Polioencephalomalacia – Our Experience

Goat Polio

Brooklyn, 18 month old dry yearling Nubian doe, exposed to buck 5 weeks prior. Estimated weight 6 days prior to onset of polio: 170# (tape measurement of chest was 39.25″)

Things we used for treatment:

  • 12cc syringe
  • Needles
  • Injectible B Complex
  • Bottle for forcing liquids
  • Thermometer
  • Fresh Ginger Root (for soothing stomach)
  • Baking Soda
  • Nutri-Drench
  • Probios

Here’s the super short version, I’ve documented the entire crisis and her progress over the next week below.

Our goat Brooklyn had been acting “sad” – moping around for a couple of days, but we had been replacing the fencing around the goat pen. This sometimes spooks the girls, so we just kept an eye on Brooklyn. Usually when we notice them acting depressed/sad/mopey we give them a dose of probios (acidophilus for cattle); we neglected to do that this time. I don’t know if that is why she got as sick as she did, but we will be more careful in the future to watch for them acting sad or depressed.

By 2pm, she had her first seizure. She was lying on her side with her four legs sticking straight out from her body. The seizure would cause her front legs to paw the air as if she were running, her back legs would stretch out until they were sticking straight behind her, parallel with her back.

We started treating her for Polioencephalomalacia [this is the correct spelling, btw] by 6pm with an injection of 1cc B complex. Later we were to discover that the dosage “in an emergency” i.e. you cannot get Thiamine (B1), was 12cc every 8 hours when using injectable B complex. Ideally your veterinarian would diagnose and prescribe Thiamine (B1) as goat polio is strictly a Thiamine (B1) deficiency. Within an hour she responded to the injection of B by lurching herself into an upright position, lying on her chest, with her front legs propped straight out in front to brace herself from falling over. Her neck was still stiff and drawn over to the left side. Prior to this, she was lying on her side, totally unaware of anything, enduring seizures about every five minutes. With the second injection of B complex (3cc, at this point we still didn’t know how much to give her) she managed to hoist herself into a standing position. She was blind, weak and managed to stand only a few minutes. We gave her a third injection of B complex (3cc) and this time she got to her feet and stayed on her feet for the next eleven hours. Please continue to read on if you would like to read detailed documentation of her illness and how we cared for her.

I work for an agency that provides services for adults who are blind and visually impaired, so I understand the difference between “blindness” and visual impairment. Most people assume a person with vision loss is “blind” and make the assumption that the person sees nothing but total blackness. The fact of the matter is that only 15% of the “blind” population is totally blind, seeing only blackness. At any rate, I couldn’t bring myself to say Brooke was blind when I could tell that she had impaired vision.

Click here for links to more information on Polioencephalomalacia/Thiamine Deficiency/PEM/Goat Polio.

DAY 1 Thursday, November 20, 2003

6:00am: Brooke isn’t up with the other goats, lying down alone by herself. This was the first thing that caused us to suspect something was awry.

9:00am: Brooke is listless and not at all feeling like herself. We have perused our two goat books and haven’t found much information, maybe she is aborting? She did get up and walk around, urinate and had normal goat berries. We gave her some Nutri-Drench in water, as she was acting lethargic.

2:00pm: We panic, assuming Brooke is dying and in her death throes — she has just had her first convulsion.

3:00pm: We now suspect bloat, and drench her with 1/2 cup of olive oil, and then tube her. We got out about 1-2 cups of yellowish-green liquid. She had been lying on her side convulsing every 5 minutes or so. She was totally out of it. Her neck was twisted upwards, and when she would have a convulsion her front legs would peddle fast, and her back legs would stretch way back until they were in line with her back.

We knew Brooke needed to get up off her side. We tried to make a sling to hold her upright, but it didn’t work out. She did urinate while in a semi-upright position.

Three factors kept us from calling a veterinarian. 1) We have not yet established ourselves with one, 2) We have heard nothing but complaints about veterinarians in our area — that they know little about goats 3) We couldn’t afford to take the chance of calling a vet when we could probably do just as well or better, on our own. Ideally, I would have 1) preferred to have had ourselves established with a knowledgeable veterinarian, so we could have called for advice and access to prescription medication 2) had the money to be able to afford the vet.

4:30pm: I stayed outside with Brooklyn for awhile longer, but then felt like I had to get indoors and start researching the Internet to see if I could find out what was wrong with her. Just a day earlier on one of the goat lists I’m on, someone had a doe down with Brooke’s symptoms. It was suggested that this other doe could have polio, listeriosis, tetanus, or poisoning. I decided that we would start treating with the “cure” for polio, which is injectible Vitamin B – three doses in a 24 hour period. It should be B1, but B1 (Thiamine) can only be obtained through your veterinarian with a prescription. We gambled by not giving Brooklyn antibiotics, because if she had listeriosis she would have gotten sicker. Another person on a list I’m on had a buckling with listeriosis at the same time. She told me that they too started out with only the injections of B1, but her buckling got worse.

