When the Necropsy Gives No Answers...

Discussion in 'Health & Wellness' started by Damfino, Mar 20, 2020.

  1. Damfino

    Damfino Well-Known Member

    Dec 29, 2013
    Right behind you
    I didn't share this at the time... there was too much else going on and this is very long. However, I think it might be helpful for some of us to remember that we can't always have the answers we want, and who knows... perhaps someone here might have an answer I couldn't discover at the time.

    It started in late October when my herd queen, Petunia, went off her feed. We had recently weaned her buck kid and sent him to a new home but she was still nursing her six-month-old doeling, Cupcake. Petunia ("Pet") has always been a very healthy, active goat with a very strong appetite. She was six years old in June 2019 and my strongest milker. I dried all the other does up and left Petunia in milk with plans to not breed her but to milk her through the winter. Pet did not go into the fall as fat as usual but she was sleek and healthy. She had had a bout with milk fever after kidding in late April, but she had bounced back from it very quickly and I wasn't concerned. I attributed the slightly lower weight to having a larger-than-usual buckling still nursing on her until he was five months old. I don't usually leave buck kids on their mothers that long, but he was gentle, he'd been wethered, and we were out of town a lot in fall so it was easier to leave them together, especially since she seemed so attached to him. She was not thin by any means and I was actually feeling relieved that for once I would not have to put her on a diet.

    A week-long blizzard hit us in the third week of October, bringing very cold temperatures, ice, and two feet of snow. All the goats seemed to take it in stride except Petunia. She lay shivering in one of the shelters and wouldn't come out. I managed to get her up and I brought her down to the house as usual to be milked and fed grain and chaffhaye, which she had been loving. That morning she didn't want her breakfast. Her temperature was subnormal (98*) and she was shivering uncontrollably. I gave her Vitamin B complex, probiotics, and a shot of LA300. I don't usually give antibiotics when the temperature is low, but she had gone downhill so quickly I was afraid I might be dealing with silent pneumonia, which presents as a sharp temperature spike followed by a severe drop. I kept her in the house for a while but when she eventually stopped shivering I sent her out with a heavy blanket. She slowly improved over the next few days but her appetite never really returned. She refused to touch the chaffhaye again, and would mostly just pick at her grain. She still liked alfalfa pellets and would usually eat those.

    For the next few weeks Pet would perk up for a few days and then act down in the dumps. Her tail was always down and her appetite came and went, but she never returned to her normal voracious self. When she ate, it was almost like she was just doing it to be polite and she usually left a lot in her bowl. She sometimes ate hay at the feeder with the other goats but other times she only took a few bites before retiring to her shed. I often brought hay to put in front of her and she usually ate it while laying down, but not with any gusto. Her milk production also dropped off pretty quickly and by mid-November I stopped trying. As soon as I quit milking, Pet weaned her doeling and was dry within a week or two. I gave her probiotics regularly but they didn't seem to make any difference. I never gave her another antibiotic injection since I quickly realized that we were not dealing with an infection.

    Petunia always chirked up when she came into heat and would eat very well and tussle with the other goats for a few days or a week, but then slid back into what I can only describe as "depression" when her heat cycle left. Unfortunately her heat cycles also seemed to coincide with the weather so I could never tell if hormones or cold was affecting her more. She seemed worse during cold spells. She never had a fever, but on her bad days her temperature would be low and I would blanket her. There was really nothing to show the vet. Her color was good. I sent in a fecal sample and it came back very clean for everything. She was losing weight steadily but slowly because although she didn't have her normal appetite, she was still eating something. I started bringing her in for a special meal of pure alfalfa hay every morning and evening to try to encourage her appetite. It worked for a while but throughout December she slowly lost interest in her special meals. She stopped going with the herd on their forays. I was on the brink of calling a vet when she suddenly bounced back at Christmas time (just as her heat cycle returned and the weather warmed up). She stayed active for about a week afterwards and chowed down on her alfalfa so I hoped maybe she'd turned a corner.

