5 Reasons Your Goats are Scratching and What to Do About It

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Goats, much like other domestic animals often scratch for various reasons. Sometimes they are scratching just because they are goats and that is what goats do sometimes, and sometimes they are scratching because of something that should be treated. There are five reasons goats may be itching, and there are also solutions humans can do to intervene and make life more bearable for their itchy goat.

The five reasons goats may be scratching are:

  1. Goats shed, and this causes itching.
  2. Goats get mites.
  3. Fleas and ticks cause itching.
  4. Goats get keds.
  5. Goats want human attention.

If your goat is itching, there may be an important reason for it. While goats often just itch during the course of a day, this article is going to outline a few things goat owners might do to reduce daily scratching and to solve any parasite problems that may be causing scratching.

Goats Shed And That Causes Them To Itch

When a goat is shedding their fur and growing new fur, it may cause the goat to scratch. You know what it feels like to have itching peeling skin from sunburn.

This is what shedding could feel like to a goat when they are shedding their winter coat.

During this time goats likely enjoy a good scratch to help relieve some of their itchings. You may see your goats rubbing against posts, trees, or other rough surfaces.

Goats Get Mites

Mites are the first thing you have to check for when a goat starts scratching, just to be on the safe side. The itch mite is the mite that lives on goats and sheep. This mite can make a goat absolutely miserable, and the goat will itch 24/7.

Usually, if you only have one or two goats, your goats are not going to get mites. Especially if you are regularly grooming your goat.

If your goat does get the itch mite, you need to treat it right. Check out my resources section for goat treatments.  If left untreated, the itch mite infestation can lead to a bacterial infection on the skin.

Fleas and Ticks Cause Itching

Goats are sometimes compared to dogs and also get fleas and ticks. In fact, if a goat is around a dog, the goat can catch fleas from that dog and vice-versa.

But if they get the same parasites as the family dog, is the treatment the same? Not necessarily. When removing fleas and ticks, it helps to use insecticide developed for use on goats, not on dogs. This insecticide should be put on all over the goat, so the entire goat’s body is covered.

The person who is applying the medicine should be wearing gloves. Ticks that are visible need to be removed by using tweezers.

The living quarters need to be completely cleaned, and all bedding needs to be changed. If you have a dog who is near the goat, the dog should be treated as well, but with treatment suited for dogs. Dog and goat treatment is not interchangeable.

Your goat should be treated for fleas and ticks again in about 3 weeks. Use the same procedure as before. Go over your goat literally with a fine-tooth comb and make sure there are no visible signs of fleas and ticks or you should start the whole process over again as though it were the first treatment. You may have to repeat two or three more times.

1.      Goats Get Keds

Keds are sheep ticks. They are like a wingless fly for lack of a better description.

They also live on goats.

They will cause a goat to itch incessantly and have to be removed. The treatment for the ticks and fleas will also remove keds. Keds are visible and can be removed by using tweezers. If you only have one or two goats, the chances of getting keds are greatly reduced.

2.      Goats Want Human Attention

Another reason goats itch and want to be scratched is because they want human attention. Goats resemble dogs in some ways in that if they have been around people, they do tend to relate to people in many of the same way dogs do.

  • Goats follow people around
  • Goats stare into their owners eyes
  • Goats bump up against people’s legs to get attention
  • Goats nuzzle their owners
  • Goats seem to crave human touch and attention

Often a goat does not have fleas, is not losing fur, or does not seem to have any just cause for scratching other than the fact, he or she just wants the human in his or her life to scratch his back, head, or belly. Goats, like dogs, love human touch and attention. And this usually comes in the form of a scratch or a rub.

One study of goats by Christian Nawroth found that goats seem to stare at humans when they want something. And usually, the one thing that goats want is to be scratched. Goats simply want to be scratched for no good reason.

Nawrath found behavior in goats to be extremely similar to that of dogs and horses. Human attention and interaction do seem to guide a lot of their attention-getting behavior.

How to Help Your Goat’s Itching

If you have a goat and your goat is itching, there are several things you need to check. The first thing to check is to make sure your goat does not have mites. If your goat has an infestation of mites, you have to get rid of those mites as quickly as possible.

As previously mentioned, goats have to be inspected carefully. If your goat shows any sign of mites, fleas or ticks, you should treat accordingly for whatever the infestation dictates.

If you have one or two goats, however, the chances of these parasites are smaller. By and large, your goat’s incessant itching is probably not either one of these problems. If it is springtime, your goat could be losing her winter coat, and this is causing her to need her back scratched a little more.

The solution for this is to possibly bath in moisturizing shampoo for animals. But other than this, there just isn’t a solution. Goats lose a winter coat to some extent, and they will itch a little. Make sure the goat is not scratching any extra for another reason and give the goat extra love and care through the itching time.

What Goats Need

Goats need 6 to 8 hours of grazing every day. If they are getting less grazing time, this could also be a problem with the itching. Boredom and genuine hunger can cause goats to itch more. Often people think that if they provide ready-made food for their goats, the goats are fine. But goats need grazing time.

A goat isn’t itching if she is grazing. Make sure the pasture isn’t too full of rich clover or Alfalfa hay. If your goat is a pet and you don’t have a pasture, you still need to provide hay for your goat to eat. While this doesn’t solve the boredom problem of itching, you will at least know you are giving your goat a balanced diet.

