Sandy Lane Dairy Goats

Raising Quality ADGA Registered LaManchas, Oberhasli and Saanens

Our Experience with Polio


    In late April of '06, kidding season was going great.  The kids were growing nicely, everybody was having nice healthy babies, and we were not having many problems.
    Until one day a Boer buckling named Fred, had started to limp very badly.  We at first though he had fell out of a tree, because in the forest where they are pastured, there are a lot of fallen trees that they play on.  We gave him a remedy for sprains, but he continued to get worse.  By the next morning, he could not stand very well, if he could at all.  When we would try and catch him, he would slip away to the left(Note: this was an important sign for later diagnosis).  By the third day, he could only lay flat on his belly with his front and back legs outstretched.  He was star-gazing, starry eyed, grinding his teeth (a sign of pain), and apparently blind.
    We took him to the vet.  Like most vets, she had not dealt with goats, but she tried because she is a friend of ours.  She suspected tetanus, but she was not exactly sure.  She gave him a whole bottle of injectable Vitamin C IM.  When he was brought home, he did seem a little better for a while.  Then by afternoon he started going downhill.  He would cry out in pain, it was very hard for him to stand, and he stood rigid with his front and back legs outstretched.  If you did not hold him, he would spin around on the floor laying on his side.  He would also hold his head really far back, so far back he was touching his back.  After reading through several goat books, we discovered he had Polioencephalomalacia, a.k.a. Goat Polio.  He had exact symptoms.  We ran to the vet to get injectable thiamin, the treatment for polio.  We gave him a dose, but it was to late.  We had diagnosed him to late, so treatment had no effect on him.  We made the hard decision to put him down.
    A couple months later, we had a goat that started to lose weight, she could not gain it back either.  After a week, she was grinding her teeth and walking funny.  We could not figure out what it was.  We thought lactation tetany or maybe a worm overload, but treatment for that had no effect.  She passed away after about a day.
    Our third case was with a bottle baby, our first bottle baby to be exact.  Daisy had quit eating grain, she would walk into things, grind her teeth, but she still was drinking milk.  We kept giving her remedies for feeling down but nothing was working.
    Then on the fourth day, my brother was away for the day and my mom and I decided to take her to the vet.  We took her to a different vet, not the first one we took Fred to.  The vet had experience with goats and immediately diagnosed her with encephalitis, one of the symptoms of polio. He gave her the first shot of thiamin IV, as well as a shot of anti-biotic because she had a little pneumonia(we later realized that was not really necessary) By the time she got home she had significant improvements.  She could stand a little more steadily and walk a little better.
    For the rest of the afternoon I made her sleep in my lap on a couch downstairs.  It was the first time she had slept I think since she got sick.  I noticed before we took her to the vet when she was outside with the other goats, she was never laying down, maybe because she could not. I do not know.  Anyway, when she woke up, I would let her walk around a little, she was starting to walk around like a stumbling drunk, which was better than not walking at all.  She was still apparently blind.  We continued with thiamin treatment for a day or so more.  By the end of the treatments she was able to walk fine. She was still blind though.
    We called the homeopathic vet and we told him her symptoms to see if he could prescribe a remedy to cure her blindness.  He prescribed Arsenicum because she like to drink her milk really hot, which fit the remedy profile perfectly.(Note: This remedy may have worked for Daisy, but it might not work for you. All goats are different. I will explain that in a different article) It took about a month for Daisy to get her sight back.  She is now a happy healthy doe, her vision maybe impaired though, but she is not blind.
Our biggest question was, "Why were David's(my brother) meat goats getting polio and not ours??(my mother and myself)  We could not figure it out.  We later read the sulfur increases the production of thiaminase in the rumen, and thiaminase decreases the production of thiamin in the rumen, causing deficiency.  My brother was feeding sulfur to help prevent lice and mites, we were not.  After he stopped feeding sulfur to his goats, we had no more problems.  Other causes of polio are sudden changes in feed, the feeding of moldy concentrates, the dietary stress of weaning, sudden changes in weather, the over-feeding of molasses products(molasses is high in sulfur) and the overdosing of amproluim wormers.
    I would like to say though that cocci medications(which are sulfa drugs) will stop the production of thiamin in the rumen.  Cocci thrive on thiamin and the sulfa drugs deplete the rumen of thiamin just long enough to kill of the cocci.  I recommend that one week after treatment is finished, that the goat should be started on thiamin shots for a couple days.
    Here is the treatment of Polioencephalomalacia taken from the book Raising Meat Goats for Profit:
"The only effective treatment is thiamine injections.  If the disease is caught early enough, complete recovery can be expected.  B complex vitamins contain thiamin, and can be used if thiamin is not available.  If you suspect this disease, involve your veterinarian immediately.  If the veterinarian is not available, you can try giving the goat a vitamin B complex injection in the muscle.(IM)  Then find your vet.  Only very prompt treatment will save your goat."
    Here is the dosing for thiamin taken from the book Meat Goats: Their History, Management, and Diseases:
"The diagnosis of Polioencephalomalacia is most often confirmed by response to thiamin hydrochloride at 10mg per kilogram(4.5 mg per pound) of body weight every 6 hours for 24 hours.  The first dose should be given intravenously(IV) if possible; the remaining injections can be given intramuscularly(IM).  If only multiple B vitamins are available, be certain to dose according to the concentration of thiamin in the mixture."
    We found it is very important to get that first injection of thiamin IV, which we had the vet do for us.  If you are unable to do so, then IM is fine.  Thiamin is available from the vet by prescription only.  When you buy thiamin, buy the stuff that says it has 200 mg per ml(cc) and dose accordingly as above. When giving thiamin, it is the fastest way for the body to absorb it is through IV injections.  The next fastest is giving IM injections, which are usually given in the leg muscle.  Giving it there is much easier than giving in the neck, but you have to be careful not to hit the sciatic nerve, if you hit it, the goat will be paralyzed.  The slowest ways for the body to absorb something is through Sub-Q injections or oral treatment.  It is always helpful to watch someone else(like a vet) give an injection or read detailed instructions on how to give injections.  It is best to leave the vet give IV injections, but Sub-Q and IM injections can usually be given yourself.  It is also a good idea to have epinephrine available in case of Anaphylactic Shock, which is usually associated with most injections.
    Polio is a horrible disease to watch your goats die from, and I hope no one will have to go through what we did.  It is always important that you find and deal with a vet that has experience with goats, and is willing to treat them.