Goat pneumonia is usually fast acting and critically serious. I’d like to start with this: you will most likely need antibiotics for treating any case of pneumonia that includes a downed goat or one who is obviously lethargic. For cases quickly caught, here are the many herbal remedies you can use to treat pneumonia in goats. This article details herbal, natural and alternative remedies that I have personally used to treat cases of pneumonia in my own herd. It draws from nearly 15 years of personal experience as well as the wisdom gleaned in some of my favorite herbal remedy books. This is an article to read ahead of kidding time or times of the year when pneumonia is most prevalent so you are able to prepare with supplies you’ll need. Let’s begin by learning how to identify goat pneumonia.
Symptoms of Pneumonia in Goats
Goats, being the stoic creatures they are, tend to exhibit symptoms when things are getting pretty serious. Daily goat walks, moments of quiet observation and time spent will be your first line of defense against any illness. A goat standing off, looking a little lethargic, hunching his back, putting his tail down, shivering, not being eager to go to feed, etc. are all early signs that something is going on.
Goat pneumonia typically presents with a few additional symptoms. Usually–but not always–the goat will have a fever. You might see nasal discharge and it can be yellow*, but more seriously green. In adults, I squat down and listen behind their shoulder to see if I hear lung sounds. A stethoscope is a good tool to have on hand for this. For kids, I hold them up to my ear to listen for lung sounds; a stethoscope is usually not necessary for kids.
*Yellow nasal discharge on its own is rarely a cause for concern. Like humans, goats can get colds and if the only symptom is discharge from eyes and nose, I usually don’t treat this. You can start with immune boosting here–garlic is a great option–but often cold symptoms resolve on their own with no intervention.
Lungs should sound clear and breathing should be even and smooth. If you hear a rattle, wheeze or other indication of congestion and the goat has any of the other symptoms above, pneumonia is the likely culprit. If the goat is still perky, eating and active, start with the safest, milder treatment of pure herbs. Use your judgment and intuition to determine the need for more aggressive treatment but always, always go with your instinct and don’t hesitate to go all-in on treating. Pneumonia is not an illness with room for timidity and it’s completely okay to go grab a hard hitting antibiotic in this situation. Antibiotic side effects are not usually as serious as the death awaiting an untreated pneumonia case.
Thoughts on Preventing Goat Pneumonia
My favorite herbal animal husbandry book, The Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable (aff) by Juliette de Bairacli Levy, has this to say of goats in the section on pneumonia and I think it’s really useful to keep this in mind when we think about how to manage our goats in general to promote respiratory health:
Goats by nature being creatures of dry, rocky areas, and of high hillsides, are subject to pneumonia when kept in damp, draughty quarters, or exposed to sudden chills on journeys (when being transported to shows, matings, etc.).
If we keep in mind the fact that goats are meant for well ventilated hillsides and fresh, clean air, we can try to accommodate this as best we can in our housing areas. It is specifically for this reason I always advocate for open shelters that allow for some airflow. We never, ever lock our goats in a closed area, but let them come and go at will to their three-sided shelter. If you must lock your goat in a shelter, do so with two windows open to allow air to flow through instead of stagnating, especially if you have litter or bedding that can accumulate waste and produce ammonia.
Nutrition and adequate housing go a long way toward boosting innate immunity and helping naturally prevent pneumonia in goats. By ensuring good quality feed, proper mineral balance, fresh air and ample exercise, we all but put ourselves out of a job in terms of goat maintenance. I spent almost zero time fixing or maintaining my herd, using the time I save instead to enjoy my goats…and write about them. 😁
Boost Immunity in Times of Stress
Rather than waiting for a health crisis, if we can anticipate a potential issue, we can use preventive measures to head off goat pneumonia. This can be assessing our environment, timing kidding for more favorable weather conditions or adding herbal prevention ahead of stresses that can depress immunity. For example, if you have young kids on the ground and anticipate a sudden temperature change or heavy rain, you can add lung and immune supporting herbs to a feeder with kelp and allow your kids to self medicate. We do this routinely for coccidiosis and it works very well to head off most issues.
Temperature Control in a Goat with Pneumonia
If you suspect your goat has pneumonia, even if it’s warm outside, provide them with supplemental heat. A blanket, heat pad, spot near the wood stove, etc. are all ways to help your sick animal maintain a suitable body temperature. This first step is extremely important and should not be missed.
Herbs for Goat Pneumonia
When giving herbs for goat pneumonia–or to prevent it–you will usually use the powdered herb, a premade tincture or an infusion (tea). I mostly give powdered herbs in an oral drench because it is the most accessible route. Since you’re reading this ahead of time (right? 😉), you could create tinctures to keep on hand for such emergencies, but in a pinch, powdered herbs do just fine.
Mullein for Goat Pneumonia
Mullein is without a doubt my favorite lung supporting herb. It is an expectorant, which means it helps expel mucus which is critical in pneumonia to help the lungs continue to function. I add mullein to kelp and feed it herdwide during fire season too because it is so effective at easing the congestion and pressure from smoke inhalation. I make it for my humans then too, in a tea with mint and nettle.
Lobelia for Goat Pneumonia
Lobelia is the best partner to mullein in lung issues. It enhances to effectiveness of mullein and adds its own lung supporting properties. Of lobelia, Juliette has this to say:
…[Lobelia] is one of the most remarkable of all herbs, sharing with garlic the powers of being able to cure nearly every ailment which afflicts the human and animal body.
Definitely an herb to keep on hand.
Nettle for Goat Pneumonia
I have nettle growing abundantly on my place so I harvest it myself and keep plenty on hand. Because of is nutritive, blood building, astringent and antibiotic properties, I include it in virtually every herbal blend I give my human and animal patients. It is by far my favorite herb and holds a place of great honor in my herb collection. I feel it is a necessary companion to other herbs for creating a full remedy. This is all opinion, but nettle is one I will never go without. If you like studies, take a look at this compilation of data on the properties of nettle.
