July 15, 2015

Pinkeye in Goats

One hot summer morning I went outside as usual to feed the goats. They all came to the gate to meet me as usual except Wish, the herd queen. She stood in the deep shade of the goat shed and bawled at me. That's not normal goat behavior.

How to recognize and treat pinkeye in goats.

As I walked toward her she seemed to be blind. How could she have gone blind overnight? Her eyes were clouded over and she refused to leave the shed. Finally I realized it must be pinkeye, and she had it in both eyes.

Pinkeye is an infection or inflammation of the outer membrane of the eyeball and the inner eyelid. It's also highly contagious and can be spread throughout a herd by flies, so it's often a summer problem, when flies are at their worst. Pinkeye is a self-limiting condition - it will run its course and go away on its own eventually if left untreated - but I didn't want it to spread.

After a lot of research on pinkeye in humans I came up with a plan of attack for my goat. Although pinkeye can be treated with antibiotics, I try to avoid using them unless absolutely necessary because they kill both the bad and good bacteria.

I treated Wish twice a day, first using a warm washcloth to soothe her eyes and to loosen debris in the lashes, then gently washed her eyes gently with baby shampoo (the No More Tears kind). I was careful to wash from the inner corner to the outside corner of her eye, to avoid getting bacteria and dirt in the tear ducts.

Next I used a needle-less syringe filled with fermented cod liver oil. People with vitamin A deficiencies seems to be more susceptible to getting pinkeye, so goats might be too, and cod liver oil is one of the treatments for this deficiency. I squirted a few drops into each eye, being careful not to touch the syringe to her eye so it wouldn't pick up any of the bacteria. I'd then squirt the remainder of the syringe into her mouth.

Finally I used a cotton ball to cleanse her face gently with mouthwash, the green brand. I was careful of course to not get the mouthwash in her eyes, and I used a separate cotton ball for each side of her face. Wish loved this part; I don't know if she liked the minty-fresh smell or if the mouthwash was cooling and fresh-feeling on her skin, but she was very willing to stand still until the liquid dried.

This last step is important. Pinkeye causes the eyes to tear and drain, and flies that land on the goat's face can carry the bacteria from one goat to another.

Since the sun hurt Wish's eyes and she preferred to stay inside the shed, I made sure she had water and hay inside.

After a few days Wish's eyes cleared up and she was back outside with the herd - and it didn't spread to any of my other goats.

This post has been shared at some of my favorite blog hops.


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  1. Poor Wish. What a miserable problem. I'm glad she has a 'Mama' like you, who takes such good care of her! Herbally, Eyebright is great for pinkeye, in humans, as well. One oral dose (capsules from the health food store, or even the big chain stores that I hate, lol) was all it ever took, to get rid of it, for my kids - and the time or two it hit me, as well.

    Does anyone make masks for goats, like the ones to keep flies out of horses eyes, in summer?

    God bless!

  2. Interesting treatment, Kathi. A few years ago some of our goats came down with pink eye. I had never seen it before so I didn't know what it was until a neighbor who raises goats came over and saw it. At first I used an antibiotic ointment for the eyes, but after I found out that my neighbor uses generic triple antibiotic ointment, I switched and it worked great.

    My research also indicated a lack of vitamin A could be the culprit. The year before this happened we used alfalfa in our feed ration and ended up with 10 bucks out of the 12 kids born. I read that feeding goitrogenic feeds, like alfalfa, can cause a preponderance of buck kids, so we took the alfalfa out of the feed ration. Alfalfa, by the way, is high in vitamin A. That's when we ended up with pink eye. So.....we added some alfalfa back into the feed ration, not as much as before, we haven't had pink eye anymore, or too many buck kids.

    It's always a learning experience, isn't it?


  3. Carla, thank you for the tip about Eyebright, it sounds like a good choice. I don't know if anyone makes fly masks for goats like they do for horses, what an intriguing idea. Some years the flies are SO bad. I did see a pattern to make your own for horses; I'm sure it could be modified for a goat's head.

  4. Fern, that's really interesting about your goats getting pinkeye after removing the alfalfa from their feed ration - and having so many buck kids that year too. I'm going to have to go back in my records and see if this was the year that I'd switched to a "drought ration" that didn't include as much alfalfa as I usually feed. Yes, it's *always* a learning experience! Hope all is well at your place.

  5. So glad she didn't need antibiotics! I wonder how a goat would get pink eye? Thanks for sharing this valuable post on The Maple Hill Hop!

  6. I'm guessing it was spread by flies from another herd, Daisy.

  7. I'm guessing it was spread by flies from another herd, Daisy.

  8. Oh poor goat! My son brought pink eye home from school once and shared it with me, so I know first hand how much "fun" it is. Thanks for sharing on the (mis)Adventures Monday Blog Hop! Can't wait to see what you have this week!!

  9. I'm glad she's feeling better. I never thought to treat pink eye with fermented cod liver oil, that's really interesting. That's really interesting about the vitamin A deficiency. I used to get pink eye a lot. I do get it a lot less frequently now, but I also eat more animal fat now. hmmm...

  10. Bonnie, I'm glad you don't get pink eye as often these days. I think the link between deficiencies and medical problems is fascinating.


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