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Diagnosed Tetanus In Goat

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Diagnosed Tetanus In Goat

Postby Heinrich » Mon Mar 13, 2017 11:52 pm

A friend brought goats to my farmette, and they were not vaccinated.  About 3 weeks ago, I noticed the oldest(a little over a year) was off in her back left leg.  I told my friend, who didn't seem concerned and thought she had hurt herself.  She got progressively worse until she was lying down, and as of two weeks ago could no longer even prop herself up.  I called the vet immediately once she was down, and he came out, diagnosed tetanus, gave her antitoxin and started her on Naxcel, 1ml twice per day.  She was also on banamine.  She did respond to treatment by loosening of her muscles, so we stayed the course.  Last week I administered another dose of antitoxin and continued the antibiotic as directed; the banamine was discontinued at this point.  She was still recumbant, but seemed to be improving.  On Thursday, I called the vet for another dose of antitoxin and more antibiotic, and requested muscle relaxants.  He gave me the muscle relaxant, but told me to stop the antibiotic and not to give anymore antitoxin.  With grave misgivings, I did as he requested, knowing all my research had pointed to continued antibiotics and antitoxin.  Friday, she was back to having her neck bent until her horns touched her back and her third eyelid was showing again.  Today, Saturday, I went to Tractor Supply and bought penicillin and another dose of antitoxin.  I have also been giving her a potent mixture of Vitamin C/B12 orally.  I prop her up on pillows so she is not lying flat on her side, and lay pillows under her head to help her maintain her airway.  She is in a quiet stall, away from the other one(who has since had a tetanus immunization).  For the first few weeks, I noticed she would stiffen her legs when I moved her or when she would hear a loud noise.  She has stopped doing this, but her neck remains arched backward.  She is capable of moving her head and neck downwards and has never stopped eating.  I give her water by syringe, and she drinks voraciously.  She never seems to have experienced lockjaw, and is not blind, nor have I witnessed any seizure type activity.  We had plans to make a sling to encourage her to use her legs again, until this last setback.

By all I have read, she should have passed on within a day or two of recumbancy.  I am not sure if this means she is fighting the disease and winning, or if she will still pass from it.  I don't want to destroy her at this point as she is fighting so hard.  She honestly doesn't seem to be in any real discomfort.  Her appetite remains unchanged.

Have you ever heard of or experienced a goat who recovered from tetanus?  Am I doing the correct thing by administering pennicillin?  I am not so sure about the vet's judgment since I do not believe he expected the goat to live, and I am not sure he knows what to do with her.  Do you have any thoughts or advice?


This girl and you have been through quite a time.  It is possible  (but difficult) to recover from tetanus. I personally  have not experienced a recovery, Although I did lose a young wether to it one year when he was missed  with the tetanus antitoxin injection as I banded(castrated) the young boys that year. Once he showed symptoms , even with  aggressive treatment I lost him in less than a week. - This article is probably the best one dealing with tetanus in goats and I suggest to share with the vet. It is written by a long time goat owner and gal who does a lot of research - Suzanne Gasparotto:


Clostridium tetani, the causative agent of tetanus, is found widely in both soil and animal feces. When this spore-forming rod is confined to an oxygen-deprived area, such as a deep puncture wound, a potent neurotoxin is released. Because tetanus anti-toxin is not usually effective once the toxin has reached the spinal cord, injecting it immediately is vital if the goat is to have any chance of surviving.

Goats can contract tetanus through puncture wounds, disbudding, fights between bucks, dog bites, castration, tattooing, dehorning, and kidding difficulties(dystocia). The constant rubbing of the neck of a chained or tethered goat can produce skin lesions that result in tetanus. Elastrator bands used for castrating young males can provide an environment for the introduction of tetanus. Many vets recommend against using elastrator bands, instead preferring "open" castration, in which the testicles are removed with a knife and the sac is left open to drain. Tetanus flourishes in areas where oxygen is not plentiful, i.e. anaerobic conditions.

Maintaining a clean environment, particularly in barns where horses are or have been kept, is essential. Horse feces is a well-known repository of tetanus. Tetanus spores accumulate in the soil in vast numbers where livestock is crowded and kept under intensive management conditions.

The incubation period for tetanus can be from a few days to several months,but is usually ten(10) to twenty(20) days. Early symptoms include a rigid gait, mild bloat, and anxiety. Tetanus quickly progresses to the animal's being unable to open its mouth(hence the term "lockjaw"), a rigid extension of the legs(front legs extended forward and together, with back legs extended backwards and together in a rocking horse- like stance),excessive salivation, constipation, inability to stand, neck stiffness with the head pulled hard to one side and accompanying tail and ear rigidity, and seizures. It is not a pretty sight. Once the goat is down and can't get up, death occurs quickly(usually within 36 hours or less).