5:00pm: We pick up injectible B from the local feed store, syringes and Red Cell (for selenium, as our area has a deficiency). This is the B I got:
Durvet Maxi-B 1000 Injection NDC 30798-324-10.
Contents 100ml. By the way, ml are equal to cc
Each ml contains:
12.5 mg Thimaine Hydrochloride (B1)
Niacinamide 12.5mg
Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (B6) 5.0mg
d-Panthenol 5.0mg
riboflavin B2 2.0mg
cyanocobalamin (b12) 1000mcg
benzyl alcohol as a preservative
Dosage per bottle: 1 to 2 ml per 500 pounds of body weight.

[When we went for the second bottle of vitamin B, we discovered that there was a less expensive kind that did not contain B12. The feed store owner told me that horse owners would go for the B12, as that is what horses need. So when I compared the bottles, and both had 12.5mg, I figured the less expensive B would work as well.]

6:00pm: Brooke has her first injection of B complex. We had never given a shot, we had no idea how much to give, so started out with 1cc [especially since the bottle said 1-2cc for 500 pounds of animal, this was instructions for cattle, though]. She’s still lying on her side, having spasms every 5 minutes or so, front legs peddling, back legs stretching way out parallel to her back.

6:30pm: We decided to bring Brooklyn into the house, because the temperatures were going down into the 40s, and so we could keep a close watch on her. We put her in our dining room. We brought in a piece of linoleum, then put a blanket over that.

We decide to carry her inside, no small feat, as she is a big doe. The last tape measurement estimate for weight was 170#. We found out that she actually needed a *lot* more of the injectible B, since it was primarily a deficiency in B1. The B complex I’d gotten only had 12.5mg of B1. But we were still leary of giving the shots, giving too much (knowing that B is water soluble didn’t seem to help much with the worry). Check Saanendoah for information on the correct dosage.

Once she got inside, after lying on her side for 15-20 minutes, she lurched herself up into an upright position onto her chest. Her front legs were propped straight out in front of her, with her back legs curled up near her body. This was a definite improvement, with only 1cc of B complex (12.5mg B1). Her neck was still stiff and arched to the side, but much less stiff. I put a beanbag chair under her head to help her hold it up since it kept slowly moving down, then she’d lurch it up again.

8:00pm: Brooke is bleating out every few minutes, (a painful sounding bellow sort of bleat) and acts as if she wants to get up. She has begun to grind her teeth, (this indicates stomach problems) she is keeping her head upright now with her eyes closed, she is obviously blind. Her pupils do not react to light. We’ve learned that she needs much more B (from 12cc to 64cc depending on who’s giving the recommendations). We gave her 3cc. At this time we didn’t know that the needle disconnected from the syringe, and were reluctant to poke her again right away, even though I knew she was going to need much more B. After the 3cc, she lugged herself onto her feet, but was very weak and swaying back and forth. She almost tipped over onto her head at one point, and soon laid down again (practically falling down). I also have given her a dose of probios. Her neck is no longer stiff at all.

10:00pm: We decided to give Brooke another 3cc of B. I was extremely confused about how much to give… 1) it should have been only B1 2) I was getting estimates of giving 12cc of B Complex — but only if it was “fortified” — all the way up to 64cc. The bottle I’d purchased only had 100cc, and was $8.25. Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of money so I was panicked at the thought of having to give 64cc three times a day for days! I guess all the advice was confusing me more than helping. But at least we were seeing improvement, even though our doses were not the recommended. I gave Brooke another dose of probios. [Later I learned that it is only necessary to give probios 1X in a 24 hour period. I was giving it to her because I was afraid of her rumen shutting down, and hoped the probios would keep it going to some extent.]

I got advice to give “ginger mixed with 10 ccs warm water as an oral drench just in case it is poisoning as this works on the toxins”. I had fresh ginger root on hand and made a tea of it. [2 cups of water and 5-6 thin slices of ginger brought to a boil, and steeped for 15 minutes). We were forcing liquids — water with a bit of molasses and salt mixed in (for an electrolyte effect). We were using a mustard bottle, putting the nozzle into the side of her mouth, holding her head up and squeezing it into her mouth. It helped to hold a towel under her mouth to catch the drips.

After the 3cc, she again stood to her feet. She is still grinding her teeth, her sides are sunken way in.

