My Goats Are Coughing, Sick: Treating Pneumonia in Goats

Protect goats from pneumonia (1)

Last spring, the weather was crazy. Within a single week, we had rain, followed by a searing heat, followed by icy sleet. The craziness in the weather caused my goats to come down with Pneumonia. Fortunately, we acted swiftly and were able to nip it before it became too severe or life-threatening. 

Pneumonia is one of the biggest goat killers. Goats can come down with it quickly and escalate to a life-threatening condition within hours or days. Goats can die of pneumonia within as little as 4 hours. It is a frequent killer that causes a goat to die suddenly. 

How Can I Tell If My Goats Have Pneumonia? Goats with pneumonia will display many symptoms. A sick goat will have an off- temperature. Goats get a temperature spike, followed by a drop. They develop a deep cough and a runny nose. They will get lethargic and stop eating and drinking. They will isolate themselves and appear droopy. 

Treating Pneumonia quickly is critical. It is not a sickness that you can afford to ignore or you are likely to have dead goats. Let’s get started. 

Goat Pneumonia: 6 Killers

There are six types of goat pneumonia. The two most common ones are Pasteurella and Mannheimia. A vaccine exists that protects goats against both of these strains. 

1. Pasteurella Pneumonia 

Pasteurella is a bacterial strain of pneumonia. It attacks the lung tissues and creates very microabscesses that grow into larger abscesses. This means that goats that get Pasteurella Pneumonia can recover, but then get sick again when their immune system is compromised. The abscesses can continue to grow over time. 

Pasteurella is especially devastating in young goats and attacks goats that have lower levels of colostrum or who are being weaned. It more quickly kills kids than adults but is dangerous for adult goats also. 

Pasteurella usually attacks during very wet seasons when the weather swings wildly between warm and cold spells. It thrives in wet conditions. Goats are more vulnerable in wet, swampy areas and during rainy seasons. High humidity can increase sickness. Fall and spring are the most common time of the year for goats to get Pasteurella Pneumonia. 

A vaccine can be given annually to protect goats from this type of pneumonia. 

2. Mannheimia Pneumonia 

Mannheimia haemolytica is a bacteria that’s always present in the nasal and the respiratory tract. When goats are stressed or face other infections, the bacteria increases. 

Goats easily get Mannheimia Pneumonia when they are stressed. Traveling, the introduction of new goats to the herd, fluctuating weather, and weaning are all stressors. 

Mannheimia and Pasteurella Pneumonia have had name changes from older scientific names. Plus they are often used incorrectly interchangeably. That’s because the symptoms and damage to the lungs are similar. 

Fortunately, both Pasuerella and Mannheimia can be prevented with annual vaccinations. 

3. And 4. Progressive Pneumonia and CAE Pneumonia

Progressive Pneumonia is very similar in symptoms and diagnosis to Caprine Arthritis and Encephalitis (CAE) Pneumonia. Progressive Pneumonia is a chronic disease in which goats and sheep continually fight chronic bouts of pneumonia. It attacks the respiratory system and leaves lesions on the lungs. 

CAE is a closely related virus that attacks the nervous system and joints of goats (and sheep). CAE is usually passed from mother to kid through the milk. It can also be spread among adult goats through bodily fluids. 

CAE can cause arthritis encephalitis, which is the inflammation of the brain. It causes pneumonia, mastitis, and chronic wasting. When it develops into Pneumonia, goats will develop similar symptoms to other forms of pneumonia. 

Ceftiofur is the only FDA-approved antibiotic to treat CAE in goats. 

My goat is coughing- what to do (1)

5. Parasitic Pneumonia 

When parasites infect the respiratory system, goats and sheep can get parasitic pneumonia. That usually happens when lungworms travel through the intestinal tract to the lungs. Muellerius capillaris is the most common form of lungworm in goats. 

Goats that get parasitic pneumonia don’t get the lesions that other forms of pneumonia form. But, they are still in danger of other forms of infection and degraded health. Goats with Parasitic Pneumonia often display a chronic fever. 

Parasitic pneumonia is diagnosed through fecal samples where larvae and eggs are expelled. Larvae can also be found in the nose cavities. Other parasites that can cause parasitic pneumonia include Dictyocaulus filaria and Protostrongylus rufescens. 

6. Aspiration Pneumonia

Aspiration pneumonia is caused by a foreign object invading the respiratory system. This can occur through inhaling liquids or dust. The greatest risk your herd has of getting Aspiration Pneumonia is when you drench them. 

If your goats move unexpectedly or you drench them improperly, it can cause the fluid to be inhaled instead of swallowed. Or, it can happen when you give goats mineral oil or other oral medicines. 

