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Goat Bloating – Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

Goat bloating

Does your goat struggle to burp, look distressed, salivate and walk awkwardly? These could be signs of goat bloating. 

It’s a severe condition that can even take your goat’s life within hours if left untreated. 

But what is goat bloating, and why does it happen?

Those questions were probably lingering in your head and brought you here.

Well, you came to the right place because today, we’ll talk about:

  • Goat bloating, and how does it occur
  • How to tell if your goat is bloated and 
  • And how you can save your goat from this terrible condition

If you think your ruminant pet is currently experiencing it, or you want to prevent it from occurring again, join us as we uncover the answer to your hows and whys.

Understanding goat bloating

What is Goat Bloating?

Bloat, also known as ruminal tympany, occurs when they cannot expel an accumulation of gas in the rumen. 

Tympany is a drum played in an orchestra, and when a goat is bloated, its belly will be tight as a drum because of the accumulated gas.

And it mainly occurs in the goat’s rumen. Hence, the name ruminal tympany.

Bloat is a life-threatening condition, and timing and quick action are both crucial in saving your goat’s life.

Although it doesn’t always happen, it’s one of the challenges you might face when raising a goat.

But have you ever wondered why bloating happens? 

To understand the primary cause, we need to dig deep into the goat’s rumen.

Ruminant digestive system

The Ruminant’s Digestive System

The rumen is an essential part of their digestive system and one of the four chambers in a goat’s stomach.

The rumen is the ruminants’ first stomach chamber which works like a fermentation vat.

It receives the food or cud from the goat’s esophagus and partly digests it with the help of microbes such as bacteria protozoa. 

Then when the goat is at rest, it’ll pass the food back to the mouth for more thorough chewing before going back to the rumen for fermentation.

This digestion process produces gas in the rumen, which goats expel through belching.

Thus, if a goat can’t or burp, then chances are it’s experiencing bloating, and it badly needs help.

But there are different types of goat bloat, so to know if your goat is experiencing this condition, let’s discuss each one of them.


Types of Goat Bloat

According to the University of Arkansas, School of Agriculture, there are three types of goat bloat.

The first two are Frothy and Free-gas bloat, which both occur in mature ramen.

The third type is the Abomasal bloat which usually happens in young goats who feed on milk replacers instead of their mother’s milk. 

To understand why it happens to our goat pets, let’s dive deeper into these conditions.

Frothy Goat Bloat

1. Frothy Bloat (Primary Ruminal Tympany) 

Also is known as pasture bloat; this type usually happens in spring and fall when they overeat lush and legume-dominant pastures.

Since they mainly feed on hay and grains during winter, overconsumption of grass when their rumen isn’t ready for it can lead to a severe problem.

Yes, this quick change of diet can cost your goat’s life.

High-protein legumes like alfalfa, ladino, and red and white clovers offer readily available nutrients that are quickly broken down by microbes once swallowed.

It leads to rapid rumen gas generation, creating a thick foam and causing a rapid pH change.

The foamy slime increases the viscosity (stickiness) of the rumen fluid, coats the gas, and seals it in the rumen.

And it prevents the goat from expelling the gas.

The rumen will expand, mainly on the left flank, as the gas trapped in foam grows. 

And it fills a hollow located in the front of the goat’s hip called paralumbar fossa.

This expansion will put pressure on the goat’s heart and lungs, restrict blood flow and prevent it from breathing.

If left untreated, it could lead to death.

Free-Gas Bloat Causes and Symptoms

2. Free-Gas Bloat (Secondary Ruminal Tympany)

Free-gas bloat, also known as grain bloat, happens when an animal cannot belch due to sudden overconsumption of grains before the rumen can adapt to high digestibility.

The grain ferments as it breaks down as usual.

But grain overload causes pH drops in the rumen due to the increased digestibility, resulting in fewer ruminal contractions.

The goat can’t release the gas without rumen contractions, which build up and expand the rumen.

Other causes of free-gas bloat are esophageal obstruction, poor posture, or functional issues. 

