Never a Dull Moment in Raising Goats: Swollen Jaw in Goats

Common Swelling Areas on Goat Head via

Common Swelling Areas on Goat Head via

The evening before last when I checked on the goats about three hours after giving them some grain, to my absolute horror I found Pasqualina with a lot of swelling under her chin. A LOT.* I felt around (it was totally dark by this point), and it was soft on either side of what felt like a lump pretty much right in the middle. She seemed to feel just fine — spry enough to run around and make me chase her a bit as I tried to feel up her chin. Ahem.

So my thoughts turned to bottle jaw even though I was pretty sure I could feel a lump. Bottle jaw** is fluid built up under the goat’s jaw, so there really shouldn’t be a lump, but far be it from my goats to play by the rules, so who knew?

Bottle jaw occurs when a goat turns anemic for some reason and is often linked to a heavy wormload (namely of the barber’s pole worm or Haemonchus contortus) and/or liver flukes. But as my friend and goat guru Teresa at Eden Hills notes, parasites aren’t the only thing that can cause bottle jaw and anemia in goats. Simply being pregnant and having nutrients sucked out of them by their kids can lead to does becoming anemic — just like pregnant women can become anemic, incidentally. And as you may or may not know, we do believe Pasqualina is pregnant.

So the next morning, she still had swelling of about the same size as the night before, but now it was light(er) out so I could look at her mucous membranes to check for anemia — it was a horribly rainy day, so still not all that much light in the pen. Pale, gray, or white mucous membranes (the gums, inside and corner of eyes when you pull down the bottom lid, vulva area) would signify anemia. They all looked pink as ever. *phew* Both links above have photos of healthy versus anemic goats, so do have a look if you’re not sure what you’re looking for.

Then I checked Pasqualina’s teeth (THAT was fun), and I noticed that maybe one of them looked a little smaller than the rest so perhaps broken and that led to a tooth abscess? But then I remembered that goats lose the last of their baby teeth around year three to make room for the permanent ones, so that was probably the issue with the “off” looking tooth. But I still didn’t rule out abscess either.

Based on the handy diagram of where goats may swell up and the possible causes from (above, left, click to see larger on the site itself), Pasqualina’s swollen area matched bottle jaw best, but it was kind of toward tooth abscess area too, so I was still undecided.

I knew the vet wouldn’t come yesterday right away as we’re in the midst of a three-day constant downpour, which has even resulted in part of our garden breaking off and washing down the hill. So until he could get here to deworm her if it was indeed bottle jaw, I figured I would do what I could to build up her immune system from what was on hand. I crushed up a human multivitamin and sprinkled probiotic powder in some hot water, then stirred in oatmeal and a bit of honey. I gave her half of this mixture in the morning and the other half later in the day, which she absolutely loved. I hope she doesn’t get used to the oatmeal part as it’s hard to find and also expensive in southern Italy!

The next time I checked on her about an hour later yesterday morning, the swelling had gone down some; I know that wasn’t due to anything I did, but I did feel a little better. When I checked on her again a couple hours after that, it was down again and now I could distinctly feel a lump under her chin. Everything about bottle jaw says the swelling may go down at night so the jaw looks better in the morning and then fill up with fluid throughout the day, so I was leaning against it being bottle jaw at that point, especially since she wasn’t having any other signs of anemia (she still had pink membranes, was eating well, was pooping perfect goat berries, and was being her normal alert and lively self).

So I went back to the Internet drawing board and found the suggestion of an insect or spider bite, which would present with a hard lump (bite site) and swelling. Aha! Had I thought of this earlier, like the night before, I would have given her some Benadryl (they say a child’s dose is fine for a goat, so 12.5 mg in tablet form) to help with the swelling, but it just didn’t occur to me. It’s winter, for goodness’ sake, but of course there are always spiders around.

By the time I checked on her yesterday afternoon around 4, the swelling was totally gone and the lump had disappeared. Ditto for the next three checks on her last night and the first two this morning. Yes, Paolo has asked me how many times I can possibly check on a goat in the pouring rain. The answer keeps rising.

So at this point it seems like Pasqualina probably did get bitten by something that caused sudden swelling, which has now disappared. I’m still watching her closely, of course, as always, but she is doing completely fine at this point, thank goodness.

Winking goat

All's fine now, Maaaa!

She sure scared the bejeebers out of me though!

Have you dealt with swelling in your goat’s jaw, bottle jaw, an insect bite, or anything similar?

Please share your experiences!

* I didn’t get any photos of her swollen face as it was dark out when I discovered it and then it was raining very heavily all day yesterday. It looked quite similar to bottle jaw photos but not as firm or symmetrical.

** For the sake of thoroughness, if your goat has a lump and swelling, another possibility could be “Caseous Lymphadenitis” (CL), which is caused by the bacteria Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis that may enter an open wound on your goat; this is characterized by a cottage cheese-like discharge when the abscess is popped or lanced and is very contagious, so do be aware of the possibility.

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10 Responses to “Never a Dull Moment in Raising Goats: Swollen Jaw in Goats”
  1. Samantha

    Oh wow what a scare!! I’m glad she is okay though. πŸ™‚
    I swear raising goats is about as stressfull as raising a child!! (If not MORE so!) But I do believe the sweet little goatie kisses make it all worthwhile. πŸ˜‰


    michelle Reply:

    I’m with you on those goat kisses, Samantha πŸ™‚ I have to admit, I’m still quite shaken up by all this and not *really* ready to exhale that we dodged a bullet. SUCH a worry wart!


    Samantha Reply:

    So am I!! Ugh. Bettie is eating more solids/roughage now and if her belly feels even slightly FULL I have a moment of panic thinking she’s getting bloat.
    *SIGH* but what would we do without them? Lol


    michelle Reply:

    Oh I know the feeling, Samantha…what have they DONE to us?! πŸ˜‰


  2. Kate

    I read this with interest, as one of my wethers, Wendell had a hard lump on the side of his jaw for some time. He didn’t seem in pain, he had no other symptoms of any other illness, just this lump on the side of his lower jaw. Turns out it was a tooth growing in sideways. Who knew? My vet said it would eventually wear down, and there would be no problem, which is pretty much what has happened. But, just like you were scared and nervous about Pasqualina, I was very nervous about Wendell. And I’m with all the others about the magic spell these critters put on us–I just came in from sitting in the sun for half an hour, surrounded by my four ‘boys’ all vying for my attention, until they decided to just lie down and soak up the sun with me. Nothing better than ‘goatie kisses’!


    michelle Reply:

    So happy to hear it turned out well, Kate! I’d never heard of a sideways goat tooth…always a first for everything πŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing!


  3. linda

    Thank you so much for this information. My sweet little 4 month old doe is going through this very thing. I couldn’t figure it out until I came upon your information.
    Blessings to you


  4. michelle

    Hope your little one is doing well, Linda!


  5. samuel

    im happy for your goat ‘s health, my case is that the lump is very hard, he can hardly bear me touching it.


  6. jacqueline jones

    Always free feed baking soda helps prevent and cure bloat.


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