This post is incredibly hard for me to write, but I feel like if I learned anything from this experience, it's that ignorance is most definitely not bliss. My only wish is to share the information I have learned over the past 72 hours with you in hopes that it might save a goat's life.
When I picked Rosemary up, she had a small case of diarrhea, nothing I worried too much about, because A) she was a baby, B) she was undergoing a lot of stress with the move, and C) she was on milk replacer. I remember my mother-in-law pointing it out, and me brushing it off saying, "oh she's fine, nothing to worry about."
She continued to have diarrhea for the next week or so, and I started to become concerned. I did a little research on the internet and found a few articles talking about milk replacer being the cause of most diarrhea. I also read the word "Coccidiosis" a few times, but didn't think anything of it, because the telltale sign of the horrible parasite was a bloody loose stool. Since Rosemary's stools weren't bloody, I didn't consider her a candidate of Coccidiosis.
We cut her milk back, switched all of the goats from powdered milk to Vitamin D milk, and treated her with antibiotics.
I left for Sonoma for a few days and when I got home, she had gotten considerably worse. I knew something wasn't right. I treated her with another antibiotic, and went to the local feed store to ask them a few questions about her condition. The answer I got was 'overfeeding'.
I didn't understand how this could be, so I called the vet, and made an appointment for the following day. I was nervous Rosemary wasn't going to make it through the night, so I brought her and her brothers inside for the night to sleep out of the elements. I was relieved the next morning when I found her alive.
She ate a little bit, and it was soon time to take her to the vet. When we got there, I explained her symptoms, and the vet immediately tested for Coccidia in her stool. BINGO! He found it, and gave me a giant bag of pills - in a very official prescription zip-lock bag with instructions Sharpied on. I started her treatment and was very hopeful that she would pull through. She made it through the first night, but when I came out to check on her in the morning, she was crying in pain and the blanket in her kennel was soaked with blood.
The next few hours passed so slowly as I waited for the vet's office to open. Right as the clock struck 9, I called to find out what I should do. The vet told me I could bring her in to be put on an IV to replace the loss of fluids, which would help her recover. So we got her in, and on an IV. She made it through the first night, and the vet was very hopeful for her.
I made the decision to leave her one more night just to be sure, but around 5 o'clock, I received the phone call that she had passed away.
I know it sounds ridiculous, because people eat goat for crying out loud, but I loved her, and she was my pet, and a part of our family. My heart broke, but the vet's office had done all they could for her.
I feel incredible guilt for treating her with antibiotics without getting her stools tested. This could have been treated days earlier had I done so, and she just might be alive. But you know what they say, hindsight is 20-20, and I did everything I could do to try and save her. It still doesn't take the sting away, but it helps knowing she is no longer in pain.
The point of this post; however, is to inform anyone who is getting goats for the first time about this horrible parasite. Please learn from my ignorance!
Coccidia is a parasite found in all goats. Some say goats only die of it due to poor conditions, but I believe that is a myth. Coccidia levels are generally manageable for goats - they are simply a natural part of their body, but when a goat becomes stressed, or the weather starts to change, the Coccidia can rise to a level that is dangerous to goats. This is when goats die.
After researching Coccidiosis, I found multiple people state that regardless if they see symptoms or not, they treat kid goats at exactly 21 days of age, and again 21 days later, sometimes even a third time. That's how bad this nasty bug is. Kid goats simply don't have the immune system to fight off even normal levels of the parasite.
Why 21 days? Well, the eggs of Coccidia take exactly 21 days to hatch, so even if you treated your kid earlier than that, it wouldn't do any good. You want to tackle this sucker right when it hatches, before it has a chance to start eating away at the kid's intestines (which is what causes the blood). Bloody diarrhea is usually the telltale sign for Coccidia, but by that time, it is generally too late to save the goat (ex: Rosemary). However, a goat can have Coccidiosis and not have diarrhea, the only way to truly know is to have their stools tested.
Oh, but wait, it gets even worse. This parasite doesn't die when it leaves the body, it stays on the ground and can live for up to 21 days. I have read a few pieces stating up to 6 months, but the parasite can only survive in a host. If it hatches after the 21 day cycle, and doesn't find a host, it will die. What does that mean for the rest of the herd? It means that this parasite is the equivalent of Parvo for dogs. It is incredibly contagious, and any goats who have been around another goat with the parasite are very likely to also contract it.
Dogs can also contract Coccidiosis, but it is a different species of the parasite. Dogs and goats do not have the same kind of Coccidia, so there's no need to worry about any of your other pets contracting it if your goats have it.
I spent all of yesterday bleaching our entire porch, walkways, the goat's pen, and our house (because the goats have broken all rules, and have yes, been in the house). This was a huge pain in the butt, but it is very necessary to eliminate the Coccidia eggs. We also have moved the other goats to a new (untouched) temporary location for 21 days until it is safe for them to go back to their original pen. The first thing you should do when you find one of your goats or kids with Coccidiosis is separate, the begin to treat!
This stuff is B-A-D bad. The worst part about this is that there's really no way to completely eliminate the parasite from your herd, because it's simply a natural part of being a goat - they all have it in them! The best way to stop an outbreak of high levels (read: death) is prevention.
Have Corrid powder on hand - JUST DO IT! Don't wait until it's too late. Click the link right here and order some if you don't already have it on hand.
The powder is great for prevention, but it will not treat an outbreak once it's happened. If you do notice a goat with the runs, I urge you to have their stools tested. Don't simply wait it out - it could be the difference between life or death.
If your goat(s) do in fact have an outbreak of Coccidia, you need to get them on Sulfadimethoxine. Give this to them for at least 10 days. 5 days is not long enough! The side effects of this medication are very slim, and giving it to them longer will only help their case. I would also encourage you to add a gram of probiotics to their feed to help balance out their finicky gut (who knew goats' guts were so intolerant!?). If in doubt - call your vet, they will be happy to help!
I am usually a hypochondriac, constantly worried that my chickens have mites, or my cats have fleas, and in this case I thought I was overreacting about Rosemary's condition. I didn't possibly think that any goat of mine would die from Coccidia, but guess what? She did. And it's absolutely devastating to me.
I have had to pay for my education on this subject, and in this case it was the life of an innocent animal. If anything, I hope that you will learn from my mistakes, and take preventative measures to protect your goats from Coccidiosis.
PS - NEVER feed a baby goat milk replacer powder. Instead, opt for canned goat's milk, or Vitamin D cow's milk (so much easier too!). The majority of powdered milk replacer contain soy, which cannot be digested by kid goats.
I am so thankful to everyone who has reached out to me with condolences about Rosemary. It can feel silly since she was a goat, but she was very much a part of our little family, and was my very first goat. I will miss her so much, but I am thankful she is no longer in any pain. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all of your thoughts and kind words.
More about Coccidiosis:
Many thanks to Carrie Richards Photography for the photos!