Esophageal obstruction happens when the goat ingests a foreign object that gets stuck in the esophagus.

You can feel the obstruction in this case. 

If you’re not sure if the obstruction has sharp edges and you can’t gently work it down the esophagus, then it’d be best to call the vets.

Avoid pushing the obstruction with any material down to the goat’s throat at all costs. 

If the impediment does not feel soft and malleable, do not pressure it since this could result in significant harm.

Abscesses and tumors can also impede belching, causing gas to build up in the rumen. 

On the other hand, posture-induced bloat occurs when ruminants cannot belch when lying on their backs.

Signs of Frothy and Free-gas Goat Bloating

Frothy and free-gas bloat have similar clinical signs.

You might notice it at first, but when you closely monitor your goats, you can tell they’re bloated if they’re experiencing the following:

  • pain
  • discomfort
  • bellowing
  • salivation
  • distended left abdomen that sounds like a drum when thumped
  • stopped eating
  • walking awkwardly
  • having respiratory problems

Free-gas bloat rarely occurs, while frothy bloat can affect many animals in your flock or herd.

Treatment for Goat Bloating

As we highlighted earlier, you need to act quickly before your goat suffocates and dies.

Here are some tips on how to treat goat bloat.

Free-gas bloat 

The most effective way to treat free-gas bloat is using a stomach tube to let the gas in the rumen escape and ease the pressure.

However, it can be tricky to position this tool if you have no previous experience using it.

Additionally, you’ll need to reposition it repeatedly to release the gas.

After successfully relieving your goat from bloat, you should be able to identify the cause of the obstruction.

If there’s no gas coming out and a foamy substance trickles out of the tube, that’s a sign of frothy bloat and not free-gas bloat.

Frothy Bloat

You can also use the stomach tube in treating frothy bloat, but you need to administer it with antifoaming agents. 

If a specialized goat bloat medicine like poloxalene is not available, you may use vegetable or mineral oil.

But it takes time before you notice the effect. 

A 100 to 200cc dose via tube will do. 

Please take note that linseed oil can cause indigestion, so you need to avoid it at all costs.

Turpentine oil can also be an alternative, but it can taint the meat and milk for five days. 

It’s too risky to use a drench without a tube. 

So, doing this task needs utmost care to prevent the product from entering the lungs and causing pneumonia.

Lastly, massage the rumen too so that the dose can circulate and encourage your goat to walk.

If the goat doesn’t feel relieved immediately, you need to monitor it to determine if the treatment was successful closely.

If that technique doesn’t seem to work, then your last option is to use a trocar and cannula to release the gas. 

Since there are risks associated with this treatment type, we suggest consulting a veterinarian to ensure your goat’s safety.

How to Prevent Goat Bloating

To prevent the occurrence of goat bloating, here are some pasture and grazing management tips to save your goat from this condition. 

Pasture Management

1. Plant non-bloating legumes in pastures like Sainfoin, crown vetch, milk vetch, fenugreek, lespedeza, and birdsfoot trefoil.

2. Cultivate pastures with a mix of legumes and grasses, with legumes accounting for no more than half of the available forage.

Grazing Management

1. If your animals are on bloat-prone pastures, increase their fiber intake.

Feed grass hay early in the morning to ensure that animals are primarily whole before heading out to pasture.

Hay should only account for one-third of the diet to avoid bloat.

2. Keep access to legume-dominated pastures to a minimum during their vegetative and early bud stages.

Only let the goats on pasture in the afternoon for a few hours.

Turning livestock into a wet pasture from dew, rain, or irrigation water is not a good idea as well.

Moisture or wetness will only increase the chances of goat bloat.

3. Keep an eye on goats on their first few days in the pasture and remove those who show signs of bloat.

4. Provide an antifoaming agent during the risk period, like oral products that you can also use for treatment.

Some examples of an antifoaming agent are Duravet Bloat Treatment and Agrilab’s Vetone Bloat Treatment and Bloat Release. 

