Right after we got goats, we struggled to keep them healthy because they kept bloating. That’s because our area had a shortage of hay, and we were desperate to get any hay- even alfalfa. We were unable to get enough of one type to keep their diet consistent.
But, after many calls to the vet, I learned how to keep my goats from bloating. Once you know how to identify when your goats are bloating, you can take early steps that won’t require as much work.
What do I do if my goat is bloated? If your goat is bloating, don’t wait to see if it gets better before you do anything. Bloat can be deadly. First, make sure your goat has access to fresh, clean water and baking soda. Brewers yeast and Dawn dish soap will help to alleviate bloat. Act immediately, especially if your goats are lethargic.
If your goats bloat regularly, you will want to check out this article, including ways to prevent bloat.
1. Use Dawn Dish Soap to Relieve Bloat
The first thing my vet told me was to administer Dawn dishwasher soap to my bloated goats. The reason for that is because dawn is gentle and will dissipate the gas. Dawn won’t hurt goats or cause them any harm. Buy the Dawn without artificial colors or chlorine.
Give your goat 20 CCs of dawn down their throat. You’ll need a large syringe (no needle) and put it toward the back of their mouth. Squirt it slowly, and they will swallow it. That’s similar to drenching them.
If your goats are highly bloated and they don’t get better with Dawn, call your vet. You will probably need more extreme measures to be taken.
2. Goat Bloat For Emergencies
I’ve used also used a Goat Bloat bottle for bloated goats. I’m not sure that it’s more effective than dawn and baking soda. But I do keep a bottle on hand in case I have a goat that doesn’t respond to anything else.
Where I live, it’s $10 a bottle, and you give an entire bottle to a goat. So, it’s a little costlier than other remedies and not the first thing I try. I’ve only used it a few times, usually when I’ve been out of Dawn, or it’s been too late to run to the store.
Goat Bloat is an excellent solution if you want something “official” or a commercial option. It’s not the only option, but it does a great job, and I’ve seen it be effective when using it.
3. Free Choice Baking Soda
Sodium Bicarbonate, called baking soda, is a natural component that goats create as they chew. It helps them to avoid bloat and keeps their digestion in good health. But, when goats eat certain foods or foods that require less chewing, they are in danger of bloat.
Offering constant free-choice baking soda can help your goats to avoid bloat. If your goats are minorly bloating, baking soda can help to alleviate continued problems.
Do not drench goats in a baking soda solution unless your vet instructs you to. I have talked to three vets. Everyone has told me that a baking soda drench is not the best way to treat an emergency bloat situation.
But, it is pretty much a miracle as a preventative treatment. If your goats are bloating, make sure that they have access to plenty of clean baking soda. Check out What baking soda does for goats.
4. Brewers Yeast Helps to Restore Gut Health (And other Probiotics)
Use brewers yeast to help treat and prevent goat bloat. Brewer’s yeast won’t be enough to relieve severely distressed bloat. But, it does help to get your goat’s digestive system back on track. It also replenishes the good bacteria in your goat’s gut.
Brewers’ yeast is helpful in healing and restoring goats’ guts and getting them back on track. Give your goats ½ cup of brewers yeast over their food. You can sprinkle it over hay and grain. My vet told me ½ cup per goat per day, but that’s for adult goats. If your goats are smaller, it’s best to give less.
You can try other probiotics instead of Brewer’s yeast. I like Brewer’s yeast because it stores well, and I can always have it on hand. Although, goat milk yogurt would be a good option. Another option that I haven’t tried is flat beer. I’ve heard that it also helps restore good bacteria. It would have to be one with live yeast culture. I’m not a beer drinker, but I’ve heard that some beers don’t have a live yeast culture and don’t provide any help with probiotics.
Oils That Help Push Food Through When Goats Are Bloated
I’ve never needed to use oil on my bloating goats, but I know goat owners who do. Oil isn’t digestible by goats. Goat stomachs aren’t adapted to breaking down fats. But, oil can help make things a little slippier down there and get the food and gas through the gut.
One of my friends uses mineral oil, and another one uses olive oil. It won’t hurt your goats. But they aren’t likely to eat it either. You will probably need to use a syringe and put it in the back of their mouths, so they swallow it. I’ve heard of vets recommending as much as 1-2 cups of oil for a bloated adult goat. It won’t hurt, and it can get the nasty bloat-causing food through the rumen.
It usually causes runny stool.
Vitamin B Complex
I’ve written about this before, but anytime my goats are struggling for any reason, I give them a Vitamin B Complex. Vitamin B helps them, and it can’t hurt them. It gives them a boost of energy and allows them to eat better.
But, that’s not the most important part!
A Vitamin B Complex includes Thiamine. Thiamine and the companion Vitamin Bs are essential for digestion. The bacteria that live in goats’ digestive systems create Vitamin Bs and Thiamine.
But, when a goat overeats grain, it throws off the good bacteria and allows other bacteria to thrive. The goat doesn’t get the Vitamin B’s it needs. Giving your goat a shot of Vitamin B will enable it to continue to digest normally and not have side effects.
When your goat is bloated, it’s not producing the needed Vitamin B and Thiamine levels that it needs to be healthy. This can cause a lot of secondary issues from the bloat. Some of those issues include goat polio, anemia, and susceptibility to infection or going off feed.
An antigas medicine can help to relieve bloat, but it won’t solve the root problem. However, if your goats are uncomfortable, an antigas medication can help them. GasX is popular. Peptol Bismol also helps. You can give 5-10 CCs of Pepto to kids and 15-30 CCs to adult goats.
