By Dr. Kellye Thompson, Prairie View A&M University Cooperative Extension Program
Knowing Your Limits
When you have livestock, it’s inevitable that, sooner or later, an emergency will occur. Understanding when an emergency is beyond your abilities is essential to the care of your animal. Oftentimes, injuries that may seem very simple in the beginning can quickly become much more serious if not initially treated correctly. Developing a good relationship with your veterinarian is an important part of a complete herd health program. Having a veterinarian to consult with when an emergency occurs can save you both time and money in the treatment of your animals.
So. Assuming you have developed this relationship, and an emergency occurs, what should you do until the doctor gets there? Having the right “tool kit” of knowledge and equipment goes a very long way.
Handing and Restraint
Properly restraining your animals when they are sick or injured both prevents them f rom further injuring themselves and allows for a better evaluation of the situation. With small ruminants, there are several options (depending on your and their sizes.) Stanchions and squeeze chutes are the most ideal way to restrain a standing animal. Using halters and collars are your most basic methods, but gripping the horns or holding the beard (if present) also works in a pinch. For down and panicked animals, sitting on rump or straddling the animal (standing and on the ground) can be carefully done. The main thing to remember is that any form of restraint used should not make the initial problem worse. If the animal is too frightened or painful for restraint, keep it in a small, enclosed area and allow it to calm down.
Knowing how to perform a basic physical exam is something that every livestock producer should learn. Most veterinarians are willing to explain the process during the course of an exam. The chart below shows the normal temperature, pulse, and respiration (TPR) values for goats.
First Thing To Do…
Don’t Panic!!! Often times when faced with an emergency, people's first reaction is to panic, especially if open, bleeding wounds are involved. Panicking only serves to delay the treatment of your animal.
Know Your Goats
Understandably, in a large herd situation, knowing the individual habits of all your animals is impossible. But in small herd situations, it is important to pay attention to the normal behavior of the animals. Some of the things to try to pay attention to include:
· Normal vital signs (temp, pulse, respiration)
· Eating/drinking habits
· Defecation/urination habits
· Normal demeanor/attitude
· Any old scars, swelling, etc…
· Past medical history
When To Call The Vet
Any of the following symptoms
· Heavy bleeding
· Deep wounds
· Extensive abrasions
· Obvious lameness
· Seizures/odd neurological behavior
· Foreign bodies
· Eye injuries
· Respiratory distress
ANY TIME YOU FEEL UNSURE OF WHAT TO DO!!!
Phone Numbers to Have
· Your regular veterinarian
· Any “local” referral clinics or veterinary schools
· Poison control for animals
What To Do Before The Vet Arrives
It all depends on the situations, but the #1 rule is Don’t Get Hurt! If possible, get the vital signs (temp, pulse, respiration) and any other information that may be important for the vet to know.
What To Tell The Vet On The Phone
· The EXACT nature of the emergency
· How long has it been occurring/present?
· Is the animal alert/responsive?
· Is the animal ambulatory (walking) or is it non-weight bearing?
· Any treatments/drugs already given!!!
What To Do Before The Vet Arrives
Try to determine how the injury occurred. That information could be vital in determining how the vet will treat the case. If cut or bleeding, try applying pressure to area to slow down the bleeding. Care should be taken if cleaning the wound, as you could actually cause more contamination if not done properly. Stop if the animal resist treatment.
First Aid Supplies
Whether you buy a first aid kit, or put your own together, a few things that should be present include:
· Blunt end scissors
· Pocket knife
· Disposable syringes
· Latex gloves
· Ice pack
· Vet wrap/coflex
· Stretch gauze
· Adhesive tape
· Antiseptic cleaners
· Cotton gauze
· Wound dressing
· Rubbing alcohol
A few things to remember when dealing with medications and goats:
· Most medications are off-label for goats
· Always be sure to understand dosing levels and routes of administration prior to use
· You should consult your vet prior to administration
Some Basic Medications To Have On Hand:
· Procaine Penicillin
· Antibiotic eye ointment
· Intramammary antibiotics
· Antifungal treatment
· Scour medication
Knowing When To Ask For Help!
Knowing when to ask for help is one of the most important skills you can develop as a producer. It can save you time, money, stress, and most importantly, the life of your animals.