For those of us out there without a DVM, find below a general easy-going guide to figuring out why your four legged goat has suddenly become three legged.

QUESTIONS:

NUMBER ONE: Is the goat bearing weight on the leg at all? 

Is the goat truly “three legged lame”, that is, has only three foot on the ground, or are they bearing weight occasionally on the foot? If they are bearing weight, (that is, standing with some body weight on the foot/leg), they may have just lightly pulled their leg or have a very minor green stick break if they are a young kid whose bones have not fully hardened yet. These conditions are best treated with rest and should resolve themselves in 3 days (pulled leg) or three weeks (green stick break).

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Three legged lame – the goat is bearing little if any weight on the pink wrapped leg

NUMBER TWO: If it is not bearing weight, is the leg swollen? 

Look at the matching leg. Is your lame leg swollen and no weight is being born on it? Then you have either a bad abscess, a break in the bone, or a serious sprain. If the leg is not swollen you probably have an internal abscess, (one within the leg not visible from the outside), or a moderate sprain. A moderate or serious sprain can be treated by resting the goat in a stall and wrapping the leg in vet wrap to provide support just as you would use an Ace bandage on a human’s twisted ankle. You should see signs of improvement within three days.

An abscess requires that the foot NOT be wrapped as the abscess may break through the bottom of the hoof to drain and you want all that puss and stuff to drain out so that the wound may heal. LA200 given by injection once a day for five days will usually clear up an internal abscess without it ever having to break through the hoof and drain. Check your bottle for dosage requirements and always give for a full five days even if the animal improves to avoid antibiotic resistance.

For broken leg detection, see Number 4.

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Bad sprain wrapped in vet wrap with a piece of elastikon on the bottom to keep the bandage from being worn through. Works just like a compression wrap or Ace bandage for human sprains. Leave this bandage on for five days or so and avoid getting it wet. If it does get wet, change the bandage or you can damage the skin of the goat! If the goat does not bear weight on the leg after the bandage has been applied for several days try putting a pad under the foot inside the bandage (Like a folded wash cloth or bunch of gauze). This provides a more forgiving surface for the injured leg to stand on.

 

NUMBER THREE: If the leg is swollen, is there anything lodged in the bottom of the hoof? 

Another important aspect of an abscess in the hoof/foot of the goat is that it had to get there some how. Abscesses generally form when something pentrates the bottom of the hoof and creates a narrow, deep wound allowing bacteria to grow up into the sensitive foot tissue and have a field day. You have to remove this object if it is still in place to alleviate the pain and prevent the abcess from reoccuring. Sometimes the item lodged in the hoof will be very small (a thorn or thin piece of wire). To find it, take a clean thumb and brush it across the soul of the hoof. Check in between the hooves, at the point where hooves and hair meet, and anywhere else that looks suspicious. If you find something, use tweezers or hoof trimmers to get it out. Then treat with LA200 as hoof abscesses can be very hard on a goat.

If nothing is lodged in the foot don’t discount the possibility that its an abscess, (the object may be so thin you missed it), but consider breaks or sprains.

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Vet wrap is designed to stretch. Make sure you don’t stretch it completely as you wrap! If you can get your finger under the wrap at the top of the bandage, you have not wrapped too tightly.

NUMBER FOUR: If nothing is lodged in the bottom of the hoof, when you feel along the bones of the leg is there any crunchiness, weird movement, or feeling of “gravel”? 

This is the test for broken bones. Some broken bones will be obvious and as you feel your way down the leg you will feel something move or you will feel the actual break. Other types of breaks are less easily diagnosed. Take your time and compare what you are feeling to what another of the good legs feels like. Also try squeezing the leg in various places – if you are in the spot that hurts the animal they will be distressed. This can help you narrow down the exact location of the problem.

If you feel crunchiness, “gravel”, or weird movement and any additional signs of a break in an animal greater than 4 months old, if the animal is high value, I would recommend an x-ray and assistance from a vet in getting the leg splinted correctly. Bad breaks that are not splinted like they need to be generally don’t heal well and may cause pain and loss of function for the remainder of the animal’s life. In the worst case, the bone may not heal together at all. This is especially true for complicated breaks like “gravel” or “crunchy” feeling ones. However, if the animal is low value and you think the break is clean and does not need to be set, (that is, the bone realigned so it will heal back together), you can splint yourself. This is also your only resort if you cannot find a vet who will care for goats.

I suggest google on this one, but a quick and dirty way to wrap a broken leg is to take two pieces of wood long enough to cover the break and as much good bone on either side as possible. Wrap gauze around the leg to protect it from the wood, (you don’t want it to rub the leg). On top of the gauze place the two pieces of wood on either side of the leg to support the break. Make sure everything is straight! Over the wood/gauze wrap a layer of vet wrap to secure everything. Place the goat in a small stall and wait 6 weeks. Don’t allow the leg/splint to become wet and keep the splint on for the full six weeks. Check to make sure the splint isn’t too tight and causing the foot/leg to swell from constriction. If it is, have someone restrain the leg and carefully redo the splint more losely this time. The bone should heal in six weeks – if it does not, it is time to call the vet.

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Knock off vet wrap. Buy it in bulk on sale…because at some point you will need it.

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