Surfactants like Vicchem’s Bloat Pasture Spray and Multicrop’s Bloat Master can also reduce tension in their rumen.

Abomasal Goat Bloat

3. Abomasal Bloat

This condition is also known as abomasitis, and it usually occurs in lambs and kids aged three weeks old. 

The causes of Abomasal goat bloat could be either of the following:

  • bacterial infection of the abomasal wall
  • ingestion of foreign bodies like hair and coarse plants
  • compromised immunity due to inadequate colostrum intake
  • vitamin or mineral deficiencies 
  • poor hygiene
  • irregular feeding of a large amount of milk

The emptying of the abomasum or the goat’s actual stomach will slow down if not fed at regular intervals throughout the day but are provided a larger than recommended milk meal two to three times a day.

Since the stomach takes longer to empty, the sugars in milk have more time to ferment, causing an excess of gas created faster than they can expel it.

Signs of Abomasal Goat Bloating:

You can tell if your young goats suffer from abomasal bloat if they:

  • have swollen bellies that produce a tinkling or splashing sound when shaken or picked up
  • look dull and sluggish
  • have abdominal pain
  • grind their teeth
  • unfortunately, die

Treatment for Abomasal Goat Bloating

About 75 to 100% of goats with abomasal bloat cases die.

This staggering figure only shows the importance of early intervention in this dreadful situation.

Here are some treatment ideas you can try to save your goat’s life.

1. The first treatment option is positioning a stomach tube into their stomach to release the gas.

2. You may also use oral penicillin under veterinary prescription to counteract the bacteria.

3. The other hack is to use baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), mix it with water, and administer it to your goat if they can still swallow it.

If baking soda isn’t available, other antacids can be an alternative. 

It may help neutralize the acidity which occurs when the sugar in milk ferments rapidly.

4. The last option is inserting a needle into the abomasum to expel the gas, but it comes with risks.

So, it would be best to ask a licensed small ruminant veterinarian to do the job or other trained personnel.

How to Prevent Abomasal Goat Bloating

Here are some prevention tips you can cop to save your goat from dying from abomasal goat bloating.

1. Make sure they’re consuming just enough milk

You need to ensure that young goats feeding on their mother’s milk have adequate colostrum intake. 

To know if they’re getting enough colostrum, you’ll have to separate the kid or lamb and its mother from the herd for a few days after birth. 

Then, you need to observe if the young one is well-cared for and if the mother produces enough milk.

You’ll need to avoid practices too that can disrupt nursing time in a prolonged period.

It will prevent udder engorgement and the young goat from consuming a larger than usual milk meal.

2. Providing several shelters or hay

Mothers and their young may seek shelter or lie down for long periods as the weather changes. 

In such circumstances, the udder is engorged when the mother stands, and the hungry kid/lamb eats more than usual. 

You can avoid this situation by providing several shelters or hay (weather permitting) to encourage moms to eat while standing, allowing for more frequent, lower-volume feedings.

3. Ensure their replacer milk is safe

If you’re feeding your goat with milk replacers, you need to closely follow the manufacturer’s mixing and feeding instructions.

Note that giving your goats a diluted milk replacer can lead to overconsumption since gorging in it is their way of compensating for a lack of nutrients.

It’s especially true in feeding systems.

So, it’s essential to ensure that your goat’s milk substitute is mixed thoroughly and free from clumps to avoid abomasal bloat because it takes time to break down the clumps.

Milk substitutes must also be high in milk protein like casein rather than plant-based proteins that ferment quickly.

Abomasal bloat is linked to bacterial populations too, but you can minimize the chances of it occurring by providing cold milk.

The ideal room temperature to consume milk substitute is 40 degrees F.

But it’d be best if you’d also consider the manufacturer’s recommended temperature. 

Remember to put leftover milk in a fridge, use a clean container, and only keep it for as long as the manufacturer recommends.

Milk replacer can sour if blended incorrectly or for longer than the manufacturer recommends. 

