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Pygmy goats are small, sturdy-looking compact goats often kept simply as pets rather than for milk or meat yield. Despite their tiny size, with adult males no more than 23 1/2 inches tall at the withers and females even smaller, these goats have much in common with their bigger cousins. Their personalities are about the same as the bigger ones. They suffer the same illnesses with the same symptoms. Take teeth grinding: It usually indicates pain and requires immediate veterinary treatment in any goat.
About Tooth Grinding
If you’ve never witnessed a pygmy goat grinding her teeth, you may not recognize it at first. Typically, she may appear to be biting or chewing, and her jaw will move back and forth, similar to the motion she makes when chewing her cud. If she’s grinding her teeth and not chewing, you may be able to hear the teeth scrape against each other. She won’t have any food in her mouth and she will usually look uncomfortable in other ways.
Distress From Enterotoxemia
A common cause of a pygmy goat grinding her teeth is enterotoxemia, commonly called overeating disease. It’s caused by the Clostridium perfringens bacteria and is triggered by a sudden change in diet or by overeating, such as when a resourceful pygmy goat opens the feed barrel and helps herself. This can result in bloating and diarrhea, with or without blood in it, or she may develop nervous system irregularities such as staring fixedly at nothing, twitching her skin and limbs or having convulsions. The disease is often painful, causing the pygmy goat to cry and grind her teeth.
Teeth Grinding and Hoof Problems
It may seem illogical that a pygmy goat would grind her teeth if she has a problem with her feet, but that’s exactly what happens in some cases. Laminitis is a condition whereby the tender tissue inside the hoof becomes inflamed and swells, pushing painfully against the inner wall of the hoof. It can develop into a condition called founder, which is a related but more serious problem that can result in permanent hoof deformity. Pygmy goats with any of these painful hoof conditions will limp and may even walk on their knees; the pain often causes them to grind their teeth.
Dietary Irregularities and Grinding
Polioencephalomalacia, usually referred to as PEM, occurs when a pygmy goat doesn’t get adequate thiamine or she doesn’t have enough thiamine in her rumen. It can be brought on by many things, including feeding moldy hay, feeding her too many sulfates, or using levamisole for worming. The illness will cause a pygmy goat to show signs of distress including teeth grinding, depression and blindness. Too much selenium in the diet can cause a pygmy goat to develop blindness, to stagger around and to grind her teeth. It can cause other symptoms of nervous system damage, and it can even kill her.
- National Pygmy Goat Association: Breed Standard
- Oklahoma State University Extension: Breeds of Livestock: Pygmy Goat
- University of Nebraska – Lincoln: Great Plains Veterinary Educational Center: Pain and Distress in Agricultural Animals
- National Academy of Sciences: Recognizing Pain in Animals
- North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension: Is It Necessary to Vaccinate Goats Against Overeating Disease and Tetanus?
- Extension: Goat Hoof Care and Foot Rot Prevention
- Langston University: Meat Goat Herd Health – Common Diseases
- Kaeco: Nutritional Supplementation for Goats
- John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images