Diagnosing tetanus can be complicated by the fact that some symptoms resemble those of other diseases. Polioencephalomalacia(goat polio),strychnine poisoning, nutritional muscular dystrophy(white muscle disease), and even laminitis have similar symptoms are certain stages of these diseases.

Treatment involves immediate administration of tetanus anti-toxin, before the wound or infection site is located and cleaned; this is because disturbing the sight while cleaning it can actually result in spreading the toxin. Then flush the wound with hydrogen peroxide as hair, dirt and other debris are removed from it. Penicillin injections for five consecutive days at a rate of 5 cc per 100 pounds body weight will help inhibit the release of more toxin.

Tetanus anti-toxin should be continued every 12 hours for at least two injections and longer if the infection site has not been located or is not easily reachable(i.e., internal infection resulting from kidding difficulties). Keep the goat isolated, quiet, and in darkened surroundings. Milk of Magnesia(15 cc per 60 pounds body weight given orally every 4-6 hours) or an enema may be used to relieve constipation. Electrolytes should be generously given and probably will have to be orally drenched into the goat's mouth, since it is not likely to be able to drink or eat on its own. Intravenous(IV) administration of glucose for nutritional purposes is recommended. For most producers, a vet is needed to do IV treatment. The goat may have to be tube-fed by a person knowledgeable in how to use a gastric tube. This will also relieve some of the bloat that is present with tetanus. Do not give the goat mineral oil, because its throat cannot recognize this substance as something to be swallowed and the mineral oil may be aspirated into the lungs. The goat must be turned from side to side every thirty(30) minutes to one hour to prevent skin ulcerations. Complete recovery in severe cases can take up to several weeks. But recovery is by no means assured. Tetanus is often fatal.

Prevention is easily accomplished by regular vaccination with tetanus toxoid, combined with maintaining clean facilities where the goats live. It is both cost- and time-effective to vaccinate kids with the combination injection for Overeating Disease Types C& D and Tetanus at one month of age and again at two months of age. Vaccinate pregnant does one week before the first doe is expected to kid; this will provide passive immunity to the newborn until it is old enough for its vaccination series to be given. And don't forget to vaccinate all bucks.

When castrating males, give the tetanus anti-toxin injection if the goat is not old enough to have received both toxoid vaccinations. If the goat has already had both toxoid injections, then give a booster of the toxoid vaccine when castrating.

This combination Overeating-Tetanus vaccine is sold under several brand names, two of which are Bar-Vac CD/T and Fermicon CD/T. Annual boosters are necessary for all goats. Do not assume that recently-purchased goats, whether they are adults or kids, have been vaccinated. Instead,give them the entire two-injection series one month apart to maximize protection. CD/T toxoid, tetanus toxoid, and tetanus antitoxin injections can be purchased across-the-counter from animal health supply houses such as Register Distributing(www.goatsupplies.com) and Jeffers(1-800-JEFFERS). Tetanus anti-toxin injections are available in single-dose vials. All three types must be kept refrigerated. Watch expiration dates on the bottles. None of these vaccines are expensive.

It is easy to confuse toxoid and anti-toxin. Toxoid is the vaccine used to prevent the disease; it requires weeks to become effective, must be boostered with a second injection after 28 days, and one vaccination per goat must be given annually thereafter. Anti-toxin is the single-injection immediate protection needed when the disease is present. If the goat survives, wait at least five days from the last anti-toxin injection and begin anew the two-shot series of toxoid injections.

Tetanus is everywhere, but it is very preventable. A responsible,knowledgeable goat producer will provide conditions in which it is not likely to flourish and will preventatively vaccinate all animals.   

NOW, all of this being said.. Is it at all possible the vet misdiagnosed her? I believe if this were tetanus she would not have survived this long. If this were my goat, I would be thinking along the lines of Listeriosis, Deerworm(meningeal worm)  or WMD

here is an article on WMD:http://www.sheepandgoat.com/articles/WMD.html

Deer Worm:http://www.sheepandgoat.com/articles/deerworm.html


Read through these and see if possibly she is dealing with one of these as opposed to tetanus.

