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When to Consider Euthanasia for a Sick Goat

Navigating Tough Decisions: When to Consider Euthanasia for a Sick Goat

Raising goats involves a deep connection with these animals, and when a goat falls seriously ill, the decision to consider euthanasia is undoubtedly one of the most challenging aspects of goat husbandry. Knowing when it might be time to say goodbye requires a careful assessment of the goat’s condition, quality of life, and the potential for recovery. When to consider euthanasia for a sick goat is one you should start considering now, so you know what to do when the time is right. 

You must realize that a lot of problems that lead to needing to make these tough decisions are directly related to problems that come from management issues. Laminitis, founder, bloat, urinary calculi, or any rumen problems are all health issues that come from not properly giving goats what they need…or giving them too much of something.

But goats can find a lot of ways to hurt themselves too! Improper fencing, improperly training guard dogs, keeping large, aggressive goats with smaller ones, and not removing toxic plants in your pastures are all apart of your  job to keep your goats healthy and safe.  

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When to Consider Euthanasia for a Sick Goat

Here are key factors to consider when facing this difficult decision.

1. Severity of the Illness:

Evaluate the severity and nature of the illness. Some conditions, such as certain infections or injuries, may respond well to treatment, while others, like advanced cases of pneumonia or debilitating chronic diseases, may present a grim prognosis.

Goats that test positive for CAE or Johnes should be culled. 

2. Quality of Life:

Consider the goat’s overall quality of life. If the illness is causing constant pain, distress, or impairing the goat’s ability to perform essential functions like eating or moving, the humane choice might be to spare the goat from prolonged suffering.

Sometimes goats are born with deformities like having no rectum or a cleft pallet. Although I’ve never had a goat born with either, we did have a pig born without a rectum. There is no way for any animal to survive like this.

My oldest doe Kira was 12 years old. The winter was really tough on her and as spring came, she wasn’t able to get around. It was really tough to watch and we had to make the decision for her. Her mind was there, she wanted to live but her body couldn’t hold her any more. It was a tough decision but needed to be done. 

3. Response to Treatment:

Assess the goat’s response to veterinary interventions. If despite dedicated efforts and appropriate treatments, the goat shows no signs of improvement or experiences a decline in health, it may indicate that the illness is beyond manageable recovery.

4. Chronic Conditions:

Chronic conditions that significantly compromise the goat’s well-being may warrant careful consideration. Conditions like advanced arthritis or severe deformities may lead to ongoing discomfort and suffering.

Chronic bad genetics might also be considered a chronic condition. There really are genetics you don’t want to be passing on to the next generation. In that case you would cull in one way or another. Some might cull by selling and some might cull by using them for meat. 

5. Mobility and Function:

Evaluate the goat’s mobility and ability to perform essential functions. If a goat struggles to stand, walk, or engage in normal behaviors, it may indicate a diminished quality of life.

I’ve had several goats with broken legs. I did have them casted and in all cases they healed perfectly. One was on a lower back leg and it was completely broken in two and the other was a top, front leg. But there are some situations, where a broken leg isn’t fixable or it would end up being two expensive. But there are many goats who can live on three legs, so that is always an option. 

6. Behavioral Changes:

Observe for significant changes in behavior. If a once-social and interactive goat becomes withdrawn, lethargic, or shows signs of depression, it could signal a decline in its mental and emotional well-being.

7. Prognosis:

Seek professional veterinary advice to determine the prognosis of the illness. Veterinarians can provide valuable insights into the likelihood of recovery and the potential for long-term suffering.

8. Financial Considerations:

While a difficult topic, the financial aspect of ongoing medical care should be considered. Balancing the cost of treatment against the realistic chances of recovery is an essential component of the decision-making process.

9. Record Keeping:

Keeping good records also means you’ll be keeping death records. Make sure you’re keeping the best records possible! 




A goat is a very strong animal. But when they go down and are sick, many times they don’t survive. It takes a lot of effort to bring a goat back from death. Many times it can be done, if you know what to do and what’s ailing them and have all of the necessary supplies on hand. 

And when a goat gives up, there’s nothing you can do. You can tell when they give up and you know when it’s time. 

Deciding when to euthanize a sick goat is undoubtedly one of the most heart-wrenching aspects of goat care. It requires a thoughtful and compassionate evaluation of the goat’s condition, considering factors such as the severity of the illness, quality of life, response to treatment, and the potential for recovery. Seeking guidance from a veterinarian and balancing emotional attachment with the welfare of the goat are crucial in making a compassionate and responsible decision during these challenging times. Remember that making the right choice often stems from a place of deep care and concern for the goat’s well-being.

You need to keep goats healthy so you have to make this decision the less possible times possible. Find out all you need to know about goats here: Raising Goats Resource Page

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