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Professional Version

Pregnancy in Goats


Jamie Lynn Stewart

, DVM, MS, PhD, DACT, Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine

Reviewed/Revised Aug 2021 | Modified Oct 2022

Gestation length in goats is 145–155 days (average 150 days) and can be affected by breed, litter weight, environment, and parity. Generally, first-kidding does have one or two kids, and in subsequent kiddings, triplets and quadruplets are not uncommon. Progesterone production for maintenance of pregnancy depends entirely on the corpus luteum, with a drastic decline in progesterone occurring 12–24 hours before kidding.

Pregnancy toxemia in goats is similar to that in sheep Pregnancy Toxemia in Sheep and Goats Pregnancy toxemia, the most common metabolic disorder of pregnant small ruminants, occurs during the final stage of gestation as the result of inappropriate metabolism of carbohydrates and fats... read more . This condition occurs during the final 6 weeks of pregnancy, when 80% of fetal growth occurs and energy demands are highest (150X–200X maintenance). Despite the increased energy demand, the growing uterus begins to restrict rumen capacity, reducing feed intake and predisposing does to developing ketosis. Does at increased risk of pregnancy toxemia include those that are over- or underconditioned and those with multiple fetuses. These does should be closely managed by increasing concentrate feed and monitoring urine for ketones throughout the last 6 weeks of pregnancy. Oral propylene glycol may be administered daily to does that develop subclinical ketosis to prevent progression of disease.

Does that develop severe ketosis will become anorexic and recumbent and develop neurologic signs due to hypoglycemic encephalopathy and secondary polioencephalomalacia. If untreated, does can die quickly. Treatment protocols depend on the value of the dam versus kids; however, induction of parturition is recommended because the viability of fetuses is already compromised. Intensive supportive care of the dam should include administration of intravenous fluids with dextrose, insulin to inhibit fatty acid mobilization, and anti-inflammatories. Vitamin B12 may also be administered as an appetite stimulant. Parturition can be induced using PGF2alpha alone; however, adding dexamethasone will promote fetal lung maturation and maximize chances of kid survival.

Lactational ketosis is similar to pregnancy toxemia but occurs within the first 3 weeks of lactation in high-producing dairy goat breeds. Clinical signs include irritability, anorexia, reduced milk production, and weight loss. Treatment options are the same as for does with pregnancy toxemia, depending on severity.

Hypocalcemia or milk fever Parturient Paresis in Sheep and Goats Parturient paresis in pregnant and lactating ewes and does is a disturbance of metabolism characterized by acute-onset hypocalcemia and rapid development of hyperexcitability and ataxia, progressing... read more occurs in high-producing, older (>3 years) dairy goats but not nearly so frequently, nor as severely, as in cattle. Early signs include stiff gait, tremors, and ataxia that can progress to complete recumbency, a comatose state, and death if untreated. Immediate treatment requires intravenous administration of calcium gluconate or calcium borogluconate solution, followed by oral or subcutaneous calcium for prolonged absorption. Treatment may be repeated in 24 hours for high-producing does if indicated.

Vaginal prolapse is fairly common in does and is believed to have a hereditary component. It may intermittently occur during late pregnancy due to increased intra-abdominal pressure and can be managed by decreasing rumen fill (increasing hay quality and supplementing with grain toward the end of pregnancy). If complete vaginal prolapse occurs, intervention is required to prevent injury, infection, or dystocia. Caudal epidural administration and placement of a prolapse paddle, retention harness, or retention sutures are recommended; owners should observe animals closely for parturition. Owners should be advised that vaginal prolapses will recur with each pregnancy, so they can decide whether to cull the animal.

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