Baking Soda - A Goat's Best Friend

A goat's rumen contains micro-organisms that thrive within a narrow acidity range. Feeds that ferment rapidly in the rumen increase its acidity. When acidity gets too high too fast, the micro-organisms multiply faster than usual, the rumen's balance becomes upset, and the goat gets sick. A goat's health therefore depends upon proper acidity. An alkaline substance such as sodium bicarbonate, or common baking soda, keeps acidity in check. A goat eats soda to keep the acidity within the proper range. Goats know when they need soda, and how much they need. All you have to do is make sure that they can get it when they need it.

A goat will eat an average of 3 tablespoons of soda per day, however they may need more during hot or humid weather. Higher temperatures cause the rumen to be more active, thus increasing acidity. At other times of the year they may eat little or no soda.

Provide baking soda (found in any feed or grocery store) free choice just as you would trace mineral salt. Inexpensive plastic feeders can be purchased to dispense both soda and mineral salt.

Clean and refill the feeder often. Salt attracts moisture which will cause it to crust over. Also both salt and soda will get lumpy from water dripping from the chin of a goat that has just drank water. The feeder can also collect goat feces. Because goats are finicky eaters, any of the above will cause them to reduce consumption of these two very important substances, thus increasing the risk of other problems.

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Polioencephalomalacia, thiamine deficiency, or PEM is a neurological problem seen in ruminants that is due to a lack of thiamine to the brain resulting in brain swelling and pressure necrosis of brain tissue. Caused most often by diet changes that alter gut flora populations so that the new gut bugs produce a thiaminase that deactivates the dietary thiamine. Thiamine is indispensable for the vital functioning of the brain...if thiamine is unavailable or its required level is decreased, the brain cortex degenerates. Moderate to high dietary sulfur intake is thought to be one cause of polioencephalomalacia in ruminants.Some of the symptoms are staggering, blindness, weakness, twitching of facial muscles, depression, trance like state (stargazing). It is often misdiagnosed as listeriosis, even by veterinarians. Administration of thiamine in the below prescribed dose quickly reverses the otherwise fatal progress of the disease. Often dexamethasone is administered along with Thiamine to reduce brain swelling.


4.5mg per pound (of the 200mg/ml that would be 1ml per 45 pounds), 3X daily (first dose should be given IV), until symptoms of polioencephalomalacia [PEM] disappear. In an emergency you can use B-Complex at about 12ml per adult goat. While the high doses of B-Complex will supply the needed thiamine (B1) it also hits the animal with an excess of the other B vitamins. Since the B's are water soluble and quickly eliminated from the body via the kidneys there is little danger of an overdose, but, they do put an extra strain on the kidneys of an already stressed system. Straight thiamine (B1) is the best choice for treatment of PEM/Thiamine Deficiency/ Poloencephalomalacia.

Note: Do not administer dextrose IV's to animals with PEM, their carbohydrate metabolism is impaired




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