If you’re new to raising goats, you might wonder how you will know if one of your goats is sick. While some signs of illness are self-explanatory, here’s a handy checklist for “what a healthy goat looks like” so that when things are off, you can be on top of the situation. Knowing common goat diseases can help match your goat’s symptoms to a possible cause and treatment.
When you first buy your goats and bring them home, they may be stressed from the transport. Stress is also a sign that something may be off in your goat care: perhaps not enough food (or the wrong kind), insufficient water intake, or maybe one goat is being bullied by its more aggressive herd mates.
At their worst in a newly transported goat, these can develop into shipping fever.2 This is characterized by pneumonia, diarrhea, a fever reaching 105 degrees F, nasal discharge, coughing, or rapid breathing.
If you see these signs, call your veterinarian for advice on whether a visit is warranted or how to monitor the goat further:
Weakness or lethargy: Your goat might not walk normally, or won’t be its usual playful self. Its head and ears may droop.4 Not getting up at all would be the most extreme sign of weakness.
Limping or staggering
Not eating or drinking as usual, or showing little interest in food or water
Sore mouth, blisters in the mouth and nose: This is a sign of orf, a contagious viral infection that can be passed to humans.
Pressing head against wall or fence
Ears held strangely
Not urinating, or difficulty urinating: This can be due to dehydration, urinary tract infection, or a urinary tract stone.8
Feces aren’t normal: Goats usually have pelleted feces. If your goat’s feces is runny or loose, this indicates diarrhea.8
Pale or gray eyelids and/or gums:5 Healthy goats have nice pink eyelids and gums.
Hot udder: This can indicate an abscess or infection of the udder.
Runny nose and/or eyes
Coughing, funny breathing
Unusual crying: A healthy goat will not make much noise other than an occasional bleat, although Nubians are known for moaning noises. When you are used to the noises your goat makes, anything out of the ordinary should be noted.
Isolation: Goats are herd animals and will normally want to be with the herd. If your goat isolates itself from the rest of the herd, something may be wrong.
The most serious signs that indicate an emergency are:
Swollen or bloated midsection, often accompanied by moaning
Lying down for several hours without moving
Isolation from the herd for a long period of time
Disease-Free Certifications for Goats