filthy diarrhea-splattered ground?
Diarrhea in baby goats is a symptom of another issue, so it’s important to rule out potential issues and find the root of the problem.
That way, it can be mitigated quickly. Time is of the essence especially when it comes to newborn goat babies.
Some causes for diarrhea will clear up soon or are easy to correct, while others are more dangerous and will take some effort from you to heal.
We cover all of this and more to help you navigate the issue!
Read on to know how you can treat and possibly prevent diarrhea in baby goats:
Diarrhea in Baby Goats: Top 7 Causes To Consider
Coccidiosis is the most common culprit for diarrhea in baby goats that range from three weeks to five months old.
Coccidia are parasites that live their life cycles in the intestinal cells of goats.
Almost all adult goats have them, but the population is typically insignificant and overall a non-issue.
The coccidia lay eggs, called oocysts, that ride from the intestines to manure and out of the goat.
While the coccidia are reproducing, they destroy cells in the intestines. If a goat is young, old, sick, or stressed, it’s more difficult for the body to handle the loss of these cells, which results in diarrhea.
Coccidiosis is more prevalent in smaller enclosures because goats have more opportunities to pick up the hatched (sporulation) eggs, especially in food and water sources.
When these infective coccidia creatures (sporocysts) re-enter the body through the mouth, they end up back in the intestines where they fully develop.
Goats in larger areas, or rotational pastures, are much less likely to come in contact with coccidia because of their frequent migrations.
The reason why young kids are so susceptible to coccidiosis is that they are young and easily stressed especially when it’s time to wean from their mothers.
Many farm animals have coccidia. However, they are species-specific.
This means that poultry, dogs, cattle, and rabbits cannot infect goats with coccidia, and goats cannot infect these other animals.
However, sheep and goats CAN cross-infect each other.
How To Prevent Coccidiosis
- Use rotational or regenerative pasture management. Though this isn’t always a possibility for all operations, it is a great solution to prevent outbreaks.
- Keep barns and pastures as clean from manure as possible. Clean feed pans and water troughs regularly.
- Do not feed goats on the ground; do not let goats climb in their feed pans, troughs, or hay feeders.
- Minimize stress and illnesses in goats, this keeps their immune system in shape to fight infections much easier.
- Give goats coccidostat. Almost all feed and grain and farm stores sell goat feeds that contain coccidiostat as an ingredient. Look for Deccox or Rumensin to prevent it in non-lactating goats. Both are FDA-tested and approved for goats. Bovatec can be used as an extra-label feed, however, it is only FDA-approved for sheep, not goats.
- Add amprolium, Corid to drinking water. This is probably the least effective method because it’s difficult to monitor individual goats’ consumption levels, but it is an option.
- Drench goats with an oral dose of amprolium solution called Corid (at 9.6%). It’s not FDA-approved, but many goat experts recommend it for all ages, especially weaning kids.
How To Treat Coccidiosis
- Drench goats with an oral dose of amprolium every day for five consecutive days.
- Administer sulfadimethoxine-sulfamethazine like Sulmet or Albon to prevent secondary infections. This does not directly treat coccidiosis, but it can give the goat a better chance of survival.
Too Much Food
Goats will absolutely gorge themselves on grains and pellets with no regard for the potential consequences.
For them, every day has the potential of being Thanksgiving.
If you leave their food unsecured, it’s like grandma just laid out her finest china and filled the table with her “famous” macaroni and cheese, sweet potatoes, and the biggest blackberry pie you’ve ever laid eyes on.
Because of this, it’s important to limit their grain or place them in an inaccessible place where they can’t overeat.
Enterotoxemia is an overeating issue, sometimes known as pulpy kidney disease caused by Clostridium perfringens type D.
This bacteria may reproduce quickly and produce an enormous amount of toxins in the belly of goats.
This is most likely to happen to young goats because they don’t have the immunity built for it yet.
Excessive milk or grain consumption, illness, stress, gastrointestinal parasites, gastrointestinal motility reduction, or a diet too rich in carbs but low in grains will bring on enterotoxemia.
Signs of enterotoxemia include watery or bloody diarrhea, loss of appetite, abdominal discomfort, or any other strange behaviors that may indicate overall discomfort.
If you bottle-feed baby goats, they will still find ways to eat more until they become sick (and even then, that likely won’t stop them).
Always follow the directions on the milk replacement/formula container and closely adhere to them.
The first “bottle baby” I ever acquired was when I was a teenager, and that little doe would act so hungry, even after I fed her a full bottle.
Finally, one day I broke down and fed her a second bottle, and she still acted like she was “starving” for more.
She had a tough bout of diarrhea, and I quickly learned that goats of all ages are cute little gluttons who need regulation.
I also accidentally gave my latest Nigerian Dwarf diarrhea once by taking too long to milk her and feeding her copious amounts of grain while she was on the stand.
To fix this, I learned to hand milk faster (while being gentle) and scattered the grain a bit, so she was slower to eat it.
