How to Know if a Goat Is Sick

Goat poking head through gate on farm
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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. Also check out our list of goat diseases so that you can match your goat's symptoms to a possible cause - and treatment.

Signs of Stress in New Goats

When you first buy your goats and bring them home, they may be stressed from the transport. And stress is also a sign that something may be off in your goat care: perhaps not enough, or the wrong kind, of food, or insufficient water intake, or maybe one goat is being bullied by its more aggressive herdmates.

Whatever the root cause of the stress, the signs of illness below can also be the symptoms and signs of stress in goats.

At their worst in a newly transported goat, these can develop into shipping fever - characterized by pneumonia, diarrhea, a fever over 103.5 degrees F, nasal discharge, coughing, or rapid breathing. If you suspect shipping fever, contact a vet immediately.

Signs of Illness in Goats

  • Weakness. Your goat might not walk normally, or won't be her usual playful self. Her head and ears may droop. Not getting up at all would be the most extreme sign of weakness.
  • Not eating or drinking as usual. If your goat isn't drinking or eating normally, something may be wrong.
  • Pressing head against wall or fence.
  • Not urinating, or difficulty urinating.
  • Feces aren't normal. Goats usually have pelleted feces. If your goat's feces is runny or loose, this indicates diarrhea.
  • Pale or gray eyelids and/or gums. Healthy goats have nice pink eyelids and gums.
  • Hot udder. This can indicate an abscess or infection of the udder.
  • Limping or staggering.
  • Runny nose and/or eyes.
  • Coughing, funny breathing, or unusual crying.
  • Isolation. If your goat isolates himself from the rest of the herd, something may be wrong.
  • Ears held strangely.