Goat Scours (Neonatal Diarrhea Complex)

Escherichia coli is one of many causes of diarrhea in goats found frequently throughout the world. There is a high incidence associated with intensive rearing of kids under conditions of overcrowding and poor sanitation. Under extensive management conditions, the incidence is increased when kidding seasons coincide with periods of extreme weather conditions, especially heat, excessive cold, or heavy rains. A major concern regarding pathogenic E. coli is the public health significance where the organism is responsible for food-borne illness. Other causes of diarrhea include other intestinal bacteria, viruses, parasites and nutritional factors.

Signs: Affected animals have diarrhea. The character of the  feces in kids can vary considerably from pasty white to watery brown, but it cannot be used to diagnose the definitive cause of the diarrhea. Prolonged or severe diarrhea results in dehydration, depression, loss of appetite, weakness, convulsions and death. Definitive diagnosis of the causes of diarrhea in young kids may require extensive laboratory testing.

Treatment: Treatment consists of fluid therapy. Specific antibiotics are sometimes indicated by bacterial culture and sensitivity tests; they are ineffective in the cases of viral, parasitic or nutritional causes. Effective dewormers or other medications may also be indicated. Probiotics will help restore normal intestinal organisms.

Prevention: One of the most effective means of controlling the spread of diarrhea is to immediately isolate affected animals. Move other exposed kids to a clean pen or remove from contaminated pens to permit disinfection. Allow does to kid in clean, draft-free quarters and do not allow kids to become chilled; starvation and chilling are two important precursors for neonatal diarrhea. Kids should receive adequate colostrum as early in life as possible. Kids should be housed separately or in small groups of approximately equal age. Bedding should be clean and dry. All utensils should be cleaned and disinfected between uses. Kids should be offered access to hay soon after birth and a grain ration offered by week two to initiate good rumen development and a normal flora, and to avoid subsequent weaning shock. When possible, feed kids in trays or buckets outside the pen to avoid fecal contamination of feedstuffs. Practice excellent sanitation and remove manure promptly. Do not purchase animals from livestock sale yards.

References cited: Mary C. Smith & David M. Sherman : Goat Medicine