Exposure to scorching temperatures is just as much of a health hazard to goats as it is to humans. Goats are generally pretty hardy creatures, but they can still be affected by the heat. And, it’s a worry for many farmers and owners of pet goats.
Do Goats Sweat? Healthy goats don’t sweat. Goats don’t have sweat glands, so sweating is a warning sign. If a goat is sweating after being exposed to hot weather conditions, it is usually a sign that they are suffering from heatstroke and need immediate help.
Under normal circumstances, goats release heat through their horns and by panting, similar to a dog. However, when suffering from extreme heat stress or heat stroke, their bodies will use every vice possible to release heat, including sweating.
If your goats are sweating, they are in serious danger. Let’s take a look at the dangers and signs of overheating and what to do if it happens. Let’s take a look!
How Hot is Too Hot For a Goat?
A comfortable environmental temperature for a goat is between 32°F and 86°F. Temperatures above 86°F can cause goats to experience heat stress and dehydration. High humidity makes this more likely. Prolonged exposure to temperatures above 86°F can cause goats to experience heat stress and dehydration.
Newborn goats, young kids, pregnant goats, and elderly goats can be susceptible to overheating at slightly lower temperatures because their immune systems are more vulnerable. Outside of when they are pregnant, female goats tend to handle the heat better than male goats. Pregnant goats and older goats are also more vulnerable. High humidity increases the likelihood of heat stress and dehydration, whatever the temperature.
The Dangers of Overheating In Goats
A goat becomes dehydrated when they lose more fluid than they take in. The likelihood of dehydration occurring increases in hot temperatures. This is because hot conditions cause the body to release more fluid to keep cool. When severe, dehydration in goats can stop the body’s essential systems from functioning properly and even result in death.
Mild heat stress can occur in a goat when they experience prolonged exposure to high temperatures over 86°F. This can compromise the immune system, leaving them more susceptible to developing conditions like pneumonia – which is not uncommon in goats during the summer months. It can also cause infertility in both sexes. Males badly affected by heat stress can take 6-7 weeks to start producing fully functional semen again.
Heat stress can progress to heatstroke when left untreated, especially in high humidity. Heatstroke occurs when the animal affected is no longer able to regulate its internal temperature due to the extreme heat. It is extremely dangerous, and if left untreated, the animal’s organs will shut down.
Signs of Dehydration
A mildly dehydrated goat may lack energy and appear depressed, not playing or interacting with other goats as much as usual. They may have a dry nose, sunken eyes, and their head and ears may appear droopy.
Signs of more severe dehydration include:
- Loss of appetite and weight
- Loss of skin elasticity
- Dry, pale gums
- Less frequent urination or no urination at all
The skin elasticity test is a good way of telling whether a goat is dehydrated. To perform the test, lightly pinch the skin on the back of the goat’s neck. If it does not instantly bounce back into place when you let go, they are likely dehydrated.
Another way to tell if a goat is dehydrated is by testing the capillary refill time of the gums. You can do this by gently pressing your finger against the goat’s gums until it turns white. If it takes more than 2 seconds to return to its normal color when you take your finger away, the goat is dehydrated.
Signs of Heat Stress in Goats
Besides a temperature exceeding 104°F, clinical signs of heat stress in goats include:
- Excessive panting
- Trouble breathing
- Overall weakness
- An inability to stand up or walk
Signs of heatstroke in advanced stages will also include:
Sweating and collapsing are signs that a goat needs urgent veterinary attention. A healthy goat will eliminate heat through its horns and by panting. However, a goat suffering from heatstroke may appear to sweat as a last resort to release heat from the body.
What To Do When Your Goat is Dehydrated
A mildly dehydrated goat should be encouraged to take regular small drinks from a fresh supply of clean, cold water.
Goats that are more severely dehydrated should be given water to drink that contains electrolytes. Electrolytes promote the rapid absorption of nutrients and energy and help to restore the fluid balance in goats. One of the best, most popular, and highly-rated electrolyte products for goats on the market is made by Manna Pro (on Amazon).
Animals that are so severely dehydrated they cannot drink should receive intravenous fluid treatment by a vet as soon as possible.
What To Do When Your Goat Is Heat Stressed
Move goats suspected of having mild heat stress to a cool, shaded area with good airflow. They should be offered fresh water to drink and encouraged to take small drinks regularly. Farmers should spray cool water over their heads, legs, and stomachs, but be careful not to use icy cold water as this can shock the vascular system and make the situation worse.
After 20 minutes, take the goat’s temperature. If their temperature and behavior have not returned to normal, you should contact a vet as soon as possible for an examination. Goats displaying symptoms of heatstroke such as unconsciousness should be seen by a vet immediately.
Vets will gradually, safely reduce the goat’s body temperature back to normal with IV fluid treatment.
Preventing Heat Stress In Goats During Summer Months
Thankfully, there are plenty of simple ways to prevent your goats from overheating. Not all of these options are viable for every goat owner, but you can keep your goats safe and healthy by taking precautions. This is especially critical in hotter or more humid climates.
First and foremost, farmers should provide adequate shade such as trees or shelters in outdoor areas. Indoor spaces should have plenty of ventilation and airflow. In particularly humid areas, fans can be a great addition to help keep goats cool.
Goats should have constant access to clean, cool drinking water. On average, a goat will drink around 1-2 gallons of water per day. In hot weather, farmers should increase the amount of water that is provided. Putting frozen bottles of water in the water trays is a super simple, inexpensive way to keep the supply cool. If you have a larger herd, make sure that there are watering options around the field so that all your goats have access to water. Limiting the number of watering options may mean that some goats don’t have access to all the water they need.
Another great tool for cooling down goats in the summer months is indoor mist systems. Water misters spritz animals with cool water regularly throughout the day. For outdoor spaces, consider sprinklers, which will not only help to keep goats cool but can be lots of fun for them too. Many goats are playful and fond of water.
Although goats should be sheared in the spring to keep them cool in the upcoming months, you should avoid shearing them during the summer. This may sound counterproductive, but research shows that goats and sheep with a short fleece are more comfortable in the heat than those without, as wool fibers dissipate heat more rapidly and protect the skin from sunburn.
You should also avoid dehorning your goats. As mentioned above, a goat’s horns release heat and act as a radiator for their body, making them an important part of their internal temperature regulation. Many farmers dehorn their goats for economic and safety reasons, which may be necessary if you have hundreds of them. However, unless you have a specific reason for dehorning your goats, consider letting them be. Goat horns are not dangerous to people and make handling them easier. Plus, this will significantly reduce the risk of your goats becoming overheated. Goats with horns can handle hotter temperatures better than dehorned goats.
Finally, farmers should adjust the goat’s feeding and breeding routines accordingly. In extreme heat, goats will want to graze when it’s coolest outside, in the early hours of the morning and later on in the evening. They should also be fed less feed and allowed more time to rest. Breeding should be avoided on hot days and be done during the night when it’s cooler instead.
6 Steps to Keeping Goats From Overheating
- Provide shaded areas in outdoor spaces and ventilated indoor spaces
- Fresh, plentiful drinking water that the entire herd can access
- Misters or sprinklers
- Shear in the early spring, not the summer, to help keep goats cool
- Avoid dehorning or disbudding goats to help them naturally manage heat better
- Grazing during the cooler hours of the day
Goats are fairly adaptable animals, but you must provide your goats with adequate shade and water. Pregnant goats are more susceptible to heat and over-exertion. If your goat is sweating, take immediate action to cool it down.