Like Mother Like Daughter: Calcium and Phosphorus Deficiencies

One of my first goats and the original matriarch of my herd, who I lost last year, had a weird problem where she could never seem to get enough calcium. I describe the whole history in full here, but for whatever reason, Cocoa had issues absorbing enough calcium. I’m pretty convinced it had something to do with the fact that Cocoa was CAEV positive, and that the stresses on her body brought out this susceptibility — or brought on this susceptibility — but I’m not a vet, so I don’t completely know. The point is, I was supplementing calcium, or CMPK (calcium-magnesium-potassium-phosphorus, which has all the needed minerals to absorb calcium correctly) for most of the time I had with her.

Her daughter (Phoenix, or Phe) who I rescued alongside her, was also positive when she came to me. Phe is asymptomatic — meaning, she had CAE according to blood tests, but is a very healthy, perky, full of personality pain in my butt.

But something interesting (and scary, don’t forget scary) happened a while ago. While Phe and the devil twins (Sassy and Duchess) were out eating brush at my parent’s house, so suddenly grew weak and couldn’t move her back legs within a matter of days. She wouldn’t stand, and if she could, for brief moments, she leaned up against a wall and look completely miserable. My mom and I had to carry her to the car because she couldn’t make her legs work.

Desperately searching for answers, I thought it might be meningeal worms of something of the like. Later, the vet told me we don’t have meningeal worms in the area so that wasn’t possible, but for a hot minute I was convinced she had worms in her spine that might paralyze her for life.

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Poor unhappy looking Phe!

But, because my vet is very smart, he had us do several blood tests for vitamins and minerals to make sure the cause wasn’t that (incidentally, this is how he found out Cocoa’s problem and saved her, too). Mineral imbalances, in my experience anyway, are often the problem with whatever is going on. Goats, as hearty as they are, also are pretty susceptible if they’re getting incorrect food.

Turns out, Phe was critically low in phosphorus, a compliment mineral to calcium. I didn’t even know a phosphorus problem could even cause such issues. Weakness of limbs? Lackluster behavior? I’d never even heard of that in connection to phosphorus.

So the vet gave her a shot of phosphorus and a few other good vitamins (which made her perk her head up and start twitching around, which was really funny), but said that phosphorus shots were almost 80% wasted because the body wouldn’t absorb it. So it was a good start, but I needed to supplement it in her food to get her back to normal.

He told me to go to a hay supplier — and he actually knew of one in the area — that tests their hay for vitamin and mineral content. I was to find the hay with the highest phosphorus count possible (going against the normal important of making sure your hay is a correct balance between calcium and phosphorus), and feed that to the goats for the remainder of the winter. Because if Phe was so critically low, then the others probably were low, too.

(Later I found out the hay I was feeding had a low phosphorus count. The vet told me later that he’d seen a ton of those kinds of deficiencies, so there was something odd in the hay in the area for this year).

I also needed to find phosphorus mineral and try to feed her it. That part would be more difficult, because the mineral smells super funny and most goats won’t eat it.

Funny story: Phe wanted to eat it almost immediately, funny smell or no. She actually ate quite a bit for a week, where then she decided she wanted to have none of it and I had to get more creative to get it into her.

Phe started feeling better within a few days. The turn around was pretty drastic actually — she was a little weak for a few weeks, but the actual getting back up on her feet was a very quick turnaround.

Another funny story: I managed to get phosphorus mineral in her via grain and a few other treats for a while until she figured out what I was doing. But the last attempt to give her a few good doses of phosphorus I heralded back to her bottle-baby roots.

I have her a bottle. Mixing milk and molasses together (to hide the taste of the minerals), I heated it all up and dissolved the minerals so she could eat it in liquid form. Knowing Phe, who gets very excited about anything bottle-shaped, she sucked the whole thing down like a champ, including the needed phosphorus.

Here’s the proof:

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Here’s my 3-year-old, drinking a baby bottle (with molasses, that’s why it’s brown. Ignore my green fingers, I was painting)

Flash forward to about January. I noticed Phe was standing a little funny. She’s already this gangy, long-legged wonder that has as much grace as a dancing giraffe, but I did notice she was holding her butt funny. And, if I put pressure on her hips (even just a tiny bit of pressure) her rump would go down.

I decided phosphorus was in order, because weakness was how it first presented. I dissolved the mineral in some strawberry CMPK (for people, but all the time) to taste good and squirted it into her mouth.

Within 12 hours she was better.

So… every once and a while, if she’s holding her butt funny, I give her some of the mineral. And sometimes just because.

