Parturition tends to be uneventful in goats, with the incidence of dystocia <5%. If the doe has been in active labor for 30 min with no progress, assistance is likely required. Most kids present cranially, in dorsosacral position, with limbs extended. If kids present caudally, which is more common in twins, triplets, and quadruplets than singletons,assistance for delivery is more likely to be required.. The most common cause of dystocia is when two or more kids present at the same time; other causes include malposition, fetomaternal mismatch, failure of cervical dilation (ringwomb), vaginal prolapse, uterine torsion, and uterine inertia. Most dystocias can be corrected by repositioning kids and providing lubrication and traction. However, in more severe cases, fetotomy or cesarean section may be indicated. Extreme care must be exerted when assisting with kidding to prevent uterine tears, which can be diagnosed on palpation of the uterus after the dystocia. Small tears can be treated by hastening involution of the uterus with oxytocin administration. Larger tears may require surgical intervention to minimize excessive bleeding and peritonitis. Systemic antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs, and a clostridial vaccine booster should be provided after a prolonged dystocia.
Retained placenta (not passed 12 hr after parturition) is uncommon in goats and is usually associated with selenium deficiency, the birth of a mummified or rotten fetus, or a difficult delivery. It can be treated by gentle traction or hormone therapy to facilitate expulsion, but diagnosis and treatment of the underlying cause will usually solve the problem. Metritis is almost always a sequela of retained placenta, and systemic antibiotics are warranted. Clostridial organisms (Clostridium tetani and C perfringens) may colonize the uterus, resulting in a frequently fatal toxemia that requires aggressive supportive care, antibiotics, and antitoxin therapy. Less severe causes of metritis may lead to a chronic endometritis and cause infertility if not treated.
Uterine prolapse is uncommon in goats but may occur after dystocia. Treatment is similar to that in other species, and prognosis is good if recognized and treated early.
In extremely cold weather, newborn kids should be dried (especially the ears) to prevent frostbite. Heat lamps are not necessary if the kids are dry, well fed, and out of a draft. Kids born in intensive systems should have their navels dipped in tincture of iodine to prevent infection. Angora, pygmy, and meat kids are typically raised on the dam. Dairy goat kids often are removed at birth and, after receiving colostrum, fed from a bottle or nipple-pail.
Last full review/revision September 2014 by Jamie Lynn Stewart, DVM; Clifford F. Shipley, DVM, DACT