© 2015 All rights reserved Why animal owners would let their animals starve is a mystery to all of us I'm sure. I suspect that one of the biggest reasons is people getting more than they can care for and "loving" them too much to get rid of some.
So, somehow a starving goat has come into your life. How do you handle it? What should you do to put her on a path to health?
Of course, your first reaction is going to be to get this goat eating as fast as possible, to fill her full of supplements and meds...DO NOT DO THIS. Above all DO NOT give ANY worming medications.
In the healthy goat, she eats her food and through a complicated process involving minerals, vitamins, and amino acids energy is created. If the goat eats more carbohydrates and fats than she needs then the excess is stored in the cells for later use. Protein is used up immediately for day to day function and is not stored. It is used to build cells in the body.
In the starving goat, she has very little, if anything at all to eat. The energy process must go on though for her to sustain life. Her system over rides the health of her body to protect the brain. She begins to use up the protein of her own cells to stay alive, this includes the cells of her stomachs, intestines, and heart.
It is very important for the rescuer to understand how to begin refeeding and why if it is done wrong, it can cause the severe complications.
Refeeding syndrome was first discovered when the Jews were rescued from the Concentration Camps, the very act of eating was detrimental to these starving people. Similar reactions occur in starving goats. This syndrome can cause kidney, heart, and respiratory failure 2 to 5 days after the first feeding.
In ‘Saving Survivors,’ King explains that, ‘When you introduce calories you have an elevation in the insulin, when insulin increases; it starts an electrolyte shift that ultimately can cause a respiratory compromise. Consequently, red blood cells collapse; with that, the patient doesn’t have adequate oxygen transfer and the horse goes into this irreversible condition that can lead to death.” (King, 2003)
Electrolyte imbalances are at the root of the complications associated with ‘re-feeding syndrome’. The more notable problems include hypomagnesaemia, hypokalemia and hypophosphatemia. When carbohydrates, or glucose, is fed to the starving animal these electrolytes are driven into the intracellular compartment causing a severe deficiency of serum electrolyte levels (UC Davis, Shelter)
When a starving animal is fed a high carbohydrate meal, insulin is released in response to the high starch levels. Insulin is a hormone that stores carbohydrates in cells for use as an energy source. At the same time, the released insulin pulls magnesium and phosphorous out of circulation and into the cell. During starvation the animal’s electrolytes have been depleted and the starved animal doesn’t have additional stores available for normal functioning. During the course of the next several days a cumulative effect occurs during eachfeeding of high carbohydrate feed. The continued depletion of these electrolytes can lead to death by respiratory, cardiac or kidney failure. (Dr. Caroline Stull PhD)
Managing a starving Goat
When refeeding a starving goat some important things to remember are...
Refeeding Syndrome usually happens in the first week of feeding. The recommended diet is low carbohydrate and low fat. Alfalfa hay is recommended. The best approach is tiny, very frequent meals of high quality alfalfa hay. The frequency should be decreased and the amount of each meal raised very slowly over a 14 day period. After 2 weeks the goat can be slowly raised to as much alfalfa as she wants. Researchers feel that this is the time period to adjust from a starved state to a fed state. The energy level of the goat should increase at the 2 week time period. Animation of the ears and face will be the first sign she's getting better. 6 months to a year is required to bring the goat back to acceptable health.
Starved animals have impaired immune systems so, they must be kept separate from other animals.
Signs to watch for include: Muscle weakness, Neurological dysfunction (polio), irritability or aggression, anemia, she may need electrolyte (CMPK) injections if any of these signs are noticed.
Another refeeding problem is depleted thiamine. Goats make thiamine in their rumen to help digest carbohydrates. The resulting depletion can become worse when feeding begins so, thiamine injections should be provided.
The refeeding schedule should look something like this for the standard sized adult: Adjust amounts depending on the situation and size of the goat
Days 1-3: Divide 1.5 lb of alfalfa into 6 feedings Days 4-14: Very slowly increase the amount of alfalfa hay and decrease the number of feedings until you arefeeding 1 lb of alfalfa every 8 hours for a daily total of 3 lbs.
Day 14 to around 6 months: Very slowly increase the amount of alfalfa to all they can eat and decrease feedings to twice a day. Provide a good mineral supplement but NOTHING else. Giving grain and/or supplements at this point will set her back and may still cause death.
DO NOT give grain until the goat looks/acts healthy in every way and the lost weight is almost completely regained.
Provide fresh clean water at all times.
De-worming can be done when the goat is easily eating as much alfalfa as she should be twice a day with no ill effects and her appetite has stabilized.
Stull, Carolyn, PhD, July 2003, The Horse Report, UC Davis, Volume 21, Number 3, pp456-457 ‘Nutrition for Rehabilitating the Starved Horse’, UC Davis Medical Center.
http://sheltermedicine.com/portal/i... UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program
http://www/thehorse.com King, Marcia, April 2003, ‘Saving Survivors, Article # 4283]