    But around the first of January, Pet's health took a nosedive. She stopped eating altogether and refused to leave her shed. I gave more probiotics, etc. and this time also gave her flat, dark beer. She seemed to like the taste but she didn't want to drink it, if that makes sense. It was that way with a lot of things. She would eagerly reach for things like peanuts or other treats, but most of the time she would either not take them or she'd chew them and spit them out. She started slinging cud at night. I would see the dark stains around her lips and there was cud stuck to the walls of her shed and in her baby's fur.

    I called the vet out and she found nothing of consequence. Heart and lungs sounded good. She wasn't pooping much by this time because she wasn't eating much, but what she produced looked normal. Pee was normal. Fecal was still clear. A blood sample we sent to the lab showed lower than normal white cell count, which is unusual but told us nothing except that there was no hidden infection. Over the following week Petunia went steadily downhill. She wouldn't touch food. I continued to give probiotics, B complex, and dark beer, and I also began to force some water with electrolytes because she stopped drinking. I gave her alfalfa pellet slurry. I tried molasses in the water--anything to give her an energy boost. She was unable to maintain her body heat so I brought her into the house. She was so cold she tried to lean on the wood stove. I put a piece of fencing between her and the stove after she pressed her nose and tongue on it. Burning her tongue on the wood stove finally induced her to drink water on her own, but at that point the fluids weren't helping. I could tell she was slipping away from us. I brought Cupcake into the house to keep her mom company through the night. Next morning Pet's temperature was down to 98* despite her warm bed near the stove.

    The vet was free that day so I kept Pet comfortable until the vet could get there and put her down. Pet could barely lift her head and was moaning but she didn't seem to be in terrible pain or distress. She was just fading.

    I hoped a necropsy would reveal a tumor or a foreign body in the stomach, but we found nothing of consequence. Her rumen was full of foul-smelling brown liquid which came gushing out her mouth and nose. A lot more flooded out when the vet opened the rumen, but there was nothing solid in there. Petunia was dehydrated during her last few days, so clearly all that liquid was not moving from the rumen. The abomasum (fourth stomach) was full of impacted green solids that must have been there for quite a while since Petunia had not eaten anything in days. It was clear the rumen had shut down and stomach contents were not moving along, but there was no explanation as to why. Her spleen was pale and splotchy, but the vet said that is a symptom of illness rather than a cause. There were no tumors or foreign bodies anywhere in the digestive system, and the reproductive organs looked healthy and normal. We took tissue samples from many of the organs and sent them to the lab for testing. The only thing out of the ordinary were some minor blood clots in the liver, but that can happen when an animal is sick and the blood is not circulating properly. So once again, a symptom but no cause. We ruled out Johnes. The only thing we can think is that perhaps it was neurological and something affected the nerves that control the involuntary muscles of the rumen. However, if someone else has had a similar experience and can offer a better explanation I would appreciate it.

    This is my "Pretty Petunia"--One doesn't think of goats as having "magnificent" tails, but she did and she was always very proud of it, holding it high aloft most of the time. As queen she was a kind, benevolent soul who looked after everyone's babies (not just her own) and made sure the lowest goat had a spot at the feeder. She didn't tolerate bullies. She always walked proudly at the front of the herd, and if the goats spooked, they flocked around Petunia and went whatever speed she determined for their retreat. She was a good girl and we miss her.
  2. ksalvagno

    ksalvagno Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    I'm so sorry you lost her. So no ulcers? That really is an interesting case.

