Healing a Pack Goats Broken Leg
Let me start out by saying I am not an expert on pack goats. I do not pretend to be. Knowing how to fix a pack goats broken leg was a process led by my vet and good intuition. What I do have personal experience in is sport injuries. As a former D1 athlete with 3 sons who all were college athletes we have seen a variety of injuries.
The reason I bring this up is because I don’t personally think of my pack goats as beasts of burden. I think of them as conditioned athletes who happen to carry some of my stuff. I say this is because these guys, as you all know, can go places no other animal can. That said, let’s get into the meat of what happened and what we are doing to help rehab our pack goat back in to shape.
Setting the Bone
Monday April 16th I get a phone call from my son at breakfast saying Zag has broken his leg. First thing to come to mind is the old westerns where the horse has to be shot. I’m thinking, “man I don’t want to have to do that.” So we call our vet. He said he’d be there pretty soon and he thinks he can set the leg. At this point I’m thinking, why not give it a try and see what happens. I didn’t know what to think, when he said he was going to set it, and cast it with no pain killers. This ended up being a pretty brutal procedure.
If you are week in the stomach you should probably not help. Zag had a compound fracture with bone sticking out of the leg. The lower hock area was literally held on by some skin and a little meat. We moved him to our semi enclosed barn to get out of the cold wind. There we flipped him, held him down, and proceeded to clean the damaged area.
The vet snipped off part of the bone that was sticking out to get the contaminants off. Then he shoved the small bone back inside the skin. Next he set the large bones as best as he could. Meanwhile, his assistant and I tried to hold down a screaming flailing 175 lb goat. As a side note, I later found out we couldn’t use pain killers since goats are very susceptible it. They often have adverse reactions to pain medication, ie death. After the cast had set he was given some antibiotics and left to rest.
Recovery of the Broken Leg
Over the next couple of days the vet came back to check on him while we tried to keep him fed and comfortable as best we could. Because of the severity of the injury I think he may have suffered some muscle damage in the upper thigh and hip as well. Zag would not let us touch those areas. To me, it looked like he was in shock. At about two weeks he would limp around a little in the pen. He looked like he was loosing his will to live, and my son and I discussed how we would let him hang out, and keep him alive for 6 months just to give him a chance to see if his will to live came back or not.
Not knowing what the protocol is or should be for pack goats, I got on the Goat Vet Facebook page for advice. I got a lot of varied theories and after thinking about it I decided to go with my gut feelings and past experience of sport injuries. Which is get up and moving as fast as you can stand the pain. So we slowly started getting him exercise. Knowing that pack goats hate separation from from their pack we decided to keep the team together and slow the training pace down to Zag’s speed. We started with short, 100 yard feeding walks out of the pen and gradually moved it out.
After 4 weeks the cast came off and Zag had lost a lot of muscle mass and weight. He still was not putting much weight on the leg. We had a soft wrap on the leg now. People were saying don’t let him walk on 3 legs, it’s hard on him. From personal experience I know that working out the good leg helps push blood in to the injured limb and promotes healing. So that is the route we took. The vet was concerned that he wasn’t putting weight on his foot but we kept on with the work outs hoping he would start.
We still weren’t pushing a lot of distance or speed. Slow walks feeding, with an occasional hop to catch up with the team at a distance of about 600-800 yards total. After a couple weeks of this, the soft wrap came off, and we are now moving the walks out to about 1/2 to 1 mile. The foot is coming down more every day and he may take one or two steps then hop on it just like a human would with a sore leg.
The biggest change I noticed, up to this point was his demeanor. The first couple of weeks he looked like a goat getting ready to die. Once he started moving and getting out with the crew his spunk and life came back to him fast. In other words, on 3 sometimes 4 legs he was horning and head butting his buddies again. The lovable barn yard bully was back.
We are now at the 10 week period (July 1) and Zag has no problem walking, and will occasionally run, for short bursts. I did check with a vet and he assured me that the jarring from running will actually help the bone grow back more dense than if he were sitting idle. The vet broke his own leg and was told by his doctor to run on it as soon as he could stand the pain.
Back to Packing
I equate it to a kick boxers who kick posts in order to build up bone mass in the shins. The key is to watch your athlete and make sure to notice if they are comfortable with what they are doing. I try to take a day of rest in between the (work out) days in order to heal up, or rest. I don’t plan on not putting any weight on him until a few months have passed and then watch him closely and start out with small loads and work up.
We did not change his diet or add any extra supplements, just lots of green grass, weeds, and the grace of God.
In conclusion here are my tips to recovery.
- Make sure your play ground is safe. ( I think this may have been preventable)
- Love on your pack goats
- Spend time with them daily
- Make them move, but not too much
- Don’t push too hard
- Some pack goats will milk it, try to know the difference, push them if needed
- Be compassionate, If they aren’t getting better put them down.
Here is a link to a good diet for adult pack goats