Posted By: Lottie

One lucky pygmy goat!

Springtime often sees a peak in animals that have eaten things that they shouldn’t. As all the fresh new growth comes up animals either don’t spot that it is something different, or it just looks appealing. We recently had a pygmy goat called Rupert present with acute onset of abdominal discomfort, he was staggering around and very unsteady on his feet. His heart rate and breathing rate were also incredibly high.  His owners reported that his rumen had been unusually prominent for a few weeks. Rupert has a stable with a yard and daily access to a paddock, but inclement weather meant that he had not been out to his paddock for a few days. He had become rapidly unwell within a few hours of being turned out and when we walked his paddock it was obvious that all the bluebells had been munched on. A quick call to the Veterinary Poisons Advisory Service confirmed that all of Rupert’s symptoms fitted with bluebell toxicity. He had probably been eating small amounts of bluebells over the last few weeks, causing reduced rumen movements and mild bloat, but having been kept off the pasture for a few days he had gone out and gorged on a larger quantity that had made him unwell. 

We treated him to try and relieve his symptoms but unfortunately his condition continued to worsen over the afternoon, so we decided to hospitalise Rupert and performed an emergency rumen fistula to relieve the pressure in his rumen. This forms a hole directly through the side of the body into the rumen. As soon as we had finished the procedure it became obvious why Rupert was struggling so much – his rumen was full of food and gas pockets were forming within this. With the fistula in place, we were able to release the gas by massaging his abdomen. We were also able to administer fluids and medicines directly into his rumen, rather than giving them by mouth which was quite distressing for him with his high breathing and heart rate. This meant that we could support him and manage his symptoms much more effectively. 

Our night nurse did a fantastic job looking after Rupert through his first night with us, making sure that she kept releasing the gas from his rumen and keeping him as comfortable as possible. Thankfully the effects of bluebell poisoning are relatively short lived and after a second night in hospital with us he was recovered enough to go home, and his owners continued to administer his medicines for a few more days.  

He is now back to his usual self and his paddock has been cleared of any potentially toxic plants. His rumen fistula will gradually heal over on its own so he will need regular bathing and barrier cream applying to protect his skin for a few more weeks. It will also take a while for his lovely long coat to grow back! It might not look pretty, but his fistula saved his life. 

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