With record-breaking heat across the US this summer, farmers have had to go to extra lengths to protect their animals. Thousands of cattle have been reported dead throughout the central US. Many goat owners are reporting that their goats have high body temperatures and symptoms of dehydration. So what can be done to keep your goats healthy in these conditions?
A goat's normal temperature can range from as low as 101.5 to as high as 105. It's good to take a goat's baseline temperature several times on normal days and on a hot day. That will give you a better idea of what is normal for that goat.
If the outdoor temperature gets too high, you can cool your goats down with a hose or sprayer. Start on the legs rather than drenching them with cold water all at once. Some people have found that their goats really like this and will line up to be cooled down. Other goats, like people, hate water and getting wet.
Always keep plenty of cool, clean drinking water available. You need to encourage drinking, to avoid dehydration, so if they don't seem to be interested in the water you can try adding some grape juice concentrate or electrolytes to make it taste better. Some goats also like a little apple cider vinegar in their water.
Make sure they have a shaded area to rest in during the heat of the day. This usually means access to the barn or a loafing area, or some large trees that get them out of the sun. Put a fan in the barn or loafing area for goats during the hottest time of the day. This will circulate the air and help them keep cooler.
Pages 4-5 of Goat Health Care tells how to evaluate your goats' health. You can check a goat for dehydration "by pinching the skin on the neck in front of the shoulder, using your thumb and forefinger. Note whether the skin snaps back to its normal position quickly or responds slowly and remains 'tented.' A slow return to normal can indicate that the goat is dehydrated."
If your goat is dehydrated, which can happen rather quickly, it is essential to get fluids into her. Getting her to drink is he best option. You can have some luck with injecting sterile water or lactated ringers solution subcutaneously, but a severely dehydrated goat (particularly one with diarrhea, too) will need an IV to survive.
I had a goat that needed an IV one time and the vet was kind enough to hook it up and show me how to change the bag. This allowed me to give her two bags of lactated ringers solution, solving the problem.
If you are home during the day, you can regularly check on your goats, but if you have to leave make sure that you leave plenty of water and have a shady area that all the goats can get to.