Bottle Jaw in Goats: Treat the Cause, Not the Symptom

Does your goat have a swollen area under their chin? This may be a sign of severe anemia. Learn what causes bottle jaw and how to treat it.

Reader Contribution by Shelby Devore and Farminence
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by Pixabay/stux

Many goat owners are well aware of the dangers that internal parasites can cause for their herd.  The most common internal parasite is the barber pole worm. These worms will chew on the digestive tract linings and create bleeding. The worms then consume the blood that spills out from the wound. In small numbers, these worms aren’t really harmful to the goat. In large numbers, they can consume so much blood that the goat’s body cannot keep up, causing anemia.

If left untreated, anemia can become severe.  Severe cases of anemia are often accompanied by bottle jaw.

What is Bottle Jaw?

Bottle jaw is a term used to describe an area of edema under the chin of a goat. Edema is intra-cellular fluid, or simply swelling. It’s not infection and would run clear if drained. Bottle jaw is not a condition, but a symptom of an underlying problem.

You may notice that a goat with bottle jaw tends to worsen throughout the day. The swelling will decrease overnight and may seem to have disappeared from the day before. As the day goes on, the swelling will return.

Bottle jaw appears in severely anemic goats. If your goat has bottle jaw then it needs treatment as soon as possible.

Causes

Bottle jaw is not an illness itself but it does indicate that there is an underlying issue with your goat. The underlying issue is usually anemia and can be caused by several things.

The most common cause of anemia in goats is the barber pole worm.  If your goat has bottle jaw, your first reaction should be to treat them for worms. You can use a wormer medication such as Ivomec, Cydectin or Prohibit. Use a FAMACHA score to determine the level of anemia in your goat. Goats with bottle jaw will usually score high on the FAMACHA test, but it’s a good idea to check them and keep a record of it.

There are a few other internal parasites that can cause anemia and bottle jaw. However, these are typically accompanied by other symptoms as well. Scours and fever can indicate an internal parasite that is not the barber pole worm.

Bottle jaw can be caused by a copper deficiency or a copper toxicity.  Make sure that your goats have ample copper from a goat mineral mix. Do not feed your goats a goat and sheep mineral mix as the copper will not be in the correct proportions. It’s a good idea to have your soil tested as well to see how much copper is present in the soil naturally. Sometimes other minerals in the soil can prevent copper from bring used properly.  For example, if your soil has high levels of molybdenum, your goat may not get enough copper from the soil, even if it is present in large amounts.  Molybdenum can block copper from being absorbed by the goat’s body.

Traumatic injury can create an anemic goat.  If your goat is anemic from an injury, you’ll be able to tell. Don’t worry about worming them but focus on healing them and preventing infection.

Treating Bottle Jaw

There isn’t a way to treat bottle jaw. To get rid of it, you’ll need to determine the cause of bottle jaw and treat the cause.

Start by worming your goat to make sure that they aren’t anemic due to barber pole worms. This is the most common cause of bottle jaw and is more than likely the cause.  You can supplement your goat’s recovery with injectable B-12, Nutri-Drench for goats and Red Cell. These supplements will help restore much needed vitamins and minerals to your goat so that their body can work on rebuilding lost blood cells.

If your goat does not show signs of recovering after a few days then you’ll want to have your veterinarian check them out. Your vet can test fecal samples for various parasites and run blood work tests to rule out any diseases.

Staying on top of your goat’s health is key.  Check for anemia often using the FAMACHA score system. Don’t worm your goats as a preventative throughout the year.  Worm them as they need it to prevent parasites that are resistant to worming medication.  If your goat is showing signs of feeling ill, check them out. Goats don’t often act sick until they are pretty bad off, which means they’ll need treatment quickly.


Shelby DeVore is an animal expert with a B.S. and M.S. in Animal and Dairy Science. Shelby has over 20+ years of experience working with animals and livestock. She lives in West Tennessee on a small farm with her husband, two children, dairy cows, goats,turkeys, too many chickens to count, two farm dogs and three tuxedo cats. You can read more from her on her homesteading blog Farminence. Read all of Shelby’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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