Although goats are considered by some to be barnyard animals, goats need to be clean. A clean goat is a happy, less itchy goat.

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How Goats Catch Parasites

Goats actually pick up parasites that cause itching from other goats or from dogs and cats, so if you only have one goat or two goats, the chances for parasite infection is greatly reduced for your pets.

Regardless of how many goats you have, if you have a goat in a pasture during the day, the chance will go up for a goat to catch a tick. This exposure makes it even more important to regularly brush and comb your goat almost daily in order to catch this parasite.

But,

If you catch a tick early, you can remove the tick before it causes problems such as Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Both of these are transmitted in goats and humans.

Goats As Pets

When a goat is a pet, a goat will often see their people as “human scratching posts.” This is a lot like how dogs and cats will rub up against their owners to get more love. And goats often stare to get what they want. Christian Nawroth found that goats stare often at their people.

This staring by goats is a form of looking at their humans get what they want. And usually what they want is to be scratched, loved, or fed.  Goats have places to scratch that they cannot reach themselves, just like anyone else. And that’s what a good human is for. So when your goat stares at you, it is possible he or she only needs to be scratched behind the ears.

Goats that are kept by people as pets tend to be cleaner and itch less than goats in a regular barnyard. Goats that are kept separate from other animals do not usually get lice and mites that herd goats usually get.

This means that pet goats are usually free of the parasites that herd goats often contract because they are around other goats. So by and large, most pet goats itch because they are either shedding or they may have some kind of parasite they may have contracted from a field, such as fleas or ticks.

Keeping fleas and ticks off of pet goats requires the goat owner to use a flea insecticide and treatment that is safe to use on goats. The key is to get on the infestation quickly and to be diligent in making sure that any parasite does not get a foothold on your goat.

Keep Goats Entertained

Goats like to have fun. A pasture or a yard for goats should have stumps and hay bales for goats to climb on in order to keep them entertained. A happier goat is a goat who has less time to itch.

Goats are high energy and love to move about. If goats have a yard full of things to climb on and play with, they will be entertained when their humans are not around. This will keep your goat from doing self-destructive behaviors such as scratching and biting at his own skin.

If a goat has a parasite or a real reason for scratching, toys are not going to fix the reason for itching, but if the goat is itching out of boredom, having things for your goat to play on and to keep your goat amused during the day, will help.

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Why Do Goats Scratch their Horns?

Goats often scratch the area around their horns. Sometimes people dehorn their goats, which has mixed reviews of goat owners. Some passionate goat owners feel this is cruel and a painful process. Goats itch around their head and their horns just happen to be there so it looks like goats are itching their horns.

However, goats love to have their head itched around their horns and will often rub up against a stump or a tree in order to accomplish this goal. Goats, like many animals, love to be scratched behind their ears and in the back of their neck and this also includes the horn area.

Other places Goats Love to Be Scratched

Goats love to be scratched on their backsides as well as on their heads.

Scratching on their backs is why you often see goats rubbing up against fence posts. Goats cannot reach their backs and often have an itch right in the middle of that backside area.

Goats also loved to be scratched on their bellies. People sometimes think their goats are being silly when they are sliding around on their tummy. Actually, they are trying to scratch that area. Goats like to have their bellies rubbed. And don’t forget to scratch behind your goat’s ears and around your goat’s face.

The ears and face are sensitive areas for the goat. The hair is thinner and the goat can feel you touching his or her skin more acutely in the facial area. Goats love having their faces scratched which is part of the reason they move into their human’s personal space with their face.

How to Groom a Goat to Help Stop Itching

There are ways to groom a goat to reduce the itching. For starters, giving your goat a daily brushing might work wonders to reduce the urge to itch. This will also help you to give your goat a good check every day to make sure there are no fleas, ticks, or other parasites who have come to visit on your goat.

You should first use a harder brush to make sure and get the loose dirt and mud from the day out of the fur. Then follow up with a curry comb to get out dirt you can’t see as easy on your goat. Finally, use a soft brush to finish the massage and help the goat have shiny smooth hair.

Sometimes in the late spring, you might want to clip some of the heavier hair off of you goat to help with shedding and itching due to shedding. This will also make room for new growth of fresh smooth hair that will grow in after the clipping.

The grooming process is one way to help your goat relax and to reduce the itching. When grooming your goat, you are also building trust and bonding with your animal. This is one way to get closer to your goat and to let your goat know you are taking care of your goat’s needs each and every day.

Don’t bathe your goat very often unless your goat needs a flea bath. Goats get sick the most often from being wet.

But,

Brushing your goat will help to keep the hair clean and silky without bathing your goat very often. Bathing sometimes dries out a goat’s skin and makes the goat itch more.

You are feeding your goat and helping your goat’s skin and hair feel much better by the way you brush and groom your goat. Your goat knows you are caring about her. In return, your goat is a loyal pet almost like a pet dog. Goats may wonderful pets once you get the scratching under control.

Goats will look to you to help with the itching. Once you have ruled out parasites, losing hair, and other physical reasons for the itching, it might just be your goat wants your attention and friendship. Give your goat some brushing and a scratch and you will have a much happier and healthier pet.

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