But the point of this: Phe, with her phosphorus absorption problem, is the daughter of Cocoa, who had the calcium absorption problem. I know CAEV is about inflammation, and primarily effects joints and the mammary system, but I really do wonder if the retro-virus just makes it difficult on their bodies overall, in a variety of ways. Maybe it’s just genetic that both Cocoa and Phe have these problems, the susceptibility for it heightened because their bodies are under stress from the virus. Maybe the CAEV is doing something in particular that’s eating up certain minerals.

But whichever way, I thought this was an interesting correlation that I might share with you all. Also, always try to feed the correct balance of minerals in your feed. Good nutrition is the number one way to prevent sick animals! And check your mineral/vitamin levels in your goats if they do end up sick!

Duchess’ Leg: Conclusion

Well, after spending many months and around a thousand dollars trying to save her leg, it was ultimately not successful. Her body started to slough off the limb, basically, after so long of not healing correctly. It didn’t smell, it didn’t even look really all that infected, just one day it stopped trying to heal.

When the vet went in to do an amputation, it turns out that instead of the body healing the bone, it was actually creating this weird black tissue in the place of the break… so even if I’d decided to try to do a bone graft or anything of the like, it wouldn’t have worked.

It sounds like, ultimately, the fracture was bad enough that the blood supply was compromised and the body was unable to heal. It tried — with the weird black tissue and everything — but couldn’t.

So, poor Duchess. However, after spending so much time with a cast, she had developed a good muscle mass, and she’s adjusting to three legs really well. The vet took off only from the hock down (where the break was) instead of going all the way up into the hipbone. She uses the ‘stump’ to help pee and such, though she does seem to be looking for the rest of her leg when she wiggles it around and it’s not long enough to hit the ground. A month after the amputation, she’s doing really well.

 

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Right before and right after

Below is the unhappy drugged goat going home… but within days she was climbing wood piles on three legs. (Good grief)

The last picture is coming home from her last trip in the car to the vet! She was bright eyed and doing great, and really liked riding in my car (versus the van — which wasn’t available to use) because she could lay down and still see everything around her.

 

 

In conclusion, she’s doing really well. It’s been tragic, but she’s getting around really well, even fighting with the yearlings (since the Adventuring Trio were taken home to the rest of the herd), and eating like a horse.

Now just to make sure she doesn’t get fat from pampering…

Projectile Vomiting Blackberry

When it rains it pours; not only are we dealing with Duchess the Broken Goat and Phe’s phosphorus deficiency problem, but Blackberry started projectile vomiting a few nights ago.

The lights are not working in the barn, and that evening I was late to chores so it was pitch black outside. I was using a flashlight, but I really only noticed it because of the smell.

Goat bile is really hard to miss.

I consulted Google, which can really be a hit or miss. The most likely cause is that she ate something poisonous, due to the violence and the suddenness of the puking. I didn’t realize until later that they’d found a way into the backyard and tasted the rhododendrons (which resulted in a more severe case later). Thankfully, she only had a few nibbles.

The biggest worry was that she wouldn’t stop puking, and I’d need to start worrying about dehydration and pumping her full of vitamins. Which, of course, couldn’t be oral, because they’d just vomit it all back up.

Thankfully, she stopped puking by that morning. Rancid bile covered the walls and most of her companions, but she wasn’t puking, and half-heartedly ate some alfalfa and grain.

Cleaning up all that was a joy.

But mostly I’m just really relieved it wasn’t going to turn into a long-term problem. A few days later, and she acts like it never happened.

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Afternoon after the Night of Puking… all clean, and about 75% feeling better

Phosphorus Deficiency Causing Weak Hind Legs (in Adults)

My mother and I had a terrible fright about a week ago; she called me up to tell me that Phe’s hind legs were so weak she was struggling to stand (Phe, Duchess, and Sassy are Off On An Adventure — AKA clearing brush at my parent’s house).

My first conclusion, based off of research, was that she had meningeal worms. Also called “Deer Worms,” these bastards are brought in, the larvae flourish in slugs and snails, and then get accidentally ingested by a variety of animals. They then move from the goat’s (or other animal’s) intestines into their spine, causing paralysis, nerve-damage, and can eventually invade the brain and kill them.

I called the after-hours emergency line. The vet told me that meningeal worms didn’t exist in the area I’m at.

Oh. Well so much for the Web Vet.

The vet got me an early morning appointment the next day to figure out what was going on. By that morning, Phe couldn’t stand without help.

