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Understanding Founder in Goats: An Awful Hoof Condition


Hoof health is of utmost importance in the well-being of goats, as it directly affects their mobility, comfort, and overall productivity. One significant hoof condition that can affect goats is called founder. Also known as laminitis, founder is a painful and potentially debilitating condition that requires prompt attention and proper management. In this article, we will delve into the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for founder in goats.

Lots of information about founder in goats

What is Founder?

Founder is a condition that primarily affects the hooves of goats, causing inflammation and damage to the laminae—the sensitive tissues within the hoof. These tissues connect the hoof wall to the underlying structures, such as the coffin bone, and play a crucial role in supporting the goat’s weight. When the laminae become inflamed, it disrupts the blood flow and compromises the structural integrity of the hoof.

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And at its severest, the bones in the feet will rotate out of their normal position.

Laminitis is the initial outbreak of the laminae becoming inflamed. And Founder is when their phalanx bone rotates downward into the hoof. 

There is a web of tissue and blood vessels in the hoof that hold the bones in place. This is called the laminae. If this laminae breaks down, the blood vessels will either collapse or blood will flood into the hooves. When this happens, the bones are released from their proper position. 

Watch in the video on this page my experience with founder in my herd



Causes of Founder in Goats

There are several factors that can contribute to the development of founder in goats.

The most common causes include:

  1. Improper feeding: high-energy diets and feeding no roughage, while feeding high amounts of concentrated grain.
  2. Overeating: Consumption of large quantities of grain, rich pasture, or sudden access to lush vegetation can trigger an overload of carbohydrates and sugars in the digestive system, leading to metabolic imbalances that affect hoof health.
  3. Obesity: Overweight goats, especially those with a sedentary lifestyle or poor diet management, are at a higher risk of developing founder due to increased strain on their hooves.
  4. Improper pH balance in the rumen.
  5. Sudden change in nutrition levels. 
  6. Endocrine disorders: Certain hormonal imbalances, such as insulin resistance or Cushing’s disease (hyperadrenocorticism), can disrupt the metabolic processes in goats and predispose them to founder.
  7. Trauma or stress: Any trauma to the hooves, such as excessive walking on hard surfaces or prolonged standing on unforgiving ground, can trigger inflammation and increase the risk of founder.Excessive heat can be a stressor as can complications from kidding like a retained placenta, mastitis or a urine infection. Pneumonia can also lead to founder. 

No matter what sets founder in motion in your goat, incorrect feeding is always the underlying cause. As a goat owner, correctly feeding your goats will be the hardest thing you will have to figure out. 

Whatever the events that led to founder, Ruminal Acidosis was the event happening inside your goat when there was either acidic (lactic acidosis) or bacterial (enterotoxemia) changes in the rumen. This is why it’s key to make changes slowly to your goats diet and lock up all grain tightly! 

Not only do you need to figure out how to correctly feed your goat, when you feed, how much and how often you feed really do affect your goat’s health. 

Symptoms of Founder

Detecting founder in goats at an early stage is vital for successful treatment.

The following symptoms may indicate the presence of founder:

  1. Lameness: Goats with founder may display varying degrees of lameness, ranging from mild favoring of one limb to complete inability to bear weight on all hooves. The goat may walk on their knees because of the pain. And because they are walking on their knees, their leg muscles will shorten.
  2. Heat and pain: The hooves of affected goats are often warm to the touch and tender. They may also exhibit signs of pain, such as reluctance to walk or stand.
  3. Shifting weight: Goats with founder often shift their weight from one hoof to another in an attempt to alleviate the discomfort caused by inflammation.
  4. Abnormal hoof growth: As the condition progresses, the hoof growth pattern may become distorted, with rings or ridges forming on the hoof wall. The hoof wall may be extra thick and the hoof will grow abnormally fast.  Toes may turn upward as well. 

To make this more difficult, a goat may founder immediately after getting into a grain bin or it may be delayed several weeks. And even after a goat gets well from a sickness, they can founder a month later.

