Bottle jaw in goats: What causes bottle jaw in goats? What are the symptoms of bottle jaw in goats? What’s the treatment for bottle jaw?
Bottle jaw in goats can be scary. But, it can also be treated in most cases.
In veterinary school, students are often asked the question “When you hear hoof beats, what do you think of?” Most people would respond and say horses, not zebras.
In other words, when an animal is ill or has a disease, it’s most often the most common culprit.
Even something as strange as bottle jaw is often caused by a common parasite.
Bottle Jaw in Goats: Why is my goat’s jaw swollen?
Bottle jaw is the term that is often used to describe a fluid accumulation that builds up underneath and between the two jawbones in sheep and goats.
This fluid build up, called edema, is the result of a disruption of the normal balance of pressure and/or proteins between blood cells. It can also occur in the spaces between cells outside of blood vessels.
The disruption of balance leads to excess fluid in between the cells as the cells try to fix the imbalance. This fluid build up between the cells is what we see as edema.
The most common cause of bottle jaw in goats is due to the lack of proteins after a prolonged heavy infestation of the barber pole worm.
Symptoms of bottle jaw in goats
The symptoms of bottle jaw in goats are pretty straight forward.
Outwardly, you’ll be able to see the swelling under the jaw of the goat.
If you touch the swollen area, it will feel squishy and fluid-filled. If you were to drain the fluid it would be clear and not like fluid due to infection.
You can perform a FAMACHA test on your goats quickly to determine how anemic they are. If they have bottle jaw, odds are that they are pretty severely anemic as well.
Goats that have bottle jaw may not be interested in feed and seem pretty lethargic. Some goats don’t show any changes in behavior; it really just depends on the goat.
Bottle jaw changes throughout the day. It worsens as the day goes on.
In the morning, you may think that the bottle jaw is gone, only to have it reappear in the evening.
What causes bottle jaw in goats?
Back to the phrase I mentioned before… when you’re trying to figure out what’s going on with your animal, it’s usually the most common cause.
For goats, the most common cause of bottle jaw is anemia from a barber pole worm (Haemonchus contortus) infestation.
The barber pole worm is an internal parasite that latches onto the tissues lining the digestive tract. The worms have teeth that they use to create a small cut in the tissue.
This cut then bleeds and the worms feed on the blood. There isn’t much blood lost from a few worms, but with enough worms it can really drain a goat.
Goats can become anemic if there is a large barber pole worm population in their digestive tract.
This anemia can become severe and if the worm problem continues, eventually the goat’s body can no longer replenish all of the blood that is lost.
It’s important to note that barber pole worm infestations do NOT cause diarrhea. If your goat is experiencing diarrhea and bottle jaw, then it’s probably not a barber pole worm problem.
Severe anemia caused by barber pole worms can present itself as bottle jaw.
During the grazing season
If the goat develops anemia or bottle jaw during the grazing season, assume that it is from the barber pole worm.
Barber pole worms live in the goats as adults. They reproduce in the goat and deposit their eggs into the digestive tract. The eggs then exit the body with feces.
The eggs stick to grasses in the pasture and the goat eats the eggs when the grass is consumed. This starts the life cycle of the barber pole worm again.
If the goat develops anemia or bottle jaw after eating grass, treat it for worms and then put it in an area where it will not become re-infested.
An exception to this is with a really young animal that is nursing.
If it’s out in the pasture with mom, it probably isn’t eating enough grass to cause a large enough worm infestation and anemia. You may want to have a fecal test performed by your veterinarian to rule out worms in this case.
Bottle jaw and anemia can be caused by a copper imbalance.
Goats can have a deficiency or a toxicity (too much) of copper. Both can lead to anemia in goats and sheep.
A copper deficiency is usually caused by a lack of copper in the soil or lack of proper mineral mix or the abundance of other minerals like molybdenum.
If the goat ingests too much molybdenum, they cannot absorb enough copper because they are absorbed the same way.
Basically, molybdenum will block the path for copper absorption.