DAY 2 Friday, November 21, 2003

7am: 6cc of B complex. I’ve been up with Brooklyn on and off, all night long. I couldn’t sleep but a few minutes at a time. Every time I get up to check on her, she’s moved to another spot. She seems to be staying on her feet and slowly walking. Normal goat berries this morning, but she hasn’t urinated since yesterday afternoon. Brooke’s vision is definitely compromised. She acts as if she is blind, but she does have light perception now. Her pupils react correctly to a beam of light.

8am: We thought Brooke might want to go out onto the porch, she seemed to be interested in the open doorway, but it is still too cold for her. She began shivering, so I made her come back inside.

9am: Brooke finally laid down once we brought her back inside. She was on her feet from 10pm last night. She felt cold to the touch (still had not located or been able to leave to buy a thermometer!) so I put a comforter blanket into the dryer and heated it up, then draped it over her. I gave her another dose of probios.

11:30am: Since she hadn’t urinated in such a long time, we realized that we needed to start forcing more fluids, so we got 2 cups of water with molasses and Nutri-drench into her with the squirt bottle. I’m extremely worried about her rumen shutting down, since she hasn’t eaten in such a long time. I’ve been offering her grass hay every hour or so, (she normally eats alfalfa) but she is not at all interested in it. I even offered her a baby carrot, which she usually loves, but no luck.

12:30pm: I remembered reading on a list about how if your goat’s rumen is shutting down, you can sometimes help by stealing a cud from another (healthy) goat and give it to your sick goat. So we went out to the goats… we’ve figured out how to get the goats to hawk up a cud. If you rub gently on their neck, from their chest to their throat, scratching and rubbing, they like that, and eventually get starry-eyed and hawk up a cud. Our youngest doe, Lightning, urped up a cud, and I tried to get it, but she swallowed it right away. I waited for a few minutes, then tried again. I got a chunk of her cud, about the size of a peach pit. Lightning was NOT happy about this. 😉 We went back inside, and I tried to put the cud into Brooke’s cheek… she didn’t like the “ABC” cud anymore than Lightning liked having it stolen from her. Brooklyn spit it out, but I put it back into her mouth on her tongue, and just held it in her mouth for a couple of minutes. Brooklyn had been lying down since 9am, but stood up while I was trying to give her the cud. She still hasn’t urinated.

2pm: More ginger tea with baking soda. (About 1/8 cup tea, 1/8 cup water, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda). We forced 2 more cups of water into her, with molasses and Nutri-drench. Finally, I realized that we need to get her most favorite foods to entice her to eat. There is one kind of tree on our property (we only have two of this certain type) and the goats really love them. So I went and cut a branch for her. She was interested! But she wasn’t chewing off the leaves and twigs herself, she was just licking and nibbling gently on the branch, so I took bite-sized pieces off for her. She finally ate! She ate about twenty little bunches. I then gave her more probios. She pooped again, normal berries.

2:15pm: She finally urinated! Quite a bit, at least two to three cups, dark yellow. I attributed the color and strength to not getting enough fluids, plus an excess of B vitamins always color the urine bright yellow. We caught much of it in a bowl we had for just that purpose. Now the next improvement we’re looking for is to see her chew her cud. She is also nibbling on grass hay, and finally drank water on her own.

3pm: 6cc B complex

3:15pm: We decided Brooke would benefit from some sunshine, and guided her out onto the porch. We thought it might also be beneficial for her to have a visit from her herdmates, so we brought our other two does up onto the porch for visitation. 🙂

8:00pm: Brooke is lying down in the hallway, we observed her hawk up a cud and chew it, three times. This is very good! She is still visually impaired.

11pm: 12cc B complex. Earlier today I finally bought a syringe that holds more than 3cc! So I was able to give her the full 12cc’s that was recommended on the Saanendoah site.

DAY 3 Saturday, November 22, 2003

7am: 12 cc B complex. Brooke is still not drinking on her own, or eating without our enticing her with her favorite foods. So we’re pushing fluids orally, and giving her favorite tree leaves. We also gave her some chapparel twigs, she ate just a couple of those, her favorite tree, and sunflower seeds. We will continue to force fluids today every couple hours.

3pm: 12 cc B complex. We discover that Brooke loves sunflower shells (yes, the shells — the seeds have already been removed). I took Brooke’s chest measurement, it’s now only 36″? That indicates weight loss of FORTY pounds?!

5pm: We decided since Brooke is walking around the house at a pretty steady pace, and bleating questioningly — as if she was looking for her herdmates — that we should take her outside to see how she would do in her own environment. Taking her out to her own home seemed to do Brooke a world of good. Her appetite perked up immediately, and she began hogging down alfalfa like she usually does.