4. Observe proper sanitation

Maintaining proper sanitation is crucial for preventing goat bloating and other goat diseases

So, you need to clean and sanitize bottles and nipples after each use. 

If buckets and nipple bars are utilized as feeding systems, you must regularly disassemble, clean, and disinfect them. 

You’d also have to replace parts that have worn out, like nipples, as necessary.

5. Use fermented milk replacers

Fermented milk is made by combining milk substitutes with plain yogurt containing living cultures. 

It’s suitable for young goats because it contains yogurt, a source of probiotics and prebiotics that promotes a healthy gut.

Your young goat can already start taking fermented milk at five days old. 

If you want to attain the best results, feed your goat with cold fermented milk.

You can keep your fermented milk in a fridge for up to 7 days without getting spoiled if you’re using sterile containers, so you won’t have to worry about it.

6. Vaccinate your young goats

Clostridial bacteria that usually reside in both healthy adults and young goats’ stomach also causes goat bloat.

So, vaccinating your young goats for Clostridium perfringens Types C and D is crucial for your baby ruminant’s health.

Kindly follow your vet’s recommendation for the dose and age and check out the manufacturer’s label and administration tips.

7. Wean your young goat at the age of 30 days 

Feeding your young goats with replacer milk for too long can also increase the chances of abomasal goat bloat occurrence.

That explains why you need to wean your bottle-fed young ones, ideally at 30 days old.

Then, introduce them to starter feed rations like legume-based hay.

It doesn’t just decrease the risk of abomasal bloat; it also promotes rumen function.

should you provide free-choice baking soda for goats?

Should You Provide Baking Soda to Prevent Goat Bloating?

Baking soda is helpful for digestion but only in small amounts.

Goats tend to self-medicate when they feel like they need it but there are downsides to it.

If your goats can have regular access to baking soda and other antacids they might neglect the salt or mineral mix, which is a good source of essential minerals.

More importantly, it can put your goats at constant risk of low-level acidosis, negatively affecting their health and production.

The practice of providing free-choice baking soda to prevent goat bloat originated from commercial companies.

They use such a technique because they use high quantities of grains for better production.

However, nutritionists balance the ingredients to prevent mineral imbalance. 

Using this method without an expert’s guidance is risky.

So, it’d be best to use baking soda only for treatments and not provided for self-service.

Difference Between Goat Bloating and Hay Belly

A bloated goat will die in a few hours if left untreated. 

So, if your goat looks bloated for several days, chances are it’s probably experiencing hay belly caused by parasites. 

These parasites will either consume the nutrients in your goat’s digestive system or cause anemia and make him feel starving.

As a result, the goat will constantly eat, causing its belly to enlarge. 

But you can tell the difference between a bloated goat and those with hay belly by pressing their abdomen.

As mentioned earlier, a bloated goat’s abdomen is tight as a drum.

So, it’s hard to press it in, and it springs right back out when pressed because the gas occupies the rumen.

Furthermore, a goat bloating makes the goat lazy.

They’ll lose appetite and will not have the strength to play with other goats. 

Hence they’ll hide somewhere alone.

These noticeable changes in their personality are signs of distress caused by goat bloating.

On the other hand, the abdomen of those with hay bellies is like cookie dough. 

You can mash it, and it stays mashed even when you lift your fingers.

Final Tip About Goat Bloating

There has been a long-practiced home remedy for a bloated goat – liquid laundry detergent like Tide.

However, Tide today is full of carcinogenic substances, and they have endocrine disruptors and are poisonous.

None of today’s laundry detergent’s ingredients are edible for goats and humans.

In fact, many children ended up in hospitals after eating laundry detergent, and some suffered from a coma while a few died.

Furthermore, laundry detergents can damage the esophagus and cause breathing difficulties, making it harmful for both goats and humans.

So, if you’re looking to treat your bloated goat by yourself, make sure the products you’re using are safe for them.

And if you have no experience using tubes, trochar, and other tools, it would be best to let your vet get the job done.

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Goat Bloating

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