As I've mentioned before, I took the FAMACHA class on deworming goats only when necessary rather than whole-herd deworming regardless of condition. This directed deworming is supposed to keep worms from building up an immunity to the medications. So, with that guidance, I am trying not to deworm everyone on a set schedule, but rather, only deworm when the goats honestly need it.
My first major deworming mistake was brought to light yesterday, when I finally noticed that Loki had bottle-jaw so badly that it had spread from his chin all the way to his belly. I called the vet to confirm diagnosis. Ok, I actually called two vets just in case one was on vacation. Both of them agreed that this was 95% certainly bottle jaw.
Why didn't I realize what was going on right away? Well, I have no really good excuse besides a lack of proper suspicion on my part. When Loki's jaw started to droop, I chalked it up to a bad haircut that had left his chin fleece a little longer than I had first realized.
Yes, that was really stupid of me, but at least the Fates allowed me to learn this one without killing him. Honestly, I haven't seen this kind of problem since we first got goats, and the goat that had it was a slick, short-haired goat with a very pronounced jaw, who suffered symptoms only along the jaw line rather than under the chin and down the chest. (Sancho's mom Patty got it in 2002).
So, what is bottle jaw, why is it an issue, and how do I get it to go away...
Bottle jaw, as shown in the pictures posted here "is characterized by a hardened swelling beneath the jaw and is most often caused by worms or liver flukes. It can also be seen when a goat is weak or becoming ill. This can be a symptom of a goat that is sick or is becoming sick. Quite often, worming will cure this condition but one should also consider other herd health management techniques..." More information on worms from this same source is here.
Worms? Yup! As Susan Schonian (the woman who presented my FAMACHA class) says on her web site, "The barber pole worm (Haemonchus contortis) is the stomach worm of primary concern. It is a microscopic, blood-sucking parasite that pierces the lining of the abomasum (the ruminant's "true" stomach) and causes blood and protein loss and anemia, as evidenced by pale mucous membranes (lower eye lid, gums, etc.) and/or "bottle jaw," an accumulation of fluid under the jaw. The barber pole worm is difficult to control because it has a short, direct life cycle, is a prolific egg producer, and can go into a hypobiotic (hibernating) state, until environmental conditions are more favorable for its life cycle. The barber pole worm likes warm, moist conditions. "
The reason that this condition is called "bottle jaw" is because it appears when fluids leak from weakened blood vessels and flow to the lower (or lowered) parts of the body. As Loki grazed during the day, the fluids build up in the head (the lowest point). Then Loki laid down at night, and the fluid partially drained away from the head, which formed the "water" layer running down his chest and stomach.
It is important to note that, while ugly, the condition of bottle jaw is both easily reversed and not immediately fatal.
Immediate Treatment: I dewormed Loki last night using both Safeguard and Dectomax (yes, I consulted my vet) because they are different classes of drugs, so don't have a toxic build-up for a single treatment like that. Though it's not really a single treatment.
Long Term Treatment: Loki needs to be wormed with a strong medication once a week for three weeks, preferably with multiple classes of dewormers. Loki is probably also be anemic from the parasites, so I am going to scrounge up a good mix of treats to give him extra iron and vitamins. (Some web sites I've read also recommend preventative antibiotics. I'm not going to go that far just yet.) I think some TLC, some specific healthy "treats" like fresh broccoli and some pro-bios (a rumen stimulant) is the way to start. I'll keep an eye on him all weekend, and if he's no better by Monday evening, I'll have the vet re-evaluate his condition and give me new/better/specific instructions on what I'm missing.
Oh, and one further note from Susan:
"Drug families should be rotated on an annual basis to slow the rate of drug resistance. There are three families of drugs which have been used to treat sheep and goats for internal parasites. They are:
the Benzimidazoles (white dewormers) - Fenbendazole (SafeGuard/Panacur), Albendazole (Valbazen), and Oxybendazole (Synanthic);
the Nicotinics - Levamisole (Tramisol/Levasol), Pyrantel (Strongid), and Moratel (Rumatel);
and the Macrolytic Lactones or Avermectins - Ivermectin (Ivomec), Doramectin (Dectomax), and Moxidectin (Cydectin/Quest)."