Since Brooke seemed to be responding so well to her own home, we decided to set her up in a private stall in the barn and see how she would do for the night. It is not possible to leave her with her herdmates at this point, as she cannot see if they try to headbutt her. I’m really torn between having Brooke in the house one more night, since it is supposed to get down to below freezing tonight, and letting her stay in the barn. I put her sweatshirt back on.

Brooklyn in her sweatshirt, Day 3

8:30pm: 8cc B complex. We are all so exhausted and it’s so cold out, I don’t know if we can get out to the barn at 11pm, so we decided to give her a reduced amount of B, at an earlier time. When we got into the barn, she was lying down, and seemed comfortable. She isn’t shivering, and it’s quite a bit warmer in the sheltered part of the barn that she is in, in comparison to outside the barn, where the other goats prefer to spend the night — even with the wind blowing at 20mph!

DAY 4 Sunday, November 23, 2003

7am: 12cc B complex. Brooke did very well last night. She is up and talking, but still blind/visually impaired. This private stall opens out into a private yard. We let Brooke out into this small yard so she could get some sunshine. She is eating okay, but it still doesn’t seem she is drinking, or maybe just not very much. So I’m continuing to force liquids into her.

3pm: 6cc B complex. We’re running out of vitamin B. I didn’t realize it until the feed stores were all closed today. I cut her dosage to 6cc, and this hopefully will leave enough for the next 2 doses. I work tomorrow, so I won’t be home to get more until around 5pm. Brooke is eating her hay voraciously. It doesn’t seem she is drinking water, so I’m still pushing fluids, a cup or so at a time. But she is urinating and defecating, so she must be getting enough fluids. She is really disliking my forcing her to drink. She’s beginning to fight me. She still appears to have vision loss. I think she can see blurry shapes, but of course there is no way for me to determine that.

Brooke had one more injection of B, 6cc in the evening. We pushed/pulled her into the barn for the night.

DAY 5 Monday, November 24, 2003

We decided to give Brooke 2 daily shots of B, 12cc at each time, starting today. She’s much better. We still forced some fluids, but she is eating alfalfa voraciously. We attempted to put her in the barn tonight, but she fought mightily. After we finally got her in the barn, she pushed her way back out in the yard. I guess Brooke wants to sleep out under the stars tonight.

DAY 6 Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Two injections of B complex today. Brooklyn is eating and drinking on her own. We took off her sweatshirt today, and let her spend time with her herdmates. The youngest doe, who was number three, is trying to move up into Brooke’s position – #2. Brooke is having none of it, and even though she is still not seeing very well, she is trying to shove the youngest doe. Brooke is moving around her private yard much quicker, so it seems her vision has improved. But at dusk, she is still bumping into the chain link fence, so her vision isn’t back completely. We’re still hoping that she’ll recover fully. Some research I’ve found says that it can take up to a week for full recovery, so we really hope to see her vision return.

DAY 7 Wednesday, November 26, 2003
Brooke is doing much better today. We can tell that she is still experiencing some vision loss, but it is obvious that her vision is returning. She is feeling well enough, and can see enough to re-establish her position on the totem pole with the younger doe. After spending a few hours with them together, we decided she would be okay to stay with her herd. She’s doing very well.

DAY 8 Thursday, November 27, 2003
I observed Brooke eating and drinking normally today. All of the goats are gingerly lapping up water… I guess it’s too cold to take big slurps of water like they usually do. As she is still experiencing some vision loss, we are still giving the B complex injections. The information I’ve gotten online says to continue until the symptoms disappear.

DAY 9 Friday, November 28, 2003
We are cutting Brooklyn’s dose down to 6cc twice a day. She is moving quickly around the goat yard, but it is hard to tell if she has her vision back totally. She is in with her herd, eating and drinking well. I think we’ll give her B complex for a few more doses, and continue watching to see if she looks like she has her sight back completely. I observed her today walk up one step, across a platform, and then when she got to the down step, she seemed to be just slightly off, as if she hadn’t seen the drop off.
DAY 26 December 15th, 2003
Brooklyn began aborting today. I had wondered if her ordeal would affect her pregnancy, and possibly it did. She aborted at 8 weeks.


February 14th, 2004
To look at Brooke today, you would *never* imagine she’d been blind, and on death’s door. I am so grateful we were able to bring her back to health. We had her bred again and her new due date is June 21, 2004.

More information on Polioencephalomalacia/Thiamine Deficiency/PEM/Goat Polio

[HDG911] Polio from Animal Disease Diagnostic Lab
Polioencephalomalacia Reprint The Goat Magazine June/July 2000
Goat Connection
On-line Medical Dictionary
Metabolic and Nutritional Diseases of Goats – Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food
Onion Creek Ranch Tennessee Meat Goats – Goat Polio or Listeriosis?
Diagnosing and Treating Listeriosis