No matter how familiar we may be with the realities of farm life, the pain of losing a special animal is never lessened. We came very, very close to losing Cadence in the first few days after the classic signs of listeriosis emerged and escalated within 24 hours. The veterinarian diagnosed her and put her on a course of antibiotics and fluids, and directed us on how to treat her. It was a long process after that: massive doses of antibiotics (IM) to cross the blood/brain barrier, monitoring her temperature/high fever, feeding her electrolytes and protein powder through a stomach tube, probiotics, and shots of B vitamins.
Cadence’s spirit and fight to live in the midst of pain was heart breaking. Fortunately, she was bottle fed as a kid and was receptive to us handling her and administering the intense medical treatment. Over 3 weeks, she was improving, slowly. Brain swelling receded and temperature returned to normal within a few days; however, she still had partial paralysis on the left side of her face after 2 weeks, which made eating and chewing cud impossible, and she remained blind in her left eye. She was also of course, very weak and unsteady on her feet. The last few days, however, she was able to stand up and lie down on her own - a significant improvement. Recovery for this disease is a very long process with no guarantees, so we were expecting her recovery to be long-term.
She still had that special spark and will to live, and she was also very aware of her surroundings. Yet, even as we hoped for more improvement, she died during the night - not unexpectedly, given the severity of the disease, but still, the hope that she was improving makes the hurt the greater. She will be remembered as the most independent girl in the herd, with my favorite coloring and markings in a goat, with a sweet and spirited personality. Her fighting spirit during her illness was evident.
Thankfully, though they were eating the same hay, none of the other goats became sick. However, soon after Cadence’s death, two kids from this spring's kidding died in a barn fire. Their family says they were wonderful goats with the best personalities who loved rubs and snuggles, and were brave and wonderful to the end. As the owner says, animals are such a joy, though there is always that chance that joy will end in heartache. She says, “Clearly I am always willing to take that risk."
So am I.
~ In Memory of Cadence, Huck & Finn ~
Brave & Gentle Souls to the End
|always up for an adventure|
|just a wee thing|
|like mama, like daughter|
General Information on Listeriosis:
Listeriosis is an infection caused by the Listeria bacteria monocytogens that attacks the brain stem of the affected animal. It is a cold-preferring organism, odorless and impossible to detect by sight, but is found everywhere and all around us in the soil, plant debris, in silage, water, feed, hay and also can be in the gut of a goat. It lives pretty much everywhere you find soil. Commonly it is picked up by the goat eating feed which was made in less than ideal conditions and contaminated by mud while it was being baled. Hay, being dry, is not such a risk. Wrapped bales are a danger and if possible, goats should not be fed pickled hay.
The incubation period for Listeria infection is about 2 weeks – a very long time. So any suspicious signs should immediately make you think back to where your animals were and what they were eating a couple of weeks before. If they have been inside eating nothing but good dry hay for the last six weeks then Listeria is still possible but not perhaps top of the list of suspects.
You can take preventative action, but it is impossible to fully prevent it. It is like Russian Roulette. It is all around us everywhere, waiting for the right time and the right animal. No matter how much you try to keep your animals' feed, grain, and hay dry and insect/mold-free it can still happen. There is no way to truly know, unfortunately. And it usually only happens to one of the animals in your herd. We have tried to isolate where it could have come from by process of elimination but it is nearly impossible to know. To dairy farmers, it is commonly known as ‘circling’ disease.’ It is a cold-loving type of bacteria, outbreaks in winter are most common.