With tetanus there had to have been some sort of injury or opening for the bacteria to have entered the body, cuts - puncture wounds, bad hoof trimming, castration and disbudding, dog bites. Let me know what you think or what the vet says after  informing him of some of these things. goatlady


I wouldn't not give up unless she wants to give up. :)

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

Well, this AM finds her talkative and more alert than last night, but her neck is still bent straight back.  She didn't want to eat much and I noticed she is holding gas.  I propped her up even further in the hopes of releasing the gas; her stomach seems bloated and sounds filled with air when I tap on it.  I belly rubbed her for a while, even burping her by tapping on her stomach.  I increased the pennicillin to 7mls after reading one of the articles that said the listeriosis can only be treated by higher than normal pennicillin in order to cross the blood/brain barrier(I am a paramedic and that is what I got out of it, hope I am right).  I figure at this point, higher doses cannot hurt her and might help her.  I have the name of an old, old farm vet(literally old, maybe 70 or 80) and he specializes in farm animals specifically.  He has been in practice forever and is the vet used for the cows around here; he also treated my mother-in-law's goat when she got into the azelea bush(yikes) and again when she was attacked by a pit bull.  I am sure whatever Sandy has, he has seen it before and will know right off the bat.  She doesn't seem to fit into ANY of the categories; she isn't drooling, had no facial paralysis, and has maintained quite a good appetite throughout her ordeal.  Yet she had no apparent injuries, although she had some scratches around where her collar had been that were scabbed.  It is truly a goat mystery.

It should be noted that exactly the week she began to get sick, we had a sheep down.  His only injury we saw was some scratches around his neck.  We believed a dog or other predator had gotten him and was spooked before being able to finish the job.  However, on X-Rays we found he had a fractured spine.  Unable to beat such a traumatic injury, we immediately allowed him to go to the sunny pasture in the sky.  We will never know what really happened to him, but can't help but think somehow, some way, it is related to what Sandy is going through.  I have checked her again and again and find nothing to indicate a wound, unless she cut the inside of her mouth on something.  I will keep you posted as to her progress.

Thank you for your help, and I hope that this sad story can be a lesson for your readers----VACCINATE YOUR ANIMALS.  It is so sad to think this whole thing might have been avoided, if it is in fact tetanus, by a simple, inexpensive vaccination.


Ah HA! I was going to ask if she had a possible neck injury, I think I would be having it xray'd - ALSO if it broke the skin, even a little. Thinking possible rabies ????  Talk to the old vet and see what he thinks,  something is missing .. When I can't figure something out I toss all ideas out the window and begin right from the very beginning- again, not ignoring any possibility no matter how "out there" it seems.

Her neck. Straight back. Straight back UP or straight back to the side ?

I have a goat who has a neck deformity from birth that did not adversely affect her until she was a year and a half old,(not thinking yours is from birth- but the nerve damages)   and  I went through  months of her down and unable to walk, her vagus nerve was effected from her spine being at such and angle and falling it finally  pinched her vagus nerve- I'm thinking if there is nerve damage in your goat as well?

My goat(BabyGirl) has her own story(still on geocities and I seriously need to update and move it to my own domain) - it's at the top left menu of my website ..main menu.

But I am wondering if this is not some damage to the nerves due to what ever attacked that day???  Also if you have large predatory birds,(Hawks, eagles) they WiLL Attack see this:http://goat-link.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=22&Itemid=29

to help determine from the injuries if and what  may have done this.

Please DO let me know what  the vet says and how she is doing. I wish I could be more help but this is an odd one to say the least. goatlady


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

You are not going to believe this.  I went out about 15 minutes ago to check on Sandy.  When I opened her stall...she was looking right at me.  Neck as limber as a spaghetti noodle.  She followed me around with her head as I got her grain, even reached down to tug at the front of her coat.  The cat snuck in, and she turned her head to watch him as he prowled around.  She was shaking her ears freely, and at no time did she bury her horns back into her spine.  Usually she is good for about 3 minutes before she needs to put her head back; not once did she do it.  Her whole body looked relaxed, as if she could just hop right on up.  Her eyes were bright and alert.  She cried pathetically when I left her.  I left a nice handful of hay within her reach, topped off with some yummy leaves.  the only thing was I couldn't convince her to drink.  My husband will try to get her to drink later.  I don't know what that old fella did to her, but she was a totally different goat.  I do know he gave her some other kind of shot as well as the tetracycline; I wonder if it was a steroid(I wasn't here for his visit).

After reading Baby Girl's story, I will be in touch with you if she continues to improve for more goat rehab ideas(but she is not sleeping in my bed!!).

I'll keep you updated.  Fingers crossed that she is on the mend!

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Diagnosed Tetanus In Goat

Postby Price » Sat Mar 18, 2017 4:03 am

OH Becky! That is WONDERFUL news! How wonderful. I just cannot believe it - I mean I believe you.. but wow.

I wonder if this vet gave her some dex or banamine? LOL on her sleeping in the bed, My late husband and I have had goats in the bed since we started with them 17 yrs ago. Really no different than having a dog or cat in the bed, except for the  poops left behind, :)

Which is why you always sleep them on a towel.

DO keep me posted and see if you can find out what the old guy gave her. Oh I hope this is over for you both. I will be praying here for her and for you that this is now on it's way out for her and she is back to her  old self very soon. This is wonderful!!!!! goatlady

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