Poor baby, she didn’t even complain the whole way to the vet.

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One unhappy looking goat! Cute though.

The vet had to run a few blood tests before he found: Phe’s phosphorus count, which should’ve been around 8-9, was 1.5. He gave her a thiamine shot (a type of vitamin B that assists in neurological function) and a phosphorus shot. Unfortunately, phosphorus isn’t absorbed very well in shot form — it’s best if it’s ingested.

The vet recommended I go to a specific hay seller that tests all mineral and vitamin levels in the hays they sell — and get a hay that has an incorrect phosphorus-calcium balance, ergo, higher phosphorus or equal phosphorus to calcium.

In addition to this, he told me to pick up dicalcium phosphate (it comes in loose mineral form) to feed her. He said that I’d need to mix it with molasses to get her to eat it, since it smells funny.

I’ve always had a theory that goats (and animals in general) are smarter than we think about eating things they need (I mean, they’ll be stupid and eat things that are poisonous to them — but that’s a totally different blog post). I mean, they’re not geniuses about it, but I think they instinctively know some of the things they need.

Despite the phosphorus minerals smelling funny (and tasting bad?), Phe ate a TON of them without any trickery. And she has continued to do so in the following days!

Even with just the shots the vet gave her, she was SO much better even by the next morning. She went from unable to walk to drunken goat in 12 hours. By 36 hours she was almost completely normal, with only a little incoordination and occasional stumbling.

A WEEK LATER:

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Scrambling around on the driveway and into the bushes — doing just fine!

We had some worry that her back legs were getting weak again, and she was no longer eating the phosphorus minerals. The vet figured her body was probably backed up in processing the phosphorus, and recommended a vitamin D shot, which aids in said processing.

We’re now trying a few tricks to continue getting the minerals in her, including making her up a ‘bottle’ with the dissolved minerals in milk. She was a bottle baby, so she’s more than happy to drink it!

 

… Will add more updates if they arise!

The Adventure of Duchess and her Broken Leg

So Duchess somehow managed to snap her leg in half. Bone protruding, the bottom part of her leg dangling free without any support, the whole deal. This is the goat who gets out of any fence known to man and clears 5 foot fences like a deer.

(Warning: graphic images!)

So we rush her to the vet while I practically lay on her, because she somehow thinks standing in a moving car instead of lying down with a broken leg is a good idea.

So the veterinarian is in surgery when we arrive. We wait about 15 minutes. Vet comes out and assesses, and gives Duchess some pain meds. Duchess proceeds to crash out on my lap.

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We wait for about 45 minutes, because it’s the day of emergencies apparently (then we realize it’s the full moon, and we understand).

Anyway, the vet returns. We need to carry her in to work on her leg. I’m sure that she’s going to thrash around, so the vet knocks her out. Wow, that stuff works like a charm. We carry her in on my ratty old sleeping bag, which has it’s second life as a gurney.

Duchess stops breathing. Vet has to intubate. Apparently, it’s really hard to intubate a goat, so we were all pretty sure for a few seconds there that she was going to die. But we finally get her breathing again after a few minutes.

It takes an hour and half to fully shave, clean, reset, wrap, cast, and take xrays of her leg.

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I wish I had taken a picture of the xrays! It was pretty fascinating actually, for the more scientific minded. I think you probably have to get used to a little gore working with animals, though I did need to look away when the vet pulled her bone back into alignment.

Back in the car, Duchess is waking up, but really drugged, but keeps trying to talk. So mostly I see a lot of lip twitching, blinking, occasional head throwing around and plaintive noises.

Of course, as soon as we got her back into her pen and went to leave, she woke up and jolted to her feet and yelled at us to come back.

But anyway. Here’s a funny picture of my very stoned goat after being returned to her pen. Look at her fancy bright red cast!

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For the next few days I’ll be giving her a shot to help with inflammation, and make sure that her cast doesn’t get wet. And I have another appointment with the vet in 5 days to check on everything, clean it, and have another antibiotic shot.

The biggest worry at this point is that an infection may form (since it was an open wound). I was told there was a possibility the bones may not fuse, and she’ll need orthopedic surgery… so here’s hoping her bones fuse! It’s going to be a rough month or two for this kiddo, especially since she’s the troublemaker of the group and just loooovvves to get out of everything and be a brat.

The positive news is that she gets alfalfa again to aid her healing! She can’t deny being happy about that.

 

UPDATE:

A little over a month later, the vet’s biggest worry is that the bone isn’t “bridging,” or starting to fuse. It’s possible it’s due to infection, so we loaded her up with a ton more antibiotics and another month of waiting.

