Pneumonia is one of the top two health threats to goats. (Parasites being the other.) Here at Prancing Pony Farm we strongly believe that all goat owners should be educated on the signs of pneumonia and have the proper medications on hand to treat it, or a plan for getting them IMMEDIATELY if a goat is showing signs of Pneumonia BEFORE they bring home their goats. Goats can literally die of Pneumonia in hours so time is of the essence! Stress is what brings on Pneumonia and this includes stress from weather (rapid hot and cold temperature changes, especially), weaning and going to a new home. If your goat is standing off by itself, not eating or acting off TAKE ITS TEMPERATURE IMMEDIATELY. A normal goat temperature is 101.5 - 103.5. If the temperature is higher or below 100 that's a sign of pneumonia. The goat may or may not have a snotty nose or raspy breathing. Coughing can be a sign but it's more rare. (Goats do cough a lot.)
If you suspect pneumonia begin antibiotics and B Complex shots IMMEDIATELY. We treat with Resflor Gold (prescription only), 5 days in a row, plus B Complex shots daily and VetRX dropsand Vitamin C tablets. But you should consult your veterinarian for the best drug to use.
A Hard LessonThe reason I stress being alert for signs of pneumonia in goats is because I’ve learned the hard way what happens if you don’t. Honey (Jardine Meadows Honeysuckle) was one of our first Mini Nubians that we started our farm with. She belonged to my son, Noah, and was one of his two favorite goats. Noah adored Honey and spent many hours playing with her and his other favorite doe, Anna. One night I heard her making a funny raspy breathing sound and went to check on her, but got distracted by one of my grandchildren, who was visiting my house. In the busyness I forgot about Honey and didn’t remember until the next day, when I found her dead in the barn. It was a very devastating loss for Noah and for me to lose her so suddenly.
I didn’t even know what had happened to Honey until a few days later when I noticed one of her sisters, Poppy, standing off by herself with her head hanging and a snotty nose. It was Friday evening when I found her and I immediately called the vet, only to be told “We don’t do after hours emergency calls for goats. Bring her in Monday.” I've had horses for decades and vets always make emergency calls after hours so I was totally shocked and saddened that the vet wouldn't make an emergency call to see my goat.
I could tell that Poppy was too sick to wait so I got on the Facebook Mini Nubian Breeders goat group, described her symptoms, and some very helpful people told me that it sounded like pneumonia and she needed antibiotics and B Complex immediately if she were to live. Luckily at that time you could still buy a few antibiotics OTC in California so I rushed to Tractor Supply to get what I needed to save her until I could get her to the vet, barely making it before they closed. I rushed back home, gave her the meds (LA 200 and B Complex) and prayed she would make it through the night. She did, but she was very sick. The next day I called the vet and convinced them to let me bring her in to see the doctor on call. They confirmed Pneumonia and gave me the proper antibiotics (Resflor Gold) to treat her. I bought the entire bottle since in my overnight research I had learned that this would not likely be my last case of pneumonia. Indeed a few days later the third sister, Clover, got sick. Both girls were touch and go for a while but luckily I had the meds I needed and was able to save them.
A few months after Honey died the breeder we got her and her sisters from had another beautiful doeling available. She knew how devastated we were over Honey's death so she sold us Jessie. Jessie and Noah were best friends from day one. She was rejected by her mother and didn't seem to know she was a goat for a very long time. She would follow Noah around as he fed the horses and other goats, watching the goats like they were strange creatures and getting into everything. Then she would hop into his lap for her bottle. She was more than a bit naughty but so adorable and beautiful that she soon became both Noah's and my favorite goat and the farm mascot and she still holds that position today.
Then one day the fall after she was born I noticed Jessie was not her usual naughty self, but was very lethargic and quiet. I took her temperature and it was crazy high - 107! I freaked out and called the vet I had used before, only to be told that they no longer treated goats. I called every vet in the area and no one would see her. Either they didn't see goats or didn't have appointments available. (The hard lesson I've learned is that goats aren't seen as valuable in a cow dairy town.) Again, it was Facebook to the rescue and again, some very kind people coached me through and I was able to determine that she had pneumonia. Luckily I already had the medications I needed on hand so I began treatment immediately and was able to save our beautiful girl.
Since that time I've done a lot of research on Pneumonia and had several more cases of it, as well. I learned that goats are very susceptible to stress and that stress lowers their immunity, which can cause pneumonia. One of the biggest stressors in our particular area is weather. We have very rapid hot and cold temperature swings in the spring and fall. Goats can't regulate their body temperatures quickly so the stress of that can lead to pneumonia. We always have at least a few cases of pneumonia these times of year. Sometimes a lot of them. One year I had what I dubbed "The Pneumonia Storm" with 16 cases. It was awful and took me 2-3 hours a night and several bottles of antibiotics to treat them all.
Sadly, I also lost 2 baby goats to Pneumonia one year when I didn't recognize the signs quickly enough. We had a very unseasonable late "spring" that year, with the crazy temperature swings lasting into the summer and I just wasn't expecting pneumonia a few days before the 4th of July. With the first baby, a 9 week old doe I wasn't sure what had happened. When I found the second dead baby, a 9 week old wether, a few days later I literally burst out crying in the barn. It was so heartbreaking. But I took the baby to UC Davis for a necropsy, which confirmed what I suspected. Pneumonia. I just never would have expected pneumonia at that time of year but at least i knew what the enemy was, so I could be on the alert.
Sadly I've lost a few babies here and there to pneumonia, again, when I didn't see the signs soon enough. (I haven't lost any adults but I think that's because babies are harder to keep up with and more fragile.) It's a REALLY sneaky disease that can come on so fast! They can literally die within hours so you have to be diligent in watching them. But usually I'm able to monitor everyone very carefully and catch any cases of pneumonia before it's too late. I walk through the pens several times a day, watching for anything amiss. What I look for is anyone standing off by themselves, not eating and not acting normal. If I see that kind of behavior I check their temperature. If they have a fever higher than 103.5 or lower than 100 (very bad!) I begin treatment immediately. I use Resflor Gold for at least 5 consecutive days as well as B Complex shots and Goat RX drops and vitamin C chewables
With this protocol I can usually save them, so long as I catch the signs in time. But time is of the essence. Unfortunately Pneumonia requires antibiotics to cure and ALL antibiotics are by prescription in California. And, as I learned the hard way, not all vets treat goats and if they do they may not see them after hours, like they do horses and cows. So that's why I tell all new goat owners that you should either have the medications on hand to treat them if they get sick, or have a plan for how you can acquire them if you need them.
More Information on Pneumonia in Goats
Author Hi I'm Kim. I love all animals but goats and dogs are my favorites so I built a business around them, breeding miniature dairy goats and Maremma Sheepdogs. I love sharing my passion and knowelege of these amazing creatures with others.