The foreign substance causes a secondary infection. The severity of pneumonia depends on how much liquid was inhaled and how deep into the lungs it went. Aspiration pneumonia can also occur from excessively dusty conditions. 

Aspiration Pneumonia is also referred to as Inhalation Pneumonia and Gangrenous Pneumonia. Lambs may need to be treated for a selenium deficiency that often results from Aspiration Pneumonia.  

Symptoms of Goat Pneumonia 

The onset of Pneumonia happens very quickly. My first goat to get it was happy and eating at lunch, but by evening was lethargic, coughing, and had a runny nose. The other goats were all playful and energetic, but by the next morning, two more were sick and struggling. 

It is critical to treat goats immediately. Waiting even a few hours can be too long to save some goats. So, it’s critical that you know and recognize the various signs of Pneumonia. 

Symptoms and Signs of Pneumonia in Goats and Sheep:

  • Fever (Above 103 Farhenheit) 
  • After the fever, the temperature will usually drop to below 100 Fahrenheit
  • Deep and frequent coughing 
  • Snotty Nose
  • Runny nose with thick nasal mucus
  • Increased breathing (may sound like panting)
  • Poor or non-existent appetite
  • Weight Loss
  • May isolate themselves from the rest of the herd
  • Lethargic
  • Drooping head and tail
  • May frequently get up and down. This is caused by laying down due to tiredness, but then getting up as the pressure in the lungs from the liquid increases. 

You may not always notice all of these symptoms in a goat. When my herd got pneumonia we couldn’t find the thermometer and so I was unable to check their temperature. However, my kids first noticed a snotty nose, coughing, and lethargic goats. 

I followed them out and we noticed our sick goats getting up and down. Unlike the healthy ones, they didn’t come running when I gave grain and fresh hay. Plus, they just looked sick. Knowing the risk factors can also help you to make a diagnosis if you aren’t sure whether your herd has pneumonia or not. 

Risk Factors That Contribute to Pneumonia

Knowing whether or not your goats have been exposed to any of the many risk factors will help you to identify if they have pneumonia. Understanding the risk factors of pneumonia will help you to proactively watch and boost your goat’s health when they are in greater danger of pneumonia. 

Risk factors of Pneumonia include: 

  • A wild swing in temperatures and wet weather (Pasteurella and Mannheimia) 
  • Recent drenching (Aspiration Pneumonia)
  • Lung Parasites (Parasitic Pneumonia)
  • Worms and Parasites (Parasitic Pneumonia) 
  • Bacteria and viral infections (Progressive Pneumonia and CAE) 
  • Dirty environments and crowded pens or pastures (Parasitic, Pasteurella, Mannheimia, and Progressive Pneumonia) 
  • Introduced to a new herd (Pasteurella, Mannheimia, and Parasitic)
  • Prior bacterial or viral infections (Viral Pneumonia)
  • Immunocompromised Goats (Greater risk of Pasteurella, Mannheimia, and Progressive Pneumonia) 
  • Traveling Stress (Mannheimia) 
  • Increased stress for other reasons (Mannheimia)

How to Treat Pneumonia In Goats

When I discovered our sick goat, the hour was late, nearly 9 pm. The vet was closed and I live over an hour away. I would have likely lost a goat if I’d waited until morning when I could make it to the vet for help. 

It’s important to know what to do so that you don’t wait to treat your goats. Even if you have the ability to immediately take your goat to the vet, there are steps you can take that drastically improve the survival of your herd. Let’s cover how you can treat your sick goats.

Understanding CC and Milliliters Dosage Requirements

First, you need to understand dosage terminology. Instead of using common measurements, medicines usually use CC as a form of measurement. 

How much is a CC? A CC is the same as a milliliter. When the dose says to give 5 CCs, that means 5 milliliters. It’s important to keep clean syringes and various needle sizes on hand because it will make it easier to administer to your goats. Larger needles make larger doses easier and smaller needles are less painful for the goats.

Dosage is generally given by goat weight. Many medicines will call for a certain dosage over and under 60 lbs or 100 lbs. My adult Boer goats weigh about 70 lbs when they are fully grown. You don’t have to prorate the dosage. Just estimate where your goats fit and give that dosage. 

Goat cough is usually serious (1)

Required Supplies to Keep Available 

It’s also critical that you maintain clean needles. Most needles are supposed to be thrown away. Since they are usually purchased for $0.05-$0.10 (USD) a needle, they are pretty cheap. But, there may be times when you don’t have enough needles and you don’t have a way to easily get more. In those cases, make sure that you don’t use the same needle to refill the dosage as you do to administer the medicine. 

