Care of the C-Section Doe

Andrea Dee Greene

(Reprinted from Pygmy Goat WORLD magazine with permission)
 

Birthing problems are a major reason why Pygmy goats end up in the vet's emergency room for a caesarian section. This might be due to:  underage rendezvous, insufficient pelvic size, oversized kid, inexperienced goat breeder, inextricable malpresentation or uterine tear. A short eternity later, your doe is returned to you woozy, half-shaven, with an enormous zipper-like incision. What now? The following are helpful hints on what to do and what to expect when you take the doe home.

Your doe has just been through a lot. Take her home and give her a warm, secluded recovery area. She should be isolated from the rest of the herd and kept quiet. Give her fresh water and good feed. She may still have some anesthetic in her system, so it could take awhile before she is alert or on her feet.

A c-section may be simple or fraught with complications. Each one is a major surgical trauma. The two main postoperative concerns are shock and infection. For this reason, taking the rectal temperature several times a day is vital. A shocky doe will be somewhat unresponsive, shivery, have pale gums, and present a low (100o F or lower) body temperature. Postsurgical shock is usually apparent within 24 hours. Keep her warm using a heat lamp or blanket wraps if necessary. Be sure you use the heat lamp safely to avoid a fire or electrocution. A doe battling an infection will run a high body temperature (103.5o F or higher).This infection may present itself  immediately or up to several weeks later. Both low and high body temperatures are life-threatening and warrant a call to your vet. Be sure to monitor her body temperature closely several times a day, especially for the first few days.

Your doe may appear depressed, not wanting to move or eat off her feed. This is normal. Tempt her to drink with a bucket of warm water, perhaps with a little molasses or brown sugar in it, and offer her some goat delicacies you know she can't resist. For instance, a bit of oatmeal with brown sugar or pine needles. I had one doe who, after being offered a virtual smorgasbord, insisted that the only thing which piqued her appetite was a brown paper bag. The goal is to get her interested in eating again, but don't overdo.

As a precaution, oral administration of propylene glycol may be indicated to prevent ketosis, a condition of thin or overweight does shortly before or after birth. Giving this substance in proper dosages if the doe is not ketotic will not harm her. Consult your vet for proper dosages.

Observe your doe's toilet habits. If any kids were delivered via the birth canal before surgery, she may have a bruised and swollen urethra and she'll strain but produce little or no urine. This should resolve within 48 hours. The urine may appear slightly brown-tinged, but this may be due to post-birth excretions from the uterus mixing with the urine. Call your vet if she fails to urinate for two days after surgery or if the urine is an unnatural color (very brown or pus-like).

Your doe will be quite sore, but she should be encouraged to get up and move a couple times a day to keep up her circulation. She'll most likely move slowly and may limp, as some vets hyper-extend and tie the hind legs during surgery. [Editor's note: A limp can also result from pressure or damage to the obturator nerve in the pelvic area.] This is not an endurance or speed contest. Let her take her time to walk the length of the barn and back, but encourage her to do so.

Keep an eye on the incision. Some swelling may be present, but not enough to cause the stitches to deeply cut into the flesh. Report any oozing (pus or serum), bright red skin or popped stitches to your vet. After 10-14 days, your veterinarian will remove the stitches.

If the doe has surviving kids from the c-section, the option is yours whether or not to bottle raise them. This, of course, should depend on your doe's recovery response and ability. Pygmy kids are pretty resourceful and will nurse from a reclining doe or may encourage her to stand by jumping on her incision. If your doe is totally wiped-out or has complications, consider the inconvenience and spare her the stress. Ot really is an individual decision. I've seen new mothers become very depressed when their kids were taken. Try to gauge your doe's reaction. If she has no kids to take care of, don't milk her and let her dry up. [Editor's note: You may milk the full udder once to obtain the first-milking colostrum. Freeze this for future emergencies. Further milking is not necessary.]

Above all, let your doe know you care. Pet her. Fuss over her. A little TLC goes a very long way towards improving attitude, and attitude is what hastens recovery. The vet can only do so much. Post-operative care is equally important and your responsibility.

Complications:

If your doe suffered a uterine tear, you need to be especially diligent. It may be months before she's out of the woods, and she may have severe complications. (The prognosis for uterine tears is usually not very good, but there are surviving pygmy does walking about.) Peritonitis, an abdominal cavity infection, is a very real threat as her innards got an unwelcome bath of amniotic fluids, probably contaminated during manual delivery efforts and surgery.

Daily administration of antibiotics is warranted. Your doe may suffer an unexpected rupture of a uterine blood vessel and bleed out (watch for those shock symptoms). Also, down the line, she may have adhesions from scar tissue attaching to neighboring organs. Ask your vet for signs and symptoms to watch for and proper medication dosages. Depending on the severity and location of the tear, your doe's future reproductive ability might be hindered. Scar tissue at the incision and adhesion sites is not elastic and could result in mandatory c-sections for all  future kiddings.

Before the c-section, tell your vet:

1) The age of the doe and her kidding history.

2) The amount of time in hard labor. The quicker you get your doe to the vet, the better her odds of recovery. After 30 minutes of hard labor and no kid is delivered, call the vet.

3) Her tetanus vaccination status. She may need tetanus antitoxin after surgery.

4) Milk half of her colostrum before she is anesthetized. If any kids survive, you can bottle feed an undrugged meal or two. If you have surplus colostrum, freeze it for future use.

 

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