Let’s hope the bone starts healing. Otherwise, if it’s a non-healing fracture (which is a possibility with the severity of the break), she’s going to become a three-legged goat.

That being said, she has MASTERED the three legged hop-run. The cast is no longer slowing her down in the slightest. And she’s pretty mad about being locked in a little pen all the time (the vet said she needed to stay ‘quiet’ to give her the best chance of the bone bridging).

Poisonous Plants to Goats

 

When it comes to plants that are poisonous to goats, if you do even just a quick Google search on common poisonous plants (to goats) that might grow in your pasture or backyard, you’re going to find a list similar to this:

Weed-types:

  • Bracken fern

  • Buttercup

  • Common milkweed (tansy weed)

  • Foxglove

  • Lantana

  • Locoweed

  • Poke weed

  • Spurge

  • St. John’s Wort

  • Water hemlock and poison hemlock

Tree-types:

  • Cyanide-producing trees such as cherry, chokecherry, elderberry, and plum (especially the wilted leaves from these trees)

  • Ponderosa pine

  • Yew

Cultivated Plants:

  • Azalea

  • Kale

  • Lily of the valley

  • Oleander

  • Poppy

  • Potato

  • Rhododendron

  • Rhubarb

Most of the property I’ve lived on didn’t naturally have these. I have, however, dealt with rhododendron poisoning a few times, which is one of the worst.

Goats are smart and really stupid at the same time. I’ve seen my goats eat right next to rhododendrons and completely avoid them. And another time they broke into the backyard and ate a bunch of it, which resulted in very sick goats and a veterinary visit.

I think the logic behind it is that goats will avoid poisonous plants as long as they have lots of other brush to eat. If they’re hungry, or don’t have a variety of things to eat, I think they’ll get bored and curious and suck down a bunch of poison.

But, needless to say, if you have any of the above plants in an area where goats can reach, you’re going to want to remove or transplant those plants. And if your neighbor likes to bring treats to the goats, you’ll want to give them a quick education on things they shouldn’t bring.

If you think your goats have consumed something poisonous, it’ll be pretty obvious. They’re going to stand away from the herd, back hunched as their stomachs probably really hurt, and they may be puking at some point. I had a mild case of rhododendron poisoning in one of my does that ended up okay, we just had to wait it out. But I had another, awful case that resulted in a vet visit. I haven’t wrote that post yet, but will post it here when I do.

From my trusted vet, the rule is, if your goat has been puking for more than 24 hours, she needs medical attention. There are some home remedies for this, which involve feeding them a solution that will calm their stomach, or make them throw it all back up, whichever they need. But severe cases you’ll need to go to a vet and get their stomach pumped. I would not advise to do this at home, because they can asphyxiate if you do it wrong, and watching your goat suffocate is a horrifying experience.

This is a rhododendron drench to give your goats if they have a severe case, taken from here:

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This will help calm the goat’s stomach, or make them puke. Both are usually good. You need to get that plant OUT of their system!

I would still consult a vet if you suspect a severe case of poisoning. I may be a bit gun shy about it because of my experience with it, but plant poisoning is nothing to mess around with in goats!

The best thing you can do, of course, is prevention. If you have poisonous plants on your property somewhere and you’re indifferent to their existence, take them out!

Any questions? Advice?

The Benefits of Brushing

Besides earning eternal adoration from your caprine friends (okay, that was a given, but still), there are many benefits to brushing them consistently. It’s a lot like brushing our own hair. It moves oils along, works out the strands, massages the skin, and removes dirt and other such things.

I attempt to run things at my little farm pretty naturally, and brushing is a great way to deal with minor skin problems. Too much dandruff? Brush! Weird scaly skin? Brush! Rough coat? Brush brush brush!

(And if that doesn’t work, try black oil sunflower seeds.)

Of course this isn’t a veterinary prescribed cure for skin problems. But in my ladies day to day life, with the normal up and downs that happen for whatever reason (weather, changes in diet, etc) it seems to help. Cocoa is the oldest goat in the barn and has the most health problems, and by rights, should have the worst coat. But hers is the softest and cleanest of the whole group – she’s the one who demands the brush every evening.

Besides, if your goats have an expression anywhere close to Cocoa’s look of complete bliss when I give her a thorough brushing, it’s worth it.

Be warned though: they may end up fighting over the brush. Cocoa, Phe-Phe, and Sari tend to get pretty annoyed that I don’t have three hands to brush them all simultaneously.