If you’re milking goats, you can use a machine to speed up the process or add alfalfa cubes into the mix so it isn’t quite so rich.
Learn from my mistakes (because I have made many) and carefully track their food consumption.
Fast Dietary Changes
Goats are ruminant creatures with four stomach chambers, and these chambers house a diverse population of fungi, yeast, and bacteria.
When you feed your goat, you are also feeding these complex and sensitive colonies of microbes.
When you change feed, start by making 10% of the feed new, while 90% is the “old” feed.
Every few days, increase the new feed by 10% while decreasing the old by 10%. It should take about two to three weeks for you to completely change feed types.
In the springtime, your goats will need to make the switch from hay to grass. If they have free access to pasture, they will naturally acclimate because the grass will not come in all at once.
If you hold your goats on a dry lot until the muddy season passes, you should restrict them to one or two hours of pasture at a time to avoid illness or diarrhea.
Most goats should receive an eight to twelve percent crude protein mix.
Each goat should have three to four percent of its body weight in forage (pasture grass, horse-quality hay, alfalfa, etc) per day.
For most goats, this is two to four pounds of hay every day. If locating forage is an issue for your area, alfalfa pellets are a fantastic option.
Too Hot Formula Bottles
If you need to feed formula (colostrum, milk replacer) to a bottle-baby goat, you need to pay attention to the temperature of the bottle.
If you mix the bottle indoors, you should start with hot water that is somewhere between 110 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
Mix in the room temperature replacement powder and the bottle should now be 105 degrees and safe to give to the baby.
If you mix bottles outdoors during winter, you’ll need to start with even hotter water to stay up to the temperature after a cold walk and cold powder is added.
I started with boiling water (195 to 212 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on your elevation).
Just minutes later, after adding cold formula powder, I had milk that was just barely warmer than my own body temperature (around 105 degrees Fahrenheit).
If you give colostrum or replacer to babies that are more than 135 degrees, it can cause burns, pain, or diarrhea.
Always check that the temperature is safe and comfortable.
Bad Food Choices in General
Unhealthy snacks and treats, human food, or too many treats will cause diarrhea quickly too.
Foods That Are Unhealthy for Baby Goats
A bite of two of these items may not cause immediate harm, but any significant amount of them can cause pain, bloat, digestion issues, or diarrhea in goats of all ages, but especially for baby goats.
- Chicken feed
- Peanut butter
- Leaves and bark of certain trees (the kind that produces fruit with stones or pits)
- Fruit stones or pits
- Junk food
- Lilac Flowers
- Lily of the Valley
- Mountain Laurel
- Fireweed Plant
- Goat’s Rue (big surprise there)
- Morning glories
- Red maple trees
- Holly plant
- Garden Iris
- English Ivy
Being removed from the mother, changing homes, or changing schedules can all upset a baby goat’s digestive tract after making them anxious for long enough.
While stress is sometimes inevitable, you should do as much as you can to reduce it or alleviate it whenever possible.
Worms / Internal Parasites
Parasites and worms will also cause diarrhea in goats of all ages.
Deworm your goats as needed, and do your best to reduce parasitic exposure by feeding goats off the ground, not allowing them to climb into the feed and hay containers, and cleaning their pens frequently.
Regular pasture rotation can cut down on exposure too.
Read our guide to deworming goats here.
What To Do If Baby Goat Has Bloody Diarrhea
Kids with bloody diarrhea are likely experiencing enterotoxemia (we covered this in the “too much food” section above).
The best ways to treat enterotoxemia are:
- Intramuscular thiamine
- Intravenous or subcutaneous fluids and corticosteroids (to fight dehydration)
- Penicillin (an antibiotic)
- Probiotics post-antibiotic therapy (this helps repopulate the beneficial microbacteria in the gastrointestinal tract)
- Anti-bloating medication (alleviates pain and inflammation in the gut)
- 5mL of C and D antitoxin (administered subcutaneously)
How To Treat Diarrhea in Goats
Give them lots of clean, fresh water to prevent dehydration.
Dehydration is usually the cause of death in baby goats when they have diarrhea. You can also add electrolytes three times a day to encourage them to drink more and get the fluids they need.
How To Tell If a Goat is Dehydrated
Pinch the skin on the goat’s neck with your thumb and index finger for two or three seconds then let go.
If the skin immediately goes back into place, it is not dehydrated.
If the skin stays in a pinched position (known as tenting), then the goat is dehydrated and needs water immediately.
Diarrhea in Baby Goats: Final Thoughts
Most diarrhea in baby goats is caused by coccidiosis, too much food, fast dietary changes, a formula that is served too hot, stress, or internal parasites.
Make sure that your baby goat is getting ample water to fix the immediate side effect of dehydration (which can be deadly) and then figure out the root cause of diarrhea so you can fix that next.
Monitor your kids on a regular basis so you can catch warning signs early and then work through the potential culprits so you can immediately start treatment and cure the primary issues.