  3. GoofyGoat

    GoofyGoat Well-Known Member

    Sep 21, 2018
    Oh no, I'm so sorry she's gone. I hope little cupcake is ok to carry on her legacy.
    It Kind of sounds like what happened with my Hagrid, but his was not as lingering. I had no clear answers either except tests showed his liver shut down.
    I hope that someone can shed some light on this for you. Not knowing is always hard. ((HUGS))
  4. Damfino

    Damfino Well-Known Member

    Dec 29, 2013
    Right behind you
    Cupcake is doing fine. In fact, she's doing better now than when her mother was ailing. For two months or so I kept thinking, "Gosh that's a noisy baby!" She would cry over everything. But once her mother died it was like the switch shut off. She greets everybody with a nice little "baa-aa," but she no longer cries. In hindsight I'm sure she knew something was wrong with her mom but she couldn't help so she was upset from being in a constant state of worry. Cupcake did not see her mom die of course, so she kept looking past me into the house where she had last seen Petunia. After a couple days of that I let Cupcake come inside so she could see for herself that Pet was gone. Cupcake explored around our basement, called a couple of times, and when she got no answer she went outside and never looked for her mom again. She took on a much happier aspect after that and is quite the little fireball. Her Uncle Sputnik kind of looks after her. Sputnik is Petunia's first offspring, and he, Pet, and Cupcake always shared a shed and a hay trough together. Usually Finn and Sputnik eat at their own hay feeder and everyone else shares the other, but they make an exception for Cupcake. It's funny to see that tiny little gal totally being ignored as she squeezes happily between the big boys when all the other goats are afraid to come near them at suppertime.
  5. Wcd

    Wcd Well-Known Member

    Jan 12, 2020
    Middle TN
    CaramelKittey likes this.
  6. Wcd

    Wcd Well-Known Member

    Jan 12, 2020
    Middle TN
    Sorry for your loss. losses just ..... Thank you for sharing, we recently received our results back with out any clear cause of death. I guess things just happen sometimes.

    Best of luck going forward.
    CaramelKittey likes this.
  7. Jessica84

    Jessica84 Well-Known Member

    Oct 27, 2011
    She was so beautiful! I’m so so sorry for your loss. Not having a answer doesn’t help things. I didn’t get a answer on my necropsies when I was losing kids at birth. I just decided it was selenium issue since that was one thing that wasn’t tested for and it did pay off going that way. If it didn’t I would have probably sold everything off.
    But I have read your posts and I have no doubt that goat lived a wonderful life and was beyond well loved, in the end I think that does count for a lot!
  8. Goats Rock

    Goats Rock Member

    Jun 20, 2011
    NE Ohio
    So sorry you lost her. She looks like a wonderful girl. Regarding the tail, supposedly, the longer the tail, the better the milker!

    I recently lost a doe like that. An old vet once called it "fading disease". No real cause, no pain just blah and a slow fade.
    CaramelKittey and GoofyGoat like this.
  9. Damfino

    Damfino Well-Known Member

    Dec 29, 2013
    Right behind you
    Thanks everybody. She was a special girl--the first kid born on our place and the first kid I ever delivered, noble herd queen, mother to Sputnik, half sister to Finn, and absolutely loved performing tricks! With her illness as prolonged as it was, this loss was not so hard as I would have expected. We had lots of time to say goodbye and she has a good legacy here with lots of relatives and descendants in my herd.

    Interesting. "Old vets" are the best aren't they? My vet said she'd also seen goats "fade" like that but they were usually much older. I forgot to mention that at one point I did try banamine in order to rule out internal pain of some kind (a goat can't tell us she has a headache!), but it made absolutely no difference.

    I ended up sending in fecal samples from every goat over 2 years old to rule out Johnes since they couldn't completely rule it out from Petunia's lab tests. Her illness did not remotely fit the Johnes "profile" and her annual blood test only 8 months earlier had been negative, but nevertheless I was on pins and needles for a while ("Can't rule it out" is a scary phrase when we're talking about Johnes!). But the fecal tests came back negative for my herd, and the annual blood screen results that came back a few days ago showed the same.

    Funny, those old wives tales! I always wonder if some of them contain a grain of truth vs. how much was made up by a fast-talking salesman.

