April 14th, 2023

Treating Pet Sheep and Goats

If you watched ‘Treating the Large Animal emergency’ a few weeks ago you will pleased to know this follow up webinar directing its focus towards pet sheep and goats has proved itself to be equally as useful. Dr Gayle Hallowell once again led this engaging webinar and delivered a mass of information citing a variety of cases along the way.

Having dealt with hobby goat/ sheep owners in my first mixed practice job, I could empathise with Dr Hallowell when she advised that an owner’s knowledge of sheep and goat husbandry can be somewhat skewed. Some owners assume that as they have a small number of sheep or goats there is no need to implement vaccination or endoparasite control. She also expressed concern that some goat owners only provide pasture for goats to graze off yet they are not primary grazers and would much rather consume food from hedgerows. She even cited an incident where one owner had been feeding her obese pet goat a diet of bread and ginger biscuits, which perhaps emphasizes the importance of getting a good history from clients and ensuring they are well educated in goat and sheep husbandry.

Throughout this webinar my memory was jogged with many goat and sheep diseases I had long forgotten about since my mixed practice days, one of which included urolithiasis  which, according to Dr Hallowell, is one of the most common conditions she encounters in goats. Urolithiasis develops secondary to feeding an inappropriate diet, and patients will present with straining and bleating. Dr Hallowell explained how she would pass an orogastric tube initially, because often they will be suffering from concurrent mild bloat due to stress. Analgesia and cystocentesis will then be performed followed by a pudendal nerve block or caudal epidural which allows for the remove of the pizzle where the obstruction is sited.

This approach is fine in outdoor pets where urinary incontinence secondary to removing the pizzle won’t be a problem but will be an issue in housetrained goats. In this situation a perineal urethrosotmy is the only option, but unfortunately this surgery is often unsuccessful. Stone analysis from these cases will often come back as a mix of calcium and phosphorus and their diet needs to be managed to ensure there is no recurrence. It is advisable to feed a diet lower in calcium by avoiding food such as Alfa-A, root vegetables and clover and to Increase water intake by using salt licks. However Dr Hallowell warns that goats can become addicted to salt licks and the amount provided should be restricted. Water intake can also be encouraged by sweetening the water by adding liquid such as molasses and fruit juice.

The use of sedatives and anaesthesia to aid with diagnostics and treatment were also discussed. Dr Hallowell advised there are no licensed products for sedation or anaesthesia in small ruminants and alpha 2 agonists are contra-indicated as they have been known to cause pulmonary oedema and sudden death. Diazepam was cited as the sedative of choice providing 20-30 minutes of sedation at a dose of 0.05-0.1 mg/kg. Ketamine was cited as the drug of choice for anaesthesia providing 10-15 minutes of anaesthesia at a dose of 5mg/kg IV.

As small animal vets, treating sheep and goats will be a long way out of our comfort zone but  we may be asked to do this at some point by one of our clients. This veterinary webinar organised by ‘The Webinar Vet’ is the refresher needed by vets who don’t encounter these species often, and provides an information packed overview in an interesting and case loaded format.

Treating Pet Sheep and Goats

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