You can contaminate the medicine with pneumonia if you use a dirty needle to get more medicine. Use a different needle for different goats. Never share needles among sick goats because it can spread bacteria. Your goats may be suffering from different strains of pneumonia. 

Bare minimum, if you don’t have enough needles, take the time to boil your needles before reusing them. But, I can’t stress enough the importance of keeping enough needles and syringes on hand so that you can use clean needles every time. 

Why It Takes So Many Needles To Treat Your Goats 

You need to give 2 sick goats an antibiotic and anti-inflammatory. Additionally, you need to give all five of your goats a Vitamin B shot to boost their immunities. How many needles do you need? 

Answer: You need a minimum of 8 needles if you don’t make a mistake and use your clean needle on a goat. You will need a needle for each goat AND a clean needle to get the medicine out of the bottles. 

Every time you give a shot, you will have to change needles to the same needle for each goat and then switch back to get more medicine. 

If you use your clean needle on a goat, you’ll need additional needles above the 8 minimum And, you’ll need a clean needle for the antibiotic, the anti-inflammatory medicine, and the Vitamin B.   

But, it’s much easier to have a clean needle for every shot because then you don’t have to try and switch needles after filling the syringe. 

1. Antibiotics

Getting your goats an antibiotic is important to help them overcome pneumonia. Ideally, you’ll have access to a stronger and more effective antibiotic such as Draxxin, Penicillin, Nuflor, or Excenel RTU. Those are available through a vet and require a prescription. 

I did not have any of those on hand and so I resorted to a much milder antibiotic, LA200, that I was able to obtain just before my farm supply store closed. 

Naxcel (Ceftiofur)

The only antibiotic approved to treat CAE Pneumonia. All other antibiotics listed below are considered off-label or extra-label. That means they aren’t specifically approved for goats but are used because of an absence of approved treatment options. It’s always a good idea to discuss the type of antibiotic with your vet until you are comfortable with them. 

LA200

An antibiotic that can help your goats to fight sickness until you can get stronger medicine for them. It will not replace a good antibiotic but does do a lot of good if it’s the only thing available. 

It’s relatively cheap (about $30 for 100 ml). LA200 is a broad antibiotic and some people do treat pneumonia successfully with just LA200. It does burn when it’s injected so it’s a good idea to give shots of LA200 last. 

  • LA200: Give 5 CCs per 100 lbs for 5 days
  • Available without a prescription

Draxxin

Where I live, Draxxin requires a prescription and has to be purchased from the vet. It costs about $5 per 1 CC of medicine. But, it’s very effective. My vet will sell it by syringe because a bottle costs quite a bit. 

  • 1 CC per 100 lbs of body weight for 5 days

Nuflor

Nuflor is a fast-acting antibiotic that’s created specifically to fight Pasteurella and other respiratory illnesses. It should not be used on goats that will be butchered within the next month.  

  • Nuflor: Give 3 CCs per 100 pounds daily for 5 days. 
  • Nuflor Gold: Provides additional protections against mycoplasma. It also acts as a fever reducer and some brands may combine Nuflor with Benamine in their “gold” version. 
  • Available without a prescription

Penicillin

Similar to human Penicillin, but may require a prescription in some states. It is processed for animal use. 

  • 5 CCs per 100 lbs for 5 days

Excenel RTU

Excenel RTU is a broad-spectrum antibiotic that treats respiratory diseases such as pneumonia.

  • 3 CCs per 100 lbs of body weight. Kids can be given ½ CC. 
  • The first two doses need to be given 12 hours apart. 
  • Then give a dose every 24 hours for a total of 5 days. 

Other antibiotics that may be used for pneumonia in goats include Ampicillin, Tetracycline, Oxytetracycline, and Tylosin. 

2. Banamine: Anti Inflammatory Medicine 

Banamine goes by many different names including Flunixin. Banamine is the brand name and Flunixin is the drug name. It’s similar to Motrin and IBUProfen (brand and generic names) but for people. 

Banamine will help to reduce a goat’s temperature and lower the inflammation throughout its body. It also works as a general pain reliever to make your goat feel a little better. This can help a little with it’s willingness to eat. 

  • Dose: Give 1 CC per 100 pounds. Give 1/10 for newborns and 2/10 of a CC for young kids. 

3. Vitamin B Complex

The biggest danger for goats that get sick is that they stop eating and drinking. Once goats stop eating and drinking, they rapidly go downhill. At the first sign of any illness, I give my goats a Vitamin B shot to boost their immune systems. Vitamin B1, or Thiamine, is critical to goat health. 