    Petunia is the doe that inspired me to stop shaving tails for shows. I held the clippers up to that proud, beautiful tail and I just couldn't do it. I straightened the tip and I evened up a few hairs around the edges but I could not bear to shave away that beautiful, flaring, fan-shaped fringe!
  10. happybleats

    happybleats Well-Known Member

    Sep 12, 2010
    Gustine Texas
    Oh, Im so sorry for your losses. She was beautiful!! Mystery deaths are the hardest to accept. I want answers! How are we to prevent it from happening again if we don't have answers. But sometimes we just have to accept the fact we will never know.
    Things that come to mind are: was she exposed to a plant or substance that perhaps she nibbled on over time, causing a build up of toxins? But wouldn't that be found in Necropsy?
    Definitely effecting rumen function, but not a quick painful death as with enterotoxemia.
    Was her throat looked at? Could she have had a sticker or something lodge there preventing her from wanting to eat and drink? But then this doesn't make sense if she came into heat and bounced back some.
    Still more questions than answers. Im no help. ((hugs))
    CaramelKittey likes this.
  11. toth boer goats

    toth boer goats Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Jul 20, 2008
    Corning California
  12. 21goaties

    21goaties Well-Known Member

    Mar 13, 2018
    Southern GA
  13. Moers kiko boars

    Moers kiko boars Well-Known Member

    Apr 22, 2018
    One thing you said. She was slinging her cud. That is usually a sign of constipation. Milk of magnesia is used. Im wondering if that was the beginning of something she ate was either poisonous or not able to be digested properly. And you fed her well. And kept her healthy until her 4 th stomach stopped functioning.
    Nothing you could have done. Or would have known to do. It sounds as though several factors caused her passing.
    I wish you the best, and thankyou for shareing for us to learn.
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  14. Damfino

    Damfino Well-Known Member

    Dec 29, 2013
    Right behind you
    I'm sorry you had no clear results either. When you get some answers there's at least something to learn even in cases where there was nothing you could have done.
    CaramelKittey likes this.
  15. Damfino

    Damfino Well-Known Member

    Dec 29, 2013
    Right behind you
    She wasn't constipated. She could still poop fine, but during the last few days she didn't poop often because there was nothing coming down the intestinal tract. I don't think she ate anything poisonous. This was a very long-running illness so I think the necropsy would have revealed inflammation or some other sign of long-term toxicity in her digestive system. My vet said cud-slinging can be a side-effect of the rumen shutting down. When nothing can move along it sometimes tends to come back, especially when the goat lays down for a long period of time, putting constant pressure on the unmoving contents of the rumen.
  16. elvis&oliver

    elvis&oliver Well-Known Member

    Jun 27, 2018
    I’m sorry for your loss. She sounds magnificent and as a queen should have her own story book to remember her by. It was sad to read but at the same time I loved hearing about cupcake and her uncle, and how she wiggles between them. I bet she will be greatly missed and always remembered. :angel:
  17. bekscott

    bekscott Member

    Sep 29, 2016
    Brimfield, Ohio
    Sorry for your loss. What a lovely tribute!
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  18. Treva Brodt

    Treva Brodt Well-Known Member

    Jan 10, 2019
    West Union, Ohio
    I’m sorry for your loss, they are quite like family. Good to know the rest of your herd seems fine.
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  19. Trollmor

    Trollmor Well-Known Member

    Aug 19, 2011
    Goatless in Sweden
    Dear Petunia! Thank you for sharing, @Damfino!
    Yeah, that would have been a blasphemy!
  20. Caileigh Jane Smith

    Caileigh Jane Smith Well-Known Member

    Dec 1, 2019
    Missouri, USA
    What a wonderful tail she had! Sounds like she had a good life, too, and must have known that she was loved. Sometimes the best we can do is just love them well and give them as easy an ending as possible.