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…