Goats are very expressive animals capable of displaying a wide range of emotions from joy to fear. This may be why goat enthusiasts love their caprine friends so very much. Fortunately, when goats are sick or in distress, they will make their keepers aware. A goat who is grinding her teeth may be in extreme pain and should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Pain in goats is easy to recognize. They are likely listless, often stand with their heads hanging low and frequently grind their teeth or act irritated. Examine and observe any goat that is grinding her teeth. Details will make the diagnosis much less difficult and will help your goat get proper treatment sooner rather than later. Some pain is obvious, such as when a goat is cut or breaks a limb. Other kinds of pain caused by internal problems can be more difficult to diagnose. Several different internal problems can cause your goat to grind her teeth, including bloating, overeating disease, deficiencies and parasites.
Preventing Teeth Grinding
Careful management is key to preventing serious illness and teeth grinding in goats. Prevent nutritional deficiencies by feeding concentrates that are designed for goats by animal nutritionists. Do not allow your goat free access to grains or high protein hays such as alfalfa to prevent bloat. Vaccinate your animals with a yearly CD&T vaccination to prevent overeating disease and tetanus. Observe your animals often and respond with appropriate treatment when signs of parasites appear. When your goats are properly managed, it is easier to see the cause of teeth grinding.
Teeth grinding is a part of early labor for many goat does. She may grind her teeth for days, in fact, prior to giving birth as her body begins to contort in new and unusual ways. You can spot a doe in early labor by the way she will stand, paw the ground and rearrange bedding, then lay back down. She may throw her head back and open her eyes widely when she experiences a contraction. Once your doe begins to push seriously (you'll know because she'll lay on her side with her legs sticking out straight in front of her), her kids should be delivered within the hour. If she does not deliver in this time frame and continues to grind her teeth, she may require assistance.
Boredom and Bad Habits
Like people, goats can develop bad habits. Teeth grinding has been observed in goats who are irritated, bored or simply chewing tough cud. Watch your goat for other signs of pain. You should never assume that teeth grinding is related to bad habits, however. Check your goat's vital signs and call your veterinarian immediately whenever she begins grinding her teeth.