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!

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!