A friend of mine recently got ahold of me, a few days before Christmas. Their buck, Casper, had been refusing food and water for a couple days and wasn’t moving. The previous day he was a down-goat, and they honestly didn’t expect him to survive the night. But the next morning he was up on his feet again. They expected the goat to die at any time, and the local goat vet wasn’t going to be able to come to the farm anytime soon, so I was asked to come try whatever I thought might work to save him.
I inspected the buck. He stood hunched with his rear ankles pinched together, clenching and spasming his abdominal muscles. His tail undulated and flexed constantly. He was shaking intermittently, but not cold, nor feverish, nor flush. He whined quietly in his throat but made no other noise. He was a goat that was in obvious severe abdominal pain…
His heart rate was okay, his breathing was okay. Nothing amiss, nothing rapid, slow, nor ragged. His abdominal clenching was not in tandem with his breath. His temperature was fine. His skin was not flush. He had no hot areas of inflammation that I could find, other than his testicles (which I noted seemed inappropriately hot for the cold weather). I massaged down the urinary tract and he passed a few tiny drops of semen. Thanks for being predictable, dude. But he wasn’t passing urine, so a blockage was still possible. Nothing in the region felt abnormally warm or inflamed. His rumen was plump and healthy looking, though I didn’t hear active digestion. He was in so much pain though, he was probably not digesting normally.
I have no idea what exactly was wrong with Casper. A mystery! A set of goat symptoms I have not seen. Writing this anecdote, interestingly, made me realize that while I have dealt with a lot of animal injuries, I have not dealt with a lot of animal illnesses.
I decided to approach digestion, reproductive system, and renal system. Casper ate grain, so calcium stones were still very likely. Even if it wasn’t an outright blockage, he could be slowly passing some very, very painful stones. We whipped up a strong, thick tea of horsetail, avens, yarrow, and usnea, and brought half a gallon of it out to the buck. Having neglected to bring the big syringe/plunger, we coaxed his lower jaw open and I slowly dribbled a bit of tea into his mouth. He lapped and sucked at the liquid. Good! This was a goat that we weren’t going to have to force. So we simply dumped the tea into an empty bucket and he sucked it down enthusiastically. Once he drained the last drop from the bucket he fussed with the empty bucket and demanded more. His human was thrilled to see him drink something! We left the goat pen and he followed us to the gate. An hour later he was still standing by the gate, perky and alert, though moving slow.
Since he was on his feet and expressing interest in hydrating, I left feeling mildly hopeful that he would not die in the immediate future. I left his humans with supply of herbs to continue using over a 3-5 day period, but no more horsetail after that. I’ve read cautions against prolonged use of strong horsetail tea as it may inflame the kidneys. I haven’t put it to the test to find out, of course. But using it in a high dose for kidney and bladder stones is a specific application anyway; if it worked and the stone is passed, good, now stop. If it didn’t work, stop.
It’s now been about 10 days. Casper is getting warm tea each day. He’s on his feet, eating, moving around, but not 100% normal yet. I’ll be switching the herbs this week to more of an immune-fortifying and nutrifying mix of cambium, elderberries, rosehips, nettle, and holy basil, with a small amount of yarrow, catnip, and pipsissewa for continued attention on digestion and renal issues. Pipsissewa stuck out to me intuitively. I know picking herbs out because they “feel” right comes with a lot of caution, but there’s also an intuitive art to herbalism. So far those senses have not led me astray. Casper’s red-hot testes still stand out as abnormal. Pipsissewa may be healing to the prostate and male reproductive tract, so perhaps I’m onto something. I also would like to see him get some birch bark, but I have none at the moment…
As time passes I will write about Casper’s progression. I don’t know if his humans will still have the vet come out, that’s up to them!