Health

Generally speaking pygmy goats are hardy animals. They have evolved into their current state by being resilient and succeeding in adapting to their environment. That said they are not maintenance free! All animals need a proportion of routine maintenance and care in order to ensure they have a safe, comfortable and live a long life, pygmy goats are no different to this. The health, welfare and condition of your goats have a direct relationship to your abilities as a goat keeper. No one expects you to be an expert in goat keeping from day one, we can all learn, but there is never an excuse for a goat in an unhealthy or poor condition due to lack of care, rather than lack of knowledge. Health starts with feeding but there are a few other key areas to be aware of: Teeth, feet, skin/coat, worms, parasites and vaccinations.
Teeth
Goats only have bottom teeth at the front of the mouth. So if you look in the mouth of a goat don’t panic if you can’t see any top teeth! They have a hard pad, top pallet that they cut against using the bottom set of teeth. The molars, grinding teeth are top and bottom but they sit behind the main tooth set. You will rarely see or be aware of these…until it comes time for worming! Unfortunately pygmy goats really only get one set of teeth (molars), and they don’t brush or floss…Please note that as the keeper we are not suggesting you brush their teeth! That said though being aware that they only get one true set is a key learning point.  So their teeth are very precious to them.

The Cameroon Valley, where most pygmy goats originate is not known for its confectionary…. therefore how ever cute your goats are please be aware that manufactured sugar should not be a part of their diet. Biscuits, peppermints etc. should not be given, even as treats to your goats. If you never give them sweet treats they won’t get a taste for them. Pasta, carrots or if you have to give them a sweet treat, fruit slices, or banana skins are a much better treat for your goat, their teeth and their well-being.
Feet
Each pygmy goat has four! The two front feet are where the pygmy goats strength comes from. The feet here are wide and thick compared to their rear feet, which appear slightly smaller. There are effectively two parts to a goat’s foot. The outer rim of the foot, probably most closely thought of as similar to your own toenail with the inner part of the foot most closely thought about as the heels of your foot.  The ‘nail’ the outer part of the foot grows far more quickly than the inner part the ‘heel’.  You should trim both of these parts as the keeper to keep the walking gait of the goat correct, keeping the design balance of weight dispersal through the joints of your goat.

The outer casing growing more quickly can grow around and curl underneath the pad of the foot if not trimmed every four to six weeks. Trimming is easy to do. We strongly advise that you ask another goat keepers to show you how to trim feet or attend a workshop/demonstration. It is quick and easy to do, cause no pain to goat, if done properly, and the earlier in the goats life you start the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Goats thrive with a routine. If you regularly lift and trim their feet, they will get used to someone holding their feet and help you by shifting their weight and balancing effectively whilst you trim them. My goats frequently get all silly and charge about the enclosure after foot trimming, as if it’s a liberating experience for them! A pedicure if you like! (How to Feet Trimming video)

Foot rot is rarely a problem for pygmy goats but don’t be complacent. Enabling goats to get out of a situation where they are constantly standing in water, wet mud or wet grass is an imperative, so providing a dry shed or an area where they can climb up to get off the wet floor is a way of not only keeping your goat happy but healthy also.
Skin/Coat
Fortunately there are generally few skin/coat issues with goats to be aware of, obviously there will always be exceptions to the rule, and therefore vigilance is always the key. A goat will shed their winter coat in the spring; rather they will shed the mohair (the short wool beneath the main coat) in the springtime. This is clearly for most goats a time of irritation and they will find anything they can to scratch against. Regular grooming is the key for this. Grooming will help your goat with any hair irritation, reinforce the interaction between you and your goat, make them feel a whole lot better and give you an opportunity to closely view their skin and coat condition. You will be staggered I am sure quiet how much mohair a goat will shed in the spring. Shedding usually lasts a couple of weeks. Fixing the heads of old brooms onto the fence so that they can have a good old scratch is appreciated, and they rub the itchy mohair out, you only have to look at their faces as they are scratching to see that they are enjoying it.

Be aware that shortly after the shedding time the biting insects appear. I have never had a serious case of “fly strike” in my goats. But that said biting flies do bite goats. It is worth considering using pour-on style insecticides during the early summer, to just make sure the goats are left in peace.

Lice are a frequent problem on goatskin and within the hair, especially in winter when goats are shut in warm, cozy sheds for long periods of time during the dark nights. Be aware of this and again watch for excessive scratching or the appearance of bald spots upon your goat. Again pour on insecticides may help or you may wish to consult a Veterinarian. You could also consider being proactive and using a louse powder on your goats, on their bedding or within their shed, but don’t just do one, de-louse them all, it’s a good idea to do them again a week later. To catch any newly hatched lice that were protected by their egg casing last week.
Worming and Vaccinations
My vet describes goats as “parasitic factories”! Being aware of this should aid your routine in dealing with parasites. As with other ruminants the main parasites are worms and flukes. Most sheep are wormed twice a year using a good quality worming solution that is also effective at controlling flukes. Goats really should be wormed three times in a year.  Check on the worming solution the dosage for goats. Some advise doubling the dose for goats some using the same dosage as for sheep.

Whether you choose to use a drench style or an injectable wormer is down to you. If you choose to drench be careful where you put your fingers. Goats, like anyone or anything aren’t generally keen on taking medicines. Creating a gap in their mouth to slip the drench pipe/syringe end into is not easy and generally is done by creating a gap using your finger…remember there are teeth both top and bottom towards the back of the goat’s mouth. These teeth are designed to grind, are sharp and rasping- a word of warning.

At this time of writing the upcoming focus seems to be Tuberculosis. TB is now beginning to spread away from cattle and into other ruminants. Whether this will trigger the creation of a vaccine for small holders or pet animal keepers to use on their animals remains to be seen. However enterotoxaemia is a nasty condition that can cause a quick death. Most goat keepers vaccinate against this. The most common product used is Lambivac. Kids should receive vaccinations at about 10-14 weeks if the mother has been vaccinated if not then at 4/6 weeks and again at 8/10. When buying goats it is important to ask the breeder if they have been vaccinated and obtain the dates. Routine vaccination with Lambivac is every six months.
Urinary problems
Blocked urinary tracts or stones are not common, but they are more common in male animals. As most males in pygmy goats are kept, as either entire males or more commonly wethers then it is more common in pygmy goats than other animals who slaughter their males. It is not really clear what the cause is but changing or ensuring the diet is less acidic seems to be the solution. It has been muted that also tap water may be a cause so some goat keepers give their wethers rainwater to drink. Also dirty water contaminated with excrement will make the water acidic so clean fresh water will help and also less concentrates and more roughage seems to reduce the risk of stones forming to.
Scouring
Goats are, in most cases, unable to vomit. If they do vomit it is very serious and veterinary aid should be sort immediately. So if your goat consumes something that ‘doesn’t agree with it’ then it’s the other end that will give you the tell-tell signs. If your goats get diarrhea then veterinary help should be considered, seriously. If however your goat looks well in itself, just has ‘the runs’ then the best course of action maybe to restrict the goat to his/her bed/pen and feed ONLY hay, and fresh water, for 24 hours. If he/she recovers then fine, if the condition still persists then call a vet. It is a common phrase that a goat will eat anything. This is basically true so they have a pretty good constitution. Dietary issues are usually down to accidental feeding of unsuitable browse, or more commonly down to humans spoiling them and the food they have had being too good, or too rich. Goats by nature can survive on foodstuffs and browse that most animals can’t. It is not by chance that these beautiful creatures are so successful in the scorched plains in Africa.
 

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