Copper deficiency in goats and sheep usually shows itself as unthrifty animals. Look for these signs to see if your goat has copper deficiency:
- poor appetite
- slow growth
- faded hair color or a dull coat
- poor fleece
- musculoskeletal problems
Copper toxicity usually has a different set of symptoms that is associated with it. If you think your goat has gotten too much copper, look for these signs:
- sudden severe weakness
- sudden depression
- sudden death
Copper toxicity is more common in sheep than goats and is often seen when mineral mixes or feeds are prepared incorrectly. Goats can tolerate more copper than sheep, so never give sheep feed or minerals intended for goats.
You can have a local extension agent or soil expert tell you about the soil in your region. Ask specifically about copper and other minerals in the soil and how well suited they are for goats.
Kale and other plants in the Brassica family can lead to anemia in goats and should not be fed.
There are some common parasites other than the barber pole worm that can lead to anemia and bottle jaw.
One of those is the Coccidia parasite. The coccidia parasite is responsible for the disease coccidiosis.
Coccidiosis is usually diagnosed if there is diarrhea with anemia and bottle jaw.
Coccidiosis can exhaust the digestive tract, which can damage it.
The damage to the digestive tract is what causes anemia and eventually bottle jaw, not the parasite itself.
Bottle jaw from coccidiosis is rare and is only seen in severe cases.
There are two main types of flukes that can lead to anemia in goats and could create bottle jaw:
- liver fluke and
- Fascioloides magna
The liver fluke, Fasciola hepatica, is a common parasite that can infect goats and sheep that live in the Pacific Northwest and (occasionally) the Gulf Coast region.
Liver flukes will create goats that are unthrifty, underweight, and anemic. It can also cause death.
Although liver flukes can cause anemia, it’s not very common. Liver flukes tend to harm just a few blood vessels.
Anemia from liver flukes takes a long time because the liver fluke infections are slow.
Have your vet perform a fecal sedimentation test to check for liver flukes. Liver flukes will not show up on a normal fecal test.
Around the Great Lakes and the Northwest, there is another fluke that can cause problems.
This fluke, Fascioloides magna, causes problems much quicker, so anemia and bottle jaw may not have time to develop.
3. Johne’s Disease
Johne’s disease (pronounced YO-knees), or paratuberculosis, can create anemia and bottle jaw in goats.
This disease is caused by a bacteria and is a chronic wasting disease. It doesn’t always have anemia as a symptom, but when it does it’s often accompanied by extreme weight loss and diarrhea.
Johne’s disease is usually fatal and causes a slow, progressive death.
If one of your goats tests positive for Johne’s, test your entire herd as Johne’s is contagious. It’s usually spread through infected manure, water, milk or feed.
Anaplasmosis is a disease that is also progressive. It is characterized by a progressive destruction of red blood cells.
It is caused by the blood parasite Anaplasma ovis. This microscopic parasite is usually transmitted by blood sucking external parasites like ticks, fleas and mosquitoes.
It can be transmitted by people during routine care such as dehorning, castrating, vaccinating and ear-tagging.
There are other parasites and pathogens that can lead to anemia and bottle jaw in goats, but they are extremely rare and are usually accompanied by a fever.
For more information about internal parasites of goats, check out this document from Oregon State about internal parasites of sheep and goats.
When a goat is severely injured, it can lose large amounts of blood.
Mass blood loss can lead to the same effects as a severe barber pole worm infestation. The goat’s body will take time to replace the lost blood and blood proteins.
A side effect of the lost blood can be bottle jaw.
If bottle jaw is created from a traumatic injury, you probably won’t confuse it with another cause as there should be obvious signs of a traumatic injury.
My goat has bottle jaw, is it anemic?
If your goat has bottle jaw, then it is severely anemic. It’s important to diagnose why your goat has become anemic and treat the cause of the anemia.
If your goat has bottle jaw, then it likely has severe anemia that could very soon be fatal.
Fix the cause and you’ll fix the anemia and therefore the bottle jaw.
What exactly is anemia in goats?
Since bottle jaw and anemia go hand in hand with goats, I thought that I would cover what exactly anemia is.
