Poliomyelitis (Thiamin Deficiency) in Goats
By Coni Ross, AMGA Regional Coordinator


This is not disease of neglect. Usually, there is bacteria present, that inhibits the absorption of thiamin, or consumes the thiamin, therefore preventing absorption by the goat. Thiamin and glucose are imperative for function of the nervous system. Many times, the culpable bacteria are Clostridia species, but not necessarily. It seems most prevalent in animals on small grain fields, but can happen on fresh green pasture, or any time. Thiaminase producing plants or bacteria are involved, which can cause a change in pH of the digestive tract, killing normal bacteria, and inducing a Thiamin deficiency.

Presentation can vary. Most of the time, the classic symptoms are star gazing, and stiffness. The goat may be blind. The symptoms may closely mimic Tetanus. To differentiate, check the goat's eyelid: Tickle the eyelashes, if the third eyelid flashes across, tetanus can be suspected, if not, this is Polio. A variety of symptoms may present. Paralysis of rear legs, weakness of all extremities, or only one leg, and or blindness. The onset of the disease may be over several days, or several hours. The most severe cases progress rapidly from weakness to complete paralysis, coma, and death if not treated.

Treatment: The most effective treatment I have used, is composed of support of the neurological system, restoring natural bacterial balance of rumen bacteria, and support of hydration and nutrition. I prefer to use a powdered live probiotic product to help reestablish the normal bacteria, but most any product will do, as long as it is live, and not just a by-product of live bacteria. Thiamin in an injectable form is imperative. B Complex will help, but usually is not a high enough dose to reverse the disease process unless caught very early. I prefer to give 500 mg. Thiamin IM as a first dose, followed by a second dose of 250 mg. that same day. Thiamin is water-soluble and is excreted very rapidly. The absence of Thiamin causes death of millions or brain cells, so quick recognition and treatment is imperative. The Thiamin should be given at least daily until recovery is complete, but, injectable Thiamin may be given by month on day three and after normal bacterial balance is restored. I usually give a weight appropriate dose of penicillin on day one and two to help control any systemic bacteria, since this is drug of choice for clostridia species bacteria.

Keep the goat in a protected area from sun or rain. If the goat is blind put it where it can find feed and water until it recovers. It may be necessary to drench or tube, the goat that can't swallow, with an electrolyte-sugar product. They usually recover, but the time involved in recovery usually depends of the severity of the disease prior to treatment. The recovery of a blind goat takes longer, but they will recover given proper treatment. This method works well for me.


Return to the Goat Information Page

22 Brownwether