Polioencephalomalacia (polio) in ruminants is caused by a thiamine deficiency and/or sulfur toxicity. Other causes include improper feeding, feeding too much grain, or anything that disrupts the health and well being of rumen microbes, such as chronic or acute acidosis or indigestion. The disease is seen more in winter in North America, primarily due to increased grain feeding to meet increased maintenance energy needs.

Signs: Signs of illness are related to softening and swelling of the grey matter of the brain and include excitability, stargazing, muscle rigidity, uncoordinated staggering and or weaving, circling, diarrhea, muscle tremors, pressing head against wall and apparent blindness. A rapid, involuntary side-to-side motion of the eyes may also be noted. As the disease progresses, convulsions may occur, and if untreated, the animal generally dies within 24-72 hours.

Treatment: Thiamine is the only effective therapy, and treatment can result in improvement within two hours if the disease is caught early. Multiple doses (0.25cc/10-pound body weight three to four times day) of thiamine and other actions based on veterinary recommendations are required for best outcomes; these recommendations will vary based on the underlying cause of the disease. Do not administer vitamin B-complex because there is insufficient thiamine to be helpful. Antibiotics may be indicated depending on the underlying cause.

Control: Control measures include feeding as much roughage  and as little concentrate in the diet as needed to meet nutritional requirements and performance goals. Moldy feeds and high-carbohydrate feeds should also be minimized. Prevent accidental access to unlimited amounts of carbohydrates, such as grain bins, feed sacks or tree fruit drops. In high-risk herds where animals are on high grain diets, supplementation with thiamine mononitrate, probiotics or brewer’s yeast may be indicated for prevention.

Keywords: disease, goat polio, thiamine

For additional information on other brain disorders please click the link: http://www.extension.org/pages/22450/goat-cns-diseases