The arrival of a new baby goat is always a joyous occasion, but that joy can quickly turn to despair if your doe starts showing signs of mastitis. Today, we’re looking at mastitis in goats and natural treatment.
A hungry baby goat is one of the noisiest creatures on our homestead, and probably on yours as well.
A doe suffering from this condition will often be unwilling to let her kid feed due to the pain it causes. She will probably have a fever and feel pretty down in the dumps as well, which is no good for her, or her baby.
Primarily caused by bacterial infections, the most common treatment for mastitis in goats is with antibiotic treatments but if you’re trying, as we are, to keep your farm chemical-free, finding a natural treatment is a better option.
How to Diagnose Mastitis in Goats
Causes of Acute Mastitis in Goats
The primary cause of acute mastitis is caused by an infection of coagulase-negative staphylococci bacteria, although it can be caused by bruising of the mammary tissue or as a result of abnormal anatomy of either the teat or udder.
The infection occurs when bacteria or other infectious agents enter the mammary gland, interacts with the bodily tissues, and begin to multiply, causing inflammation and discomfort.
Early signs of clinical mastitis include:
- A temperature of 105℉ or more
- Swollen or red udders
- Loss of appetite, lethargy, and a change in the milk‘s consistency
- In some does the milk secretions may become yellowish and appear more watery than normal
- In others, you may find lumps or blood in the milk or just a drop in milk production.
- Hungry babies will also draw your attention to the problem
The sooner you treat, the better your doe’s chances of recovery.
As subclinical mastitis has few visible symptoms, if you do see a doe with any of the issues mentioned above, the infection has already developed into chronic mastitis which, if not treated promptly, could develop into gangrenous mastitis or even prove fatal.
How to Prevent Mastitis in Goats
There is some evidence to suggest a genetic component to this udderly painful condition, with studies suggesting that a high somatic cell count (SCC) in a goat’s milk may be hereditary.
A high SCC can also be a sign of infection in the udders, although using an SCC test to diagnose mastitis in goats isn’t as reliable as it for other livestock animals that have a lower SCC overall.
There are also environmental factors to consider if the incidence of mastitis in your herd is high.
Poor hygiene in your goat’s enclosure or during milkings increases the likelihood of bacterial infections, for example, so keeping pens dry and clean can go a long way to preventing infection.
If you can prevent overcrowding and improve drainage and ventilation in your goat’s shelters, you’ll be well on your way to curtailing bacterial growth and thereby reducing the risk of mastitis infection.
A deep bed of clean straw can also help prevent damage to the udders and reduce the risk of clinical mastitis.
Regular inspection of your goats’ udders can also help – the earlier you spot a deformity or signs of inflammation, the sooner you can start treatment.
Natural Treatments and Remedies for Chronic Mastitis
Internal remedies are the best way to get rid of the infection while external poultices and sprays can be used to combat some of the most painful symptoms.
Garlic as Natural Treatment for Mastitis in Goats
Garlic is a potent antibiotic and a couple of cloves a day can boost your goat’s immune system, helping her fight off the infection.
My goats aren’t particularly keen on garlic, but then again, my goats are fussy about lettuce and other leafy vegetables. I usually add a tablespoon of molasses to their feed to help the medicine go down – it works just as well as sugar does for human kids.
Starwest Botanicals has an amazing range of herbs, tinctures, essential oils, and more. They offer powdered, minced, and granulated garlic which gives you plenty of options for including garlic in your goat’s diet.
- Where to buy powdered, minced, and granulated garlic
Echinacea as Natural Treatment for Mastitis in Goats
Echinacea stimulates the immune system, increasing the goat’s ability to fight bacterial infections and helping to combat symptoms of mastitis.
Studies have found that using echinacea as a feed additive can “achieve beneficial changes in the health of the mammary gland… and improves the hygienic and health-promoting quality of milk”. (Source)
Again, getting this herbal remedy into your goat is probably the hardest part of the treatment process.
I like using drops as it means I can guarantee the goat is getting the necessary dosage and not spitting it out or letting one of the kids gobble it up, which can happen with feed additives.
Simply draw up the quantity needed into a small syringe and squirt it into the side of your goat’s mouth. She won’t thank you for it, but she will be grateful when the mastitis treatment starts to work and her swollen udder returns to its normal proportions.
Starwest Botanicals offers echinacea as dried herb, capsules, tinctures, and extracts.
Goldenseal for Extra Support
If you combine these two natural remedies with a few drops of goldenseal every day, your sick goat should be on the mend in no time.
Goldenseal is often combined with other herbs to boost their medicinal value although it also has anti-microbial properties that make it effective against a wide range of bacterial infections.
Starwest Botanicals offers an extract that combines the healing powers of echinacea with goldenseal in one convenient bottle.
Tea Tree Oil as External Natural Treatment
In addition to these internal remedies as an alternative to antibiotics, you can also try using external therapies to combat the symptoms and tackle the infection.
A few drops of tea tree oil can produce astonishing results if applied directly to the udder, potentially clearing up the symptoms of mastitis within a few days. Just add several drops to a handful of carrier oil and massage gently into the udders.
Lavender oil can also be added to speed up the recovery process and reduce pain.
- Where to buy lavender oil
Many goat owners recommend using Bag Balm to treat cracked, sore udders.
Others prefer the udder cream from Dynamint which can help to reduce swelling and increase circulation, while also treating the skin.
Bentonite clay has also “proved efficient as a dressing to treat inflammation caused by mastitis (source),” but is more difficult to apply than an oil or balm.
Bentonite clay is easily absorbed and has germ-busting, antibacterial properties, making it an effective antibiotic therapy as well.
Prevention is Better Than Cure
This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the alternative mastitis treatments available.
Others include plant-based poultices, oxygen therapy, homeopathic remedies, and hot water udder washes.
Many of these alternative remedies are as effective in the treatment of mastitis as intramammary antibiotics and can get the infection under control in a matter of days, giving your goat healthy udders and your kids a decent meal.
As with most health issues, prevention is better than cure, especially with contagious mastitis that could infect your entire goat herd.
Ensuring your goats have clean bedding and water, as well as plenty of space and ventilation are the first steps towards reducing the risk of infection.
Checking your goats regularly for signs of mastitis, such as inflammation or redness of the udders, a drop in milk production, loss of appetite, and lethargy, also give you a headstart when it comes to selecting and administering treatment.
Acute mastitis is painful and potentially life-threatening, whereas the lack of symptoms associated with sub-clinical mastitis means it can infect your entire herd before you realize what’s happening.
While antibiotics will always have a role to play when it comes to treating mastitis in goats, there’s always an udder way to get rid of bacterial cells and nasty milk.