Anemia can be life threatening in goats and should be treated as soon as possible.
Anemia occurs when there is a reduction in the amount of red blood cells present. Again, the level or severity of anemia in goats and sheep can be determined with a FAMACHA test.
FAMACHA scores are given to determine the severity of anemia.
What causes anemia in goats?
There are many potential causes of anemia in goats.
The most common cause is the barber pole worm. The FAMACHA scoring system was developed to check for anemia due to barber pole worms as this is the major symptom associated with the worms.
It can be caused by other parasites, bacteria, nutritional problems or traumatic injury.
See the causes of bottle jaw above to read about the causes of anemia.
How to diagnose anemia
It’s simple to diagnose anemia in sheep and goats.
To check the level of anemia in your goat, perform a simple FAMACHA test.
Use a FAMACHA score card to compare the inner eyelid color to the card.
The card gives four colors, each representing a level of anemia.
The reddest color, #1, is seen in goats with no anemia.
As anemia progresses, the eyelid becomes whiter in color. Anemia with scores of 3 and 4 need treatment quickly to prevent serious injury or death.
Here’s a quick video explaining how to perform FAMACHA scoring and some examples:
How to treat anemia and bottle jaw in goats
The best way to treat anemia and bottle jaw in goats is to treat the cause.
Anemia and bottle jaw are symptoms of a larger problem and shouldn’t be thought of as the problem themselves.
The only way to ‘cure’ anemia or bottle jaw is to cure the underlying cause.
The most common cause of bottle jaw and anemia in goats is the barber pole worm.
In order to treat the barber pole worm, you’ll want to de-worm your goats.
I want to express a word of caution though. Only de-worm goats that need it. Do not de-worm goats for the sake of de-worming goats or preventing a future problem.
Barber pole worms can develop a resistance to wormer. If you expose barber pole worms to wormers too often, they will no longer be effected by the wormer and that could be deadly for your goats.
Keep in mind that there are only so many worming medications out there. You don’t want to create a group of wormer-resistant barber pole worms that cannot be controlled.
With that being said, if your goat has bottle jaw, worm them before you do anything else.
Goats that have white or nearly white eyelids are severely anemic and will die without immediate treatment, so treat for the most common cause- the barber pole worm.
Don’t de-worm the goat over and over. Treat them, wait a week and then see if they need re-treatment.
Ivermectin for bottle jaw
Ivermectin is a wormer that has been used to treat barber pole worms.
A common over the counter ivermectin wormer is Ivomec.
Treat the goat using the ivermectin and then re-treat 10 days later.
The second dose will catch any eggs that have hatched since the first treatment (ivermectin doesn’t kill the unhatched eggs).
Unfortunately, there are populations of barber pole worms that have become resistant to ivermectin due to people giving the wormer as a ‘preventative’ instead of just as needed.
Because of this, it’s a good idea to try Cydectin or Prohibit (levamisole) to treat barber pole worms as needed.
If you’re treating an anemic goat, it’s a good idea to have some injectable B-12 on hand.
B-12 is given to goats using a needle and syringe into the muscle tissue. If you’re treating a goat for anemia, your veterinarian should offer it to you. If you’re treating it without a veterinarian, call your local vet clinic to pick up a bottle.
You can give daily injections of B-12 to your goats safely. Don’t worry about overdosing them with B-12.
B-12 is water soluble, so what the goat’s body doesn’t use will be flushed out of the body with urine.
A normal, healthy goat will produce B-12 on its own and won’t need injections.
Check with your vet to make sure, but the usual dosage recommended is 2 cc of B-12 per 50 pounds of body weight or 4 cc of B-12 per 100 pounds of body weight.
Nutri-Drench is a vitamin supplement that can help return key vitamins back into your goat’s body to get them back on their feet.
This post contains affiliate links. To view my affiliate disclaimer, click here.
Ferrodex 100 and Dextran are both injectable forms of iron that can be given to anemic goats.
Only give this if your goat is truly anemic. It’s possible to overdose your goat with iron.
An anemic goat won’t usually overdose on iron injections though. An exception to this is kids. Ask your vet if you’re dealing with anemia in a young goat before giving iron injections.