You may also find that even when goats are fed under the exact same situation, one may founder and the others won’t. Or under the same circumstances one goat may founder, another get Ruminal Acidosis and some will get overeating disease. 

Treatment and Management

The treatment of founder in goats involves a multifaceted approach aimed at addressing the underlying causes, reducing inflammation, and promoting hoof healing.

It is essential to consult a veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis and guidance on the best course of action.

If you know your goat has foundered, it is essential to immediately help your goat. If not, founder is incurable. After this, founder can only be managed for the rest of the goat’s life and they will have abnormal hooves, even to the point of being handicapped. 

Treatment options may include:

  1. Immediate Treatment: If you know your goat has recently foundered, soak the goat’s hooves in ice water. This will hopefully constrict the blood vessels and will force the blood out of the hooves. If done soon enough, it may stop most of the damage. You will soak the hoof in ice water each day until the hoof is no longer hot to the touch. They will like this treatment because their hoof is hot and it will feel good!
  2. Continued Immediate Treatment: If the goat has had grain overload, give Milk of Magnesia to the goat every 4-6 hours (15cc/60 pounds bodyweight orally). Give electrolytes through this entire process to keep the goat hydrated. Also give a probiotic paste to get live bacteria back into the gut. 
  3. Pain management: Banamine can be used as a short term solution. And aspirin can we used long term  to alleviate pain and reduce inflammation in the hooves.
  4. Dietary adjustments: Restricting access to high-carbohydrate feeds and transitioning the goat to a balanced, low-starch diet can help prevent metabolic imbalances and manage weight. Feed only high quality grass hay.
  5. Hoof care: Regular hoof trimming by a skilled professional is crucial for maintaining proper hoof balance and reducing strain on the laminae. Trimming should be done cautiously to avoid further trauma but should also be trimmed almost down to the blood probably at least twice a month. This frequent trimming may help encourage the hoof to return to its normal position. 
  6. Exercise and environment: Encouraging exercise and providing a clean, well-bedded environment that minimizes stress on the hooves can aid in the recovery process. This will also help keep the leg muscles from contracting so the goat keeps their ability to move. 
  7. Splints: for a very badly foundered goat, splints may need to be used daily on the goat for them to be able to stand. 

Prevention is Key

Preventing founder is always better than treating it.

Here are a few preventive measures you can take:

  1. Balanced diet: Ensure that goats have access to a balanced diet that meets their nutritional requirements without excessive amounts of carbohydrates or sugars. Consult with a veterinarian or animal nutritionist to develop a diet plan suitable for your goats, considering their age, breed, and overall health.
  2. Gradual diet changes: Avoid sudden transitions between different types of feed or grazing on rich pasture. Gradually introduce new feeds or pasture to allow the goat’s digestive system to adjust and minimize the risk of digestive upset.
  3. Weight management: Monitor the body condition of your goats regularly and take steps to maintain a healthy weight. Overweight goats are more susceptible to founder, so adjust their diet and provide opportunities for exercise to prevent obesity.
  4. Controlled grazing: If grazing on lush pasture, limit the time goats spend grazing to prevent excessive consumption of high-sugar grasses. 
  5. Routine hoof care: Implement a regular hoof care routine, including trimming and inspecting hooves for any signs of problems. Trimming should be done by a professional or someone trained in proper hoof trimming techniques.
  6. Reduce stress: Minimize environmental stressors that can contribute to founder, such as prolonged standing on hard surfaces or excessive walking on abrasive terrain. Provide clean, comfortable bedding and a well-maintained living area.
  7. Monitor for early signs: Stay vigilant and regularly observe your goats for any signs of lameness, discomfort, or changes in behavior. Early detection of founder allows for prompt intervention and a better chance of successful treatment.

You'll want to know how to prevent founder in goats


Founder is a serious hoof condition that can significantly impact the health and well-being of goats. Understanding the causes, recognizing the symptoms, and implementing appropriate treatment and preventive measures are essential for managing this condition effectively. By prioritizing proper nutrition, weight management, and regular hoof care, goat owners can minimize the risk of founder and ensure the overall hoof health and mobility of their animals.

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