I am getting quite a few hits on my Blog from people using the above terms. Since I have had several goats with this over the last three years I thought I would share my experiences. I will say right now that I AM NOT A VET so anything I say here must be taken as the experience of a layman. If you wish to do as I have done then you should consult your vet first. If your vet knows little or nothing about goats then he/she should talk to the Goat Veterinary Society for guidance. They are always up to speed on what is acceptable usage of drugs in goats.
Can I ask, that if anyone does use the regime I recommend here they let me know the result? The more we can share experiences the better for the welfare of all our animals.
In my experience here, Listeriosis in the goat is dramatic and usually fatal. I have found it extremely hard to save adults but easier to save kids. Both CAN can be saved but the method which works here is time consuming and expensive so this won’t be for every situation. It also depends on how quickly you realise what is going on. You have very little time to decide; it is such a quick process. It can be as little as 6 hours from first symptom to death so if you suspect Listeriosis then don’t say “I’ll see how she is in the morning!” If you have valuable stock or a treasured pet then its worth trying to save them. If you have an old lady near the end of her useful life then it would be kinder to the animal to have it put down swiftly. They can and do suffer a great deal of pain in this condition and the drug regime itself is not pleasant.
While mentioning putting down or euthanasing goats, can I put in a plea that owners ask their vets to use Somulose? This is the drug normally used to destroy horses. Goats respond instantly to Somulose meaning a peaceful, swift and pain free end. In my bitter experience, the other chemicals usually used by farm vets for sheep etc have limited effect on goats and mean the poor beasts can take many painful minutes to die. Please ask your vet to use Somulose. It will cost you a pound or two more as the drug is expensive, but the lack of suffering is more than enough compensation. A bullet between the horns from the local kennel man would be even better as there is of course no injection.
I must make it clear that I’m talking here about the Listeriosis which manifests as brain disease. The other typical scenario presents as abortion. I have never had that here fortunately. Septicaemia (blood poisoning) CAN occur with both main presentations .
Remember that Listeria can cause disease in humans so if you suspect it then for goodness sake, take precautions. Wear gloves and wash your hands etc.
What causes it?
Listeria Monocytogenes is the bacterium. It lives pretty much everywhere you find soil. Commonly it is picked up by the goat eating haylage or silage which was made in less than ideal conditions and contaminated by mud while it was being baled. Hay, being dry, is not such a risk. Wrapped bales of haylage or silage are a danger and if possible, goats should not be fed pickled grass at all. However, most bigger farmers like myself have no choice and we must therefore be vigilant.
It is not the only cause. I had one adult die as a result of grazing around freshly disturbed ground. The badgers had been turning over turf looking for earthworms. No silage was involved.
The incubation period for Listeria infection is about 2 weeks – a very long time. So any suspicious signs should immediately make you think back to where your animals were and what they were eating a couple of weeks before. If they have been inside eating nothing but good dry hay for the last six weeks then Listeria is still possible but not perhaps top of the list of suspects!!
What are the symptoms?
These vary a little depending on the age of your goat.All symptoms are the result of brain damage and inflammation generally on one side. The opposite side of the animal will be affected. In my cashmere flock here, this is what I have seen:
Inability to open the mouth and chew – grass etc remains in the mouth and is hard to remove!!
Lop sided/drooping ear on the affected side
Any of these symptoms in a kid here will set warning bells ringing in me.
If you miss these signs it progresses very quickly to head tilt where the head turns to one side back along the flank, and recumbancy, where the animals lies down and can’t get up.
Symptoms in the adult
I have not observed drooling or lop sided ears in the adult. The earliest symptom here seems to be the inability to walk a straight line. Walking behind your flock when moving them from a to b you should always check carefully anyone walking persistently to one side. Their heads are going forward but their legs are taking them sideways! At this early stage you may also note other animals bullying the sick one. It’s nature’s cruel way of driving away sick animals which might attract predators to the flock. Anyone being bullied should be watched carefully for a while after you have separated it out. Goats sense illness before symptoms might be visible.
If you miss this, the next stage seems to be head tilt. Full circling, where the goat turns round and round, only happens here if the goats are stressed. I don’t see it very often. Only one of mine has shown this as a major symptom in a stressless situation.
The final stage is lying down, head completely tilted and paddling or thrashing about. At this point the goat is nearly gone and may be crying from pain. Not a pretty sight and you should call for swift help to end the animal’s suffering. Only once have I saved an animal at this point and he was still able to get up – just! If your animal cannot stand then put it down. It’s kindest in the end.
I say again that this is MY method, worked out with the blessing of my vet. You MUST consult your own vet before doing anything to your own animals.
Antibiotics are essential but you must use one which crosses the blood/brain barrier and gets right into the Central Nervous System quickly. You must also use much higher doses than normal for very much longer.
Here we use Duphapen, a penicillin antibiotic. For kids I use 5ml twice a day. For adults I use 5ml every six hours but with a first dose of 10ml. These doses are massive. In the adults it is absolutely essential to inject everty six hours in order to keep the level of the drug constantly high in the bloodstream. Any slight drop and the goat will quickly go down hill. I learned that the hard way having spent 2 days on the 6 hour routine I dropped to 3x a day. The goat went down hill again and I reintroduced the 4 th dose to good effect.
For kids I find 3 or 4 days is usually enough and then I go down to once a day and continue to day 10 at least. They seem to respond much more quickly than adults.
For adults it can be 4 days on every 6 hours, 3 days on 3times a day, a week on twice a day and then a 3rd week on once a day. It is a very long and difficult job. I often run out of places to inject, the goat becomes so bruised. It is NOT something to undertake lightly since in some ways the cure is worse than allowing nature to take its course.
Alongside all this we dose with a painkilling anti-inflammatory (usually Metacam) and of course, we have to stomach tube with fluid and electrolytes for those goats which cannot manage to drink.
This has been a very long post but I hope it might help a few to manage this awful disease. I cannot stress too much that I AM NOT A VET. You must seek advice from your own vet before doing anything.
Finally, here is a photo of my poorly buck from spring this year. He survived Listeriosis and is about to go in with his females to breed. He’s a little smaller because of his illness but is raring to go!! Under stress he will still circle a little so clearly has a small amount of remaining brain damage, but he’s otherwisew very fit and well. Here is another link to a video of him two weeks into his antibiotics treatment. This is the first day he was able to eat. He and I were so pleased! The background noise is a hen laying an egg!!