Bloat occurs when excessive amounts of gas collects in the rumen as a result of overeating, a change in feed, or excessive consumption of green or wet grass, or certain kinds of weeds that cause an imbalance in the rumen. It can also occur in babies which are fed milk replacer as opposed to milk.
Commonly, the bloat will present as either a visible swelling in the rumen (on the upper left side of the goat) or as a frothy substance coming from the goat’s mouth. These are known as ‘gassy’ or ‘frothy’ bloat.
A bloated goat will show signs of distress; grunting, drooling, acting restless and ;labored breathing. A goat in an advanced state of bloat may lie down and refuse to get up.
Bloat can be prevented by allowing free access to baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) at all times, so that they may self-regulate, by making any feed changes gradually and, if turning out into a new or lush pasture, by filling them up on hay first, so that they do not overeat. Check the eating area for poisonous vegetation and increase the pasturing time gradually.
Treatment must be immediate. A veterinarian will be able to take the necessary measures to alleviate the problem. The usual procedure is to pass a cath tube (Save a Kid Syringe) down the throat into the rumen. This will bring immediate relief if the problem is just gas. If the problem is frothy bloat it will be necessary to introduce one to one and a half cups of mineral or vegetable oil into the stomach through the tube. In extreme cases, you may have to give as much as 2 cups of dry baking soda and 5 cups of oil. Administer alternately at 1 hr. intervals. Be EXTREMELY cautious when syringing anything into a goat’s mouth as they may aspirate and draw it into their lungs.
Walk the goat and massage the sides, especially the left side, until the gas is released. If a bloated goat lays down for too long, it may put excessive pressure on the heart and lungs and cause organ failure.
A veterinarian may also make an incision directly into the rumen to relieve gas. A confident goat-keeper may be able to do this themselves in the absence of a vet in an emergency situation, but we always recommend calling a vet if possible in these circumstances.
Bloat is a serious health risk and death can occur quickly so don’t wait to call for help.