I went out to feed the livestock on Thursday morning and found Fly, one of my new baby goats, with a wildly swollen lower jaw. My first thought was bottle jaw but I called my goat friend Nancy to verify. She said the other possibility was an abscess but that was rare compared to the possibility of bottle jaw caused by a large parasite burden. Going with the 95% chance of high parasite load, I should worm Fly immediately. I walked back into the barn and looked at all my wormers - Panacur, Cydecten, Valbazen and Prohibit - all sitting on my shelf but which to use? So I called my vet.
Fly, by the way, was active and ate his food enthusiastically that morning so I knew he wasn't near death right then but parasites are the biggest danger to goats so anything that looks like parasites should be addressed quickly. As a last minute thought I put Fitz in the goat box with Fly and took them both to the vet for testing. They are nearly joined at the hip and spend all their time within a few feet of each other so it makes sense that whatever parasite one has, the other probably has too. The vet ran fecals on both goats. Fly has Hemonchus contortis also called the barber pole worm. It’s a serious parasite that feasts on blood and can leave the goat highly anemic and if not treated - dead. The bottle jaw is caused by fluid leaving the circulatory system because there isn’t enough protein to hold it in the blood. The fluid pools along the lower jaw because that is the lowest part of the goat’s body since it spends most of its day grazing. Fitz has no barber pole worms but does have tape worms, so both the boys will be wormed three days in a row and are getting additional vitamins. I'll take fecals back to the vet next week for a re-check to see how they are doing.
This photo was taken this morning after Fly had two doses of wormer. His jaw line is still swollen but he has already improved considerably. According to what I could find on the INTERNET, the edema can come and go as the protein in the blood increases, the goat builds more red blood cells and the blood reabsorbs the fluid. The vet said not to expect the swelling to go away overnight, that it could take a couple of weeks for it to be completely and permanently gone.
I found some interesting information online about copper also. Copper is highly toxic to sheep and it was always assumed that while goats could tolerate a slightly higher amount of copper, they too could easily die if given even a small amount of copper. Various studies seem to indicate that goats actually need significantly more copper than previously thought and that it may actually help prevent infestation by the Hemonchus worm. I'll talk to my vet about that next week.