Garlic for Goat Pneumonia
Garlic is probably the most essential herbal remedy you can keep on hand for your goats – and yourself! It is immune boosting, antiseptic, antibiotic, antiviral and the number one go-to for immune boosting at the first sign of any ailment. You can take whole cloves, blend them in enough olive oil or apple cider vinegar to make a slurry and dose orally at any time for boosting immunity. Add herbs to this slurry to dose for specific ailments. Your goats may even eat whole cloves out of your hand and save you the trouble of preparing it.
Mustard and vinegar can help reduce pain and inflammation around the lungs. You can apply a mustard and vinegar pack to the back along the lungs and to the spine. Make a paste using wine vinegar and powdered mustard, applying liberally, then covering with a waterproof wrap such as plastic cling wrap, wax paper or the like. Clean off with a wet rag after 45 minutes to avoid skin sensitivity.
Oregano Essential Oil for Pneumonia
Oregano essential oil is one of my absolute must-haves around the medicine chest. I’ve talked about it for coccidiosis, but it also shines for pneumonia. I dose this at a rate of 4x daily for the first 2-3 days, then 3x daily for 1-3 days, then 2x daily for 1-3 days, then 1x daily for 1-2 days, depending on how the goat is responding. This is one of the remedies I will reach for first in a pneumonia case.
As an aside, the decision to use the brand of essential oils I use stemmed from a case of pneumonia I had been treating with an MLM brand with no improvement. I switched to the brand I use now and saw improvement in that case after a single dose. It has proven itself over the years and because of my own positive experiences in a variety of therapeutic applications, it is the only brand I use where health is involved. I mention this as a cautionary tale. Not all oils will have the therapeutic results we’re seeking, regardless of how well they present themselves and their “quality.”
The dosage amount is 1-2 drops for kids, 2-3 drops for adults. Frequency of dosage is more important than amount in my experience. You could do every three waking hours if needed. Keep in mind oregano is a very powerful antibiotic and will affect gut health. It is also caustic and will burn tissues if applied straight. Dilute well with olive oil, colloidal silver, water or herbal tea before drenching orally. There is no point in using apple cider vinegar to dilute because the oregano will kill the probiotics in ACV. Dilution rate for oregano is 1 drop to 1ml, though very young animals may need a more frequent dosing and higher dilution rate.
Colloidal Silver for Goat Pneumonia
I’m a big fan of colloidal silver and use it regularly in my own household for numerous uses. In ruminants, however, it is important to note that colloidal silver acts on beneficial gut bacteria as well as the kind we want to get rid of, so always use it sparingly with that in mind. Dose it away from probiotics by a couple of hours. It’s very cost effective to use home brewed silver and from a sustainability standpoint, I’d encourage everyone to obtain the parts needed to brew silver.
Dosage: 1-3ml as often as hourly during acute stages, administered orally with or without herbs.
Nebulizing for Goat Pneumonia
If you have a handheld nebulizer, you can administer colloidal silver in an aerosolized format. This works best if the animal is still breathing deeply because the aerosol can penetrate deep into the lungs. I have seen even critical patients temporarily improve in breathing with nebulizing, particularly using the mixture below in the notes.
Special notes on this: I have added a 3% food grade hydrogen peroxide to this 50/50 with notable improvement, but the studies I cited to conclude this are not easy to locate now. This is because a particular author discussed it as a remedy for a particular human health concern and what can be found now are discussions about the dangers of this treatment. I mention it, but caution you to research this and other methods before using to determine for yourself what is the correct method for you. In the end, as I tell people in my group, don’t trust what someone on the Internet tells you, but instead make a decision based on the information available to you added to your own experiential knowledge and intuition.
Dosage: If your animal will allow it, nebulize for about 5-10 minutes at a time as often as every hour.
Goat Pneumonia and the Essential Oil Steam Pot
Respiratory benefiting essential oils, such as eucalyptus, thyme, rosemary and peppermint, can be added at a rate of 1-3 drops each to a pot of boiling water. You can create a tent over the animal’s head using a hand or body towel so the steam from the–protected by another towel or pot holders–pot rises up into the animal’s face for easy breathing. I like to do this for a few minutes, then break. Make sure there is fresh oxygen coming in as well as the steam pot so the animal isn’t working harder to breathe.
Kat Drovdahl of Fir Meadow first gave me this idea and she details quite a few more options in her book, The Accessible Pet, Equine and Livestock Herbal (aff), one of the top recommendations I have from my goat bookshelf.
Follow Up with Probiotics
If you’ve given colloidal silver, oregano or traditional antibiotics, be sure to follow up with probiotics. You can do this in between doses with a two hour spacing or wait until you’ve completed the regimen. If giving during treatment, you can add your herbal doses to the probiotics for an extra punch. I like to use kefir if I have it on hand, followed by apple cider vinegar, plain yogurt and finally, a commercial probiotic option if I have none of the others.
Supportive Care for a Goat with Pneumonia
Overall, your focus should be to keep your goat warm, comfortable and stress free. A crate inside or a quiet, temperature assisted area outside will work while you give these treatment methods time to work. Provide fresh water and, if you have it, herbal tea alongside at all times. Continue dosing at acute levels as long as the animal is symptomatic, then begin stepping down doses as improvement dictates. This is highly individualized, so you’ll go by how the animal is behaving, whether or not temperature is stabilizing, condition of any discharge, lung sounds, etc. Be mindful of not stopping treatment too early; you don’t want to risk a relapse on an already weakened immune system.