Joint pain in goats can occur for a variety of reasons, such as injury, the normal wear and tear of old age (osteoarthritis) or a viral infection like CAE (Caprine arthritis encephalitis) or Chlamydial arthritis. Each cause will require its own type of treatment, but all can use the same types of medication for pain relief.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are usually effective for pain relief. The human formula of aspirin is typically the first drug that vets recommend. Goats have the ability to metabolize medication rapidly, so you can give the aspirin more frequently than the label advises or use a time-release formula. Goats typically need about twice the human dosage of regular-strength aspirin to feel relief. If aspirin doesn’t work, you can try ibuprofen or naproxen with advice from your vet. Ibuprofen and naproxen are stronger NSAIDs and should be used with caution. All NSAIDs can cause kidney and liver damage, gastric ulceration and bleeding of the stomach lining.
There are several prescription drugs available to help manage your goat’s join pain. Banamine is an NSAID given by injection, originally approved for cattle but also useful for goats. Phenylbutazone is an NSAID that comes in tablet form. It is most commonly used for horses, but works on goats as well. Both medications block prostaglandins to decrease inflammation. Banamine and phenylbutazone can cause permanent kidney and liver damage, stomach ulcers and death. Dexamethasone is another drug available through your vet. It is used in chemotherapy, but is classified as a glucocorticosteroid. The steroidal properties reduce inflammation and relieve pain. Dexamethasone is available as a pill, I.V., eye drop or lotion. Side effects include insomnia, muscle weakness, impaired wound healing and irritability.
Herbs and Supplements
Several herbs and supplements can be beneficial for pain relief. Glucoasmine and chondroitin assist in rebuilding cartilage and can ease stiffness. Comfrey can be applied as a poultice directly to the swollen joint or taken internally to ease pain and reduce inflammation. Feverfew and yucca root both have anti-inflammatory properties that provide joint pain relief. When ill or in pain, goats naturally seek out boswellia leaves if they are available. Boswellia is an anti-inflammatory herb. Bromelain, an enzyme found in pineapples that reduces inflammation, is also available as a capsule.
Most herbs and supplements have few side effects. The most common is gastrointestinal upset that typically resolves within a few days of treatment. You might have difficulty finding herbs formulated specifically for goats, but human formulas are an acceptable substitute. You will need to calculate the dosage for your goat from the human dosage. Most medication dosages are calculated on the assumption that the human weighs 150 pounds. To find your goat’s dosage, divide 150 by the goat’s weight to find the percentage of the human dosage to administer.