Banamine is a medicine approved for cows and used often in an extra-label or off-label use for goats. It’s an anti-inflammatory that helps to reduce the secondary inflammation that can occur from bloating. It can lower a goat’s fever and reduce their discomfort and pain. It also helps ease the irritation from bloat and make it easier for your goat to digest the problematic food.
A vet must prescribe Banamine. Many vets prescribe Banamine once the goat is sick enough to go to the vet.
Fresh Water Is Essential For Recovery From Bloat
I’ve run across the idea from some goat owners that because goats are animals, they don’t have access to fresh or clean water. Indeed, goats in the wild don’t always have access to freshwater, but they also have a higher mortality rate.
Make sure that your goats always have access to fresh, cool, and clean water. Clean water will help them to overcome bloat faster. If they struggle with bloat in the summer, the cool water will encourage them to drink more.
Water helps with the bodily functions of many things and can significantly impede health if it’s not clean.
Signs of Goat Bloat
Goats experiencing bloat will have their stomachs protruding. Often bloat occurs on the goat’s left side, but it can also impact both sides of the stomach. When it affects both sides, it’s less uncomfortable.
Bloat fills the digestive tract with excess gas. Your goat’s skin will be taunt. If you flick it, it should be tight like a drum. That’s bloat. If the stomach is soft, your goat isn’t bloated. Many breeds of goat, like Boer goats, look bloated when they aren’t.
There are many signs of goat bloat, including:
- Protruding stomach
- Stomach should be taunt
- “Bubble” or protruding stomach makes a hollow sound when flipped
- If you push on the stomach, it pushes back
- Goats can become lethargic
- They may lay down but then stand up again to relieve the discomfort
- Eating reduces (My goats eat all day but stopped eating the morning they got bloated)
- Nipping or biting at the left side of their stomach
- Kicking at their stomach
- May be breathing unusually
Goat bloat can cause death if left untreated. Although sometimes it does resolve itself if it’s minor. It’s always best to treat goat bloat and keep your goats safe. Once goats stop eating, consider it an emergency. Goats will go downhill fast when they stop eating.
Baby Goat Bloat Causes and Concerns
Baby goats can get bloated, and often it’s even more critical and acute than adult bloat. Their little bodies have a more challenging time dealing with bloat and can go downhill quickly. While adult goats can die from severe bloat within 24 hours, babies can die even faster.
There are several common causes of baby goat bloat.
1. Entero Is the Number 1 Cause of Baby Goat Bloat
Entero, also called Overeating Disease, is a bacteria that can kill baby goats. It causes bloating and a lot of stomach pain. Baby goats will often cry from pain and try kicking their stomachs. Entero is the most common cause of baby goat bloat.
It can usually be prevented through a CD&T vaccination. But, occasionally, even a vaccinated baby goat will get it. This usually happens if the vaccine is compromised by age or heat. Most goat raisers give pregnant does CD&T a few weeks before they kid, so the baby has some immunity, and then give the baby a vaccine within a few weeks of birth.
A baby goat with Entero needs to be given an antigas medicine and an antitoxin. Antigas treatments include GasX and Peptol Bismal. There may be others in your area that work well also.
The CD&D Antitoxin is usually available at farm stores. It’s labeled as Clostridium Perfingens antitoxin. It doesn’t need a prescription to purchase. To find out more about the bacteria that causes Entero, check out Tetanus and Overeating Disease in Goats: Prevention and Treatment.
2. Bottle Fed Babies Bloat Easier
Bottle-fed baby goats get bloated a lot easier than other kids. Even when you feed them a goat milk mix, they are likely to get bloated more often. If you are going to bottle feed your goats, the ideal solution would be to use milk from the mama.
But, that isn’t always possible. Goat milk replacer is available, but it still can cause bloat. When we had an issue with a baby that still needed some milk at seven weeks, we supplemented it with cow’s milk.
Whole cow’s milk (not the replacer) seems to work very well to replace goat milk. Our baby was a Boer goat, so cows’ milk also provided a higher fat content that closely resembled his mama’s milk. If you have a bottle baby, make sure that he has access to baking soda and watch for bloat after feedings.
3. Transition to Grains and Hay
Baby goats can bloat when they are transitioning to hay or grain. That’s because their diet is changing, and the flora in their gut needs to adjust. Transition kids to grains and hay slowly. Allow them to try it and much on it while nursing.
Don’t wean kids and start them on hay right away. Make the transition over a month. Allow kids access to baking soda to help reduce bloat.
Preventing Goat Bloat
Although I have successfully treated or helped to treat goat bloat many times, it is best to prevent it. Not only is it uncomfortable for the goat, but it’s also dangerous.
You can mainly prevent goat bloat by making sure that all food changes occur slowly. When you purchase or harvest new hay, mix with the existing hay for 2-3 weeks so their guts can adjust. Start with 25% fresh hay and add 25% each week until you have 75% new hay. At that point, you can keep the mixture going until you are out of older hay.
If you are moving a goat onto grains, do so slowly and give its gut time to adjust. Grains are more challenging because they are so rich in calories and nutrients that they often cause bloat. Alfalfa hay can also be a primary contributor to bloat. Other bushes and leaves can sometimes cause it.
So, it’s also essential to always give your goats free choice baking soda to help prevent future bloat issues.
Goat bloat is scary and can be dangerous. But, it’s also usually treatable and preventable. If you take a few simple steps, you can keep your goats healthy and bloat-free most of the time. FOr more information on goats and their nutritional needs, check out Why is my goat eating dirt? Treating pica in goats.