But, when a goat gets sick, they often stop producing it because they don’t eat as much. The B complex of vitamins will also give your goats a boost of energy that can help their immune system fight the illness. 

A Vitamin B complex is something I always have on hand. I’ll give it to my goats if they hurt their leg or get caught in the fence because it makes a difference. And, you can’t really overdose it. 

  • Give 4 CCs of Vitamin B Complex to each goat. 

4. Probiotics

When you give your goats antibiotics, it can mess with the good bacteria in their gut. Goats use and need good bacteria even more than people because of their ruminant systems. Their ruminant stomachs allow them to ferment grass and get nutrients out of it. 

Probiotics are a great way to recharge your goat’s digestive system. Your local farm supply store should sell commercial probiotics. Probios works well and is a popular brand. 

You can also make goat yogurt to feed to your goats. If you make goat yogurt from earlier goat’s milk, that will help to replenish your goats’ specific strains of good bacteria. 

5. Electrolytes

You might think that giving your goats Gatorade would be an ok. And, I know a few goat owners who have done that. However, I don’t recommend giving goats human electrolytes because people’s drinks usually contain salt and sugar that isn’t good for goats. 

Instead, give your goats electrolytes that are better for them. Pour molasses into their water. It should be enough molasses to make the water dark. I usually pour 1-2 cups of molasses into a 5-gallon bucket. Then, add 2-3 TBSP of salt to the water. I also add about 3 TBSP of Baking Soda to the water. 

The soda and salt will replenish their electrolytes. They will also encourage your goat to drink more water. The molasses sweetens the water and encourages drinking because it tastes good. When I’ve been desperate for a goat to eat, I’ve also poured molasses over their hay and feed. Commercial goat feed almost always has added molasses anyway. I’ve used this formula when I’ve had stressed-out goats from travel or shows.

6. Isolate Sick Goats 

When you have a sick goat, you might consider isolating them from the rest of the herd. Pneumonia can spread quickly among the herd. In larger herds, it can be difficult to monitor every goat. That makes it more likely that a goat will die. 

But, in smaller herds, isolating a sick goat can make that goat do worse because of the stress of being isolated. Smaller herds are usually more attached to each other. Because goats are herd animals, this can be stressful. 

Preventing and Reducing the Risk of Pneumonia

Pneumonia can be so traumatic and onset so rapidly that it’s best to prevent and reduce incidents of Pneumonia. 

How can I keep my goats from getting Pneumonia? Goats should be provided a dry, clean house. Two of the most common strains of Pneumonia can be vaccinated against with little to no side effects to goats. Parasites should be controlled through good husbandry and deworming. When goats are stressed, they should be provided extra support to prevent and reduce illness. 

The Pneumonia vaccination prevents Pasteurella and Mannheimia Pneumonia. It should be given annually just before kidding season so that kids can gain some immunity. It is easily considered the second most important vaccination goats should get. 

You can also help to reduce pneumonia by keeping your goats’ parasite load lower. Rotate pastures so that land has time to rest. This is important because when a pasture is overused, it greatly increases the parasites in herds. You can also deworm your goats, although there is some evidence that indicates that overusing dewormers on your goats can create super-worms immune from dewormers. 

Provide a dry shelter for your goats. Wet, cold goats get sick fast. Even in the summer, goats can get cold easily because they have usually shed their winter coats and have a lighter summer coat. 

Avoid grazing goats in wet or swampy areas. Wet areas are often breeding grounds for pneumonia bacteria. Take care to boost your herd’s health when they have extra stressors by providing electrolytes and Vitamin B. 

Lastly, make sure that if you drench your goats, you do it correctly. Never drench them faster than they have the ability to swallow. Drench goats on the goat’s left side of their mouth (right side facing them). Their windpipe is on their right side and it makes it easier for them to inhale part of the drench. 

  • Pneumonia vaccine protects against 2 strains of pneumonia
  • Rotate pastures to lower parasite loads
  • Avoid crowding
  • Provide dry shelters
  • Provide adequate clean water
  • Boost their immune system with electrolytes and Vitamin B Complex when they are stressed
  • Make sure proper drenching is done when needed

Conclusion

Although deadly and dangerous, pneumonia is treatable. The key is recognizing it and acting fast. Most of the time, swift action can save your goats. The vaccine can help to prevent most cases of pneumonia and good husbandry will help prevent most of the rest. 

Check out our Vaccination Schedule found in this article

Annemaria Duran

Hi, I’m Annemaria Duran. I moved out to the country 6 years ago, mainly so I could have more land. I love all aspects of country living. First, we got chickens, then ducks. Now we have sheep, goats, and rabbits. I'm always learning and love sharing it!

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