by Selena Belisle, Founder/Instructor, CE Institute LLC
One of my favorite goats named Creamy has developed caprine arthritis encephalitis which is also known as CAE. Creamy was delivered to us with an original herd of approximately 100 goats. She is of unknown age but is likely over five years old, and she has a lovely cream colored coat which contributed to her name.
We were told that CAE did not exist within the herd when it was acquired, despite there appearing to be visual scars on the animals that indicated otherwise. CAE is a devastating disease which usually results in culling the herd, and termination of infected animals.
Creamy has been with us for a couple years without any signs of CAE. Then, during her last pregnancy and delivery, things went awry. She was pregnant with two calves which is fairly normal for a goat. She delivered one calf, and then didn't deliver the second calf until five days later.
CAE Symptoms Develop
Immediately after delivery, Creamy started showing significant symptoms of CAE. They were gradual and became worse with each day, until she was walking on three legs only within about 2-weeks. She was separated from the herd, kept dry with a sawdust bed, provided anti-inflammatories and other medicine to no avail.
Her right front knee was excessively swollen, and I thought I may be able to manually manipulate the fluid away from the knee joint, but despite Creamy being an incredibly patient and mild mannered goat, she wouldn't allow me to touch her knee for very light manual lymphatic drainage techniques. At one point, during her medical care, her knee was shaved which provided better access to directly manipulate the skin with MLD, but unfortunately she was not having it, and I did not press the matter to avoid distressing the animal.
Creamy's Weight Loss
It took about 2-weeks of non weight-bearing on Creamy's right front leg before her right shoulder atrophied. The atrophy was slight but clear between her right and left shoulder. Creamy also lost weight which is normal for goats after delivering their calves, so it's unknown if Creamy's weight loss was from her delivery or CAE or likely both.
Goat with CAE Gets Even Dirtier
Like all farm animals, goats can be fairly dirty and Creamy was no exception. Unfortunately this situation worsened when another animal peed on her which was weird given she was fairly isolated. I found half her head and a rear back quarter soaked in urine. It might have been possible that she hobbled to one of the horse stalls and laid down in the urine too. Unfortunately we'll never know how it happened, but it was important for me to remove it and get her clean.
Making the Decision to Provide a Caprine Spa Session to an Ill Goat
I asked Creamy's more experienced care givers if it would be acceptable to wash Creamy and we were all at a loss. This was a no win situation where the animal's coat would have either remained soaked in urine for a good amount of time, or risked health issues from being wet in the cold.
We ultimately agreed that I if I worked quickly to clean Creamy and dry her, it could be successful. Luckily, I was able to clean Creamy in local spots only with multiple, inexpensive disposable washcloths within about 30-minutes, then quickly dry her within another half hour, so her health was not compromised with her quick and efficient, one-hour caprine spa session.
Goat Spa Session
Our barn is in northern Vermont where it is very cold in the Winter, so washing an ill animal during sub-zero temperatures (end of February) in a moderately heated barn was undesirable. Nevertheless, I wanted this goat to feel clean while ill, so I did it. I purchased:
From Dollar Tree at $1.25 each:
- Disposable washcloths
- Extra large puppy pads
- Animal brush
- Heated radiator ($50)
- Hair dryer ($10)
- Set of towels ($10)
- Oatmeal gentle dog wash ($5)
Creamy received similar to what most ICU patients would receive as a sponge bath with the following steps:
- I collect a clean pail of tepid water
- I dunked an individual disposable washcloth into the tepid water
- I rinsed Creamy with the disposable washcloth
- I repeated this process over and over with clean cloths, until all urine was removed from her coat
I did not use the oatmeal cleanser on Creamy. The disposable washcloths seemed to have some type of gentle cleanser on them which satisfied the cleansing and rinsing process with individual cloths.
Once Creamy was clean in the two areas that were soiled of urine, I then used a hair dryer to dry the areas that were cleaned. It was important to get Creamy as dry as possible to prevent pneumonia or other illness in the dead of Winter with this severely compromised goat.
Spa Session Tired Goat with CAE
Creamy was fairly tired when I finished her mini-spa session. She was standing on three legs the entire time, leaning into me. I also believe the hair dryer noise was likely unnerving to her, but she accepted it without much issue. It's almost like she was aware that it was necessary, and the warm heat of the hair dryer might have even felt good to her. It's hard to say given the goats cannot speak and you have to take their physical cues as communication.
A Satisfied Clean Goat
Creamy jumped up onto her three legs to greet me the next time I entered the barn after her spa session. It's like she wanted to show me that she was doing much better. Please keep in mind that Creamy has been receiving round-the-clock medical care from her care givers, so I will never know if her improvement was from her spa session or medical care or both. But there was no mistaking that she was happy to see me again, and excited to get another rub down.
Eating During Massage
Creamy is a hearty goat and she continued to eat despite being ill. Sometimes when I went to the barn to massage Creamy, she would eat the hay that was left for her. Prior to her spa session, she would be lying down and she would not get up when I entered which was sad to see, given during previous visits without CAE, Creamy would patiently follow me around with the rest of the herd until it was her turn for attention. Some of the goats demanded immediate and nonstop attention, but Creamy was patient and different. Very loveable. I also do not know if Creamy was eating before I arrived for her rub down, or if she started eating while I massage her, but she did eat during her massage and she seemed to enjoy it.
Creamy's Rub Down
Massaging Creamy was simple bodywork, and similar to what she's been receiving from me for two years now. I applied a circular effleurage/friction technique. The goat herd seems to favor this style of massage over anything else such as traditional straight effleurage or petrissage.
I usually wear either vinyl or nitrile gloves when physically working with the goat herd. This herd has the common orf virus which can be transmissable to humans; however, the herd did not have any active outbreaks during this Winter 2022 visit.
The goats favorite circular therapy technique is bilateral alternating massage with both hands on their lower mandible or hips. The more mild manner goats enjoy their mandible massaged, and all of the goats enjoy the alternating bilateral circulatory massage of their hips. They'll either stay in place until you stop, or start leaning into you for more pressure. Then when you do stop, they'll usually follow you around for more.
It is important to note that I am NOT an expert in animal care nor caprine livestock, despite being a born and raised Vermonter. I have bottle fed over 100 calves from this goat herd, and massaged them all. But, my real health care experience is massage therapy practice for over three decades, and I have provided spa services for the past 27 years - for humans (although some humans have equally behaved like animals if not worse). Today, I teach CE hours for the massage, nursing and cosmetology fields as an expert instructor of multiple modalities for human health and cosmetology care.
I am often asked about bodywork techniques including MLD for animals, especially given equestrian massage has been a nonstop growing industry for years. While I have multiple horses available to work with including beautiful clydesdales, I prefer to work most with the goat herd and their kids. These goats are the most affectionate, loving animals and a true pleasure to work on.
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