Listeriosis in Goats

I know.  “Listeriosis” totally sounds like a spell straight out of Harry Potter.  Something Hermione would exasperatedly demonstrate to Ron and Harry, probably resulting in a room tidied, or a knot undone or something.

But nope.  It’s actually an incredibly life-threatening disease that can affect goats.  If not caught and treated quickly, it results in the death of the animal.

Last Wednesday, I opened the barn door to let the goats and ducks out as usual.  And, as usual, there was the normal flurry of wings, feathers, hooves and fur as the animals rushed out to greet the day, but this time, there was only one goat rushing me.  Ninja hadn’t come out with everyone else.

Puzzled, and instantly feeling a sinking sensation in my gut, I walked into the still-dim barn to look for my missing goat.  

There he was, laying on the concrete, in a puddle of his own urine.  He lifted his head to me, so I knew he was still alive, but didn’t make any move to get up.  I went to get Ken, telling him something was very wrong with Ninja.  

By the time we got back to the barn, Ninja had stumbled into the yard, collapsed again, and began twisting his neck to stare skyward, while his upper lip curled convulsively.  His whole body would tense, his lip would curl, and his neck would twist so he was giving the stink eye to the clouds.

I went inside, and consulted Doctor Google.  I had no idea what I was dealing with, so I just typed in his symptoms “goat staring at sky and convulsing”.  Up came a number of sites about listeriosis, so I got on the phone to our local vet to see which office the goat doctor was at today.

They worked us in immediately, and we schlepped our first livestock to a vet.

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Ninja in the back of the truck, vet-bound.

You can actually see from in this shot how he was starting to do that sky-gazing bit, twisting his neck around spasmodically.

The vet diagnosed him with listeriosis, but we were baffled how he could have gotten it.  It’s spread from spoiled feed or view fecal-oral transfer, but the goat feed is fresh and the barn cleaned out regularly, but there’s always room for improvement on a farm, so we’ll be sure we change bedding even more frequently now.

Ninja at the vet. They do not give lollipops out at the vet for shots. Not for the goats, nor the humans.

Two vitamin injections and one shot of antibiotics later, we were ready to go home with syringes filled with medicine for the next four days.  

Yup.  Someone needed to learn how to give a goat a shot.  

I volunteered, since Ken’s schedule is often erratic, and the injections were best given at the same time each day.


Let me tell you about giving a goat a needle full of antibiotics:

They’ll either totally ignore you, or they will SCREAM LIKE A HUMAN BABY WHICH IS VERY DISCONCERTING.

But we all survived, and now, a week later, I’m super happy to report that Ninja is back to his normal, dopey self.  However, it has taught me a couple things- 

  1. in spring and winter (when the bacteria that causes listeriosis is more prevalent), sanitation protocols have to be increased
  2. if you suspect something’s wrong with the animal, the internet is an excellent starting point, but nothing beats a good vet
  3. administering shots is not my favorite thing to do, but I can do it when needed.