Goats & Pregnancy Toxemia

Avoid pregnancy toxemia by providing your pregnant does with a well-balanced ration, including plenty of hay and grass.
Avoid pregnancy toxemia by providing your pregnant does with a well-balanced ration, including plenty of hay and grass. (Image: goats image by L. Shat from Fotolia.com)

Often called ketosis, pregnancy toxemia is a nutrition-related disease that may occur in your pregnant doe shortly before kidding. Early symptom recognition and prompt treatment drastically reduce your chances of having the doe (and her unborn kids) die from this easily preventable disease.

Time Frame

According to Alabama Cooperative Extension, pregnancy toxemia generally occurs at some point during the last three weeks of your goat’s gestation period. At this time, the growing fetuses in your pregnant doe’s body place drastically increased nutritional demands on their mother. This sudden drain of energy--especially from multiple fetuses--causes your doe’s body to become unable to metabolize glucose. Failure to correct the nutritional imbalance in her body may result in death within just two to three days.


As the last month of your pregnant doe’s gestation begins, watch her closely for signs of pregnancy toxemia. Early signs of ketosis include a decreased appetite, tooth grinding, lethargy and an overall attitude of lack of interest. As your doe’s energy levels deplete even further, she’ll begin to show more advanced signs of pregnancy toxemia, which may include blindness, staggering and lack of coordination. Within approximately two days of initial symptoms, your doe will become extremely weak and may lie down, as well as lapse into a coma, which could lead to death. According to Mary Smith, co-author of “Goat Medicine,” one of the most distinctive symptoms of ketosis in goats is sweet-smelling breath or urine, which occurs as a result of the overload of ketones in your doe’s blood.


Treatment options for pregnancy toxemia in goats vary, depending upon how far advanced your goat’s case of ketosis is. Treat early symptoms of ketosis with an oral drench of a quick, supplemental source of energy, such as corn syrup or propylene glycol. As a general rule, you should plan on providing one cup of corn syrup or two ounces of propylene glycol two times per day. If your doe does not show signs of improvement within six to eight hours, or if she becomes unable to stand or swallow, take her to your veterinarian for emergency treatment.


Undiagnosed ketosis often results in death, so it’s essential that you provide your pregnant does with adequate nutrition to minimize their chances of succumbing to this disease. Gail Damerow, author of “Your Goats,” suggests that you avoid sudden changes in your pregnant goat’s diet, particularly overfeeding her in early pregnancy or underfeeding her during late pregnancy. Gradually increase your doe’s nutritional intake throughout pregnancy, providing free-choice hay or grass and plenty of supplemental grain. Damerow states that one pound of grain per day should be adequate for meat-goat breeds, such as Boers, during the last month of pregnancy, but you’ll need to provide up to about three pounds of grain per day for dairy breeds, such as Nubians and LaManchas.


Milking your dairy goat during the last month of pregnancy increases your doe’s energy output, which puts her at a significantly higher risk of developing pregnancy toxemia. Stop milking your dairy goats approximately two months before they’re due to kid. Drying your pregnant does up at this time allows them to recuperate from the energy demands milk production places on them. They can then put more energy into maintaining adequate body weight and growing the unborn kids.

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