Scours is a form of diarrhea that occurs in ungulates such as goats. Diarrhea occurs in many species, but in goat kids, it is especially dangerous. Baby goats are more susceptible than adults. Scours can lead to death quickly.
Neonatal Diarrhea Complex
Baby goats younger than a month old are most susceptible to scours. Their scours consists of watery or pasty diarrhea that cakes the backside. Dark diarrhea runs from under the tail and down the legs. Rather than have one cause, there may be several causes, any one of which can cause scours. These causes include extreme weather conditions during kidding; early weaning; crowded conditions; dirty environment; bacterial infections such as E. coli, Clostridium, Campylobacter or salmonella; parasitic infestations such as cryptosporidia, coccidia, Giardia or worms; or a virus. The kid will become weaker and dehydrated as he loses electrolytes and body fluids. A dangerously dehydrated kid will lie on his side, will show signs of severe dehydration such as sticky gums and lack of skin elasticity, and will be unwilling to drink; his legs will be cool to the touch. You will need to seek immediate veterinary attention. If untreated, the kid will go into shock and die.
Goat kids are most susceptible to coccidiosis between the ages of 1 month and 4 months. Coccidia, a protozoan parasite, causes coccidiosis. Coccidiosis often manifests itself as scours. The diarrhea may or may not bloody, it may contain mucus, and it will be watery. Other symptoms include fever, decreased appetite, weakness, dehydration, straining to defecate, anemia, pale gums and eyelids, and weight loss. Occasionally, a kid will suffer rectal prolapse. Coccidia is so dangerous that a kid can die within a couple days or less. As always, you should seek immediate veterinary attention.
Overeating disease or enterotoxemia is caused by two types of bacteria, Clostridium perfringens types C and D. The bacteria produce a toxin when a goat consumes a large amount of milk or grain, thus slowing down the intestinal tract and providing a suitable environment for the bacteria to proliferate. Often, there are no symptoms; an apparently healthy kid is just found dead. Occasionally, you'll see scours; when you do, they're usually bloody. Vaccinating against Clostridium perfringens C/D will help prevent it. If your kid starts scouring, you need to take him to the vet immediately in case he has overeating disease.
Too much grain in the kid's diet can cause rumen acidosis. By overfeeding grain, you cause the kid's rumen wall to inflame due to the amount of acid and a reduction in fiber digesting bacteria. Your baby goat may stop eating, may bloat, may scour, may act depressed; in severe cases, the goat may die. Consult with the veterinary nutritionist on preventing this disease. If you suspect the kid has rumen acidosis, seek immediate veterinary attention.
- Aces.edu; Coccidiosis Goats and Prevention
- University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources; Raising Dairy Goat Kids
- Sheepandgoat.com; Small Ruminant Info Sheet: Diarrhea (Scours) in Small Ruminants
- NC State University, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, NC State University, A&T State University, Cooperative Extension; Coccidiosis, the Most Common Cause of Diarrhea in Young Goats
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