You can purchase Ferrodex 100 and Dextran easily over the counter at feed and livestock supply stores.
Ferrodex 100 can be given at a rate of 2 cc per 50 pounds of body weight or 4 cc per 100 pounds.
Giving Red Cell for Anemic Goats
If you don’t want to give iron via a needle and syringe, you can give it as an oral supplement with Red Cell.
Red Cell is an oral supplement that was created for horses. (If you own goats, you’ll probably notice that there are much more options for supplies when it comes to horses, so sometimes we have to make equine products work!)
Red Cell is also available over the counter at feed and livestock supply stores.
If you decide to give your anemic goats iron, it’s a good idea to err on the side of caution. Give iron with an injection or orally for a few days and then only give it once per week until your goat is up and going again.
The dosage for Red Cell in goats is 3 cc per 50 pounds of body weight or 6 cc per 100 pounds.
Goats that are severely anemic and have bottle jaw may require tube feeding. If this is the case, use a tube feeder intended for small ruminants.
Goats that are being fed with a stomach tube need protein, electrolytes and other nutrients. The easiest way to do this is with a goat kid milk replacer and electrolytes that are made for ruminants.
As soon as the goat can eat on its own, offer it fresh green leaves, quality alfalfa hay and high-protein goat feed.
As I mentioned earlier, do not give a goat feed intended for sheep and do not give feed intended for goats to sheep. This can create copper deficiencies/toxicities, which can lead to …. Anemia!
Remember that it takes a really long time for goats to put weight back on, so if your goat was off of feed due to anemia, it will take time for them to get their weight back to where it was.
This is normal, but you should be able to see progress. If you’re like me, you may look at your goats multiple times per day and it may be hard to tell if they are gaining weight.
If this is the case, you might want to invest in a scale. Weigh them daily to make sure that they are gaining weight.
A doe with kids and anemia should be weaned.
Anemia causes stress on the body. Nursing kids also cause stress on the body.
A doe that is anemic needs to recover and she likely can’t recover from anemia and nurse her babies.
If the kids are old enough to eat grass and grain on their own, then this is an easy decision. Simply pull the kids and get the doe better.
If the kids aren’t old enough to eat grass and grain, then you may want to consider bottle feeding them if their mother is severely anemic.
Severely anemic goats may require life-saving blood transfusions to survive.
This is an expensive treatment and many veterinarians do not have the equipment to make this happen.
If you have an expensive goat that is worth it, then consider calling around to see which veterinarians close to you can perform a blood transfusion.
This may mean driving the goat to an emergency clinic or the closest vet school.
Bottle jaw treatment sheep
The treatments for bottle jaw in sheep are the same for the treatments in goats.
Again, treat the cause of bottle jaw to get rid of it.
Is bottle jaw contagious?
Technically, bottle jaw itself is not contagious.
However, the cause of bottle jaw can be contagious.
If the cause of bottle jaw is the barber pole worm, the goats cannot pass the worms directly from one goat to another. The goats can only get more worms by grazing on pastures that have barber pole worm eggs on the grass.
You can reduce the amount of barber pole worm eggs that your goats come into contact with by practicing pasture rotation.
Keep your goats on fresh pasture and the amount of barber pole worms that you have problems with will decrease dramatically. Co-grazing with other species like cattle or horses can help.
Bottle jaw that is caused by other infectious parasites like Coccidia is contagious and can spread quickly.
If goats become anemic due to nutritional problems, this isn’t ‘contagious’, but rather multiple goats are having the same nutritional problems because they are on the same feed/pasture/mineral mix.
Here are some treatments to help you goat recover from anemia or bottle jaw:
- Worming medications like Ivomec, Cydectin or Prohibit
- B-12 injectable (must be obtained from a veterinarian)
- Ferrodex 100 or Dextran
- Red Cell
- Goat milk replacer
- Ruminant electrolytes
- Stomach tube feeder
- Goat kid bottles
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Are you treating bottle jaw in goats? How do you treat and prevent anemia in your goats? Let me know below!