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Diarrhea (Neonatal)



Always regard diarrhea as a SYMPTOM of a more basic illness which can take many forms. Although we need to start treating the symptom right away so things don’t get out of hand, we need to be constantly trying to discover the real root of the problem. This can be an organism, an environmental factor or something as simple as too much milk. Generally it is not practical to collect feces or bodily tissue for complex laboratory testing. Instead, we have to rely on certain clues based on experience to help us figure out what is wrong and what to do about it. Below, you will find lists. In the first, you can use the color of the feces or general descriptions to go to a page for the disease which matches those symptoms. The second list contains some of the more common causative agents of neonatal diarrhea for speedy cross reference.


Under 5 da, yellow, profuse watery, low temp
Over 10 da, grayish, foul odor, bloody, shreds, temp
Dark, bloody, tissues, weight loss, soiled
Watery brown to black with mucous and blood (rare)
White, sudden
Big eaters, abdom pain, bloody, die with milk in belly
Chronic runs, unthrifty, anemia, swollen belly
Profuse watery, weakness
Watery with mucous and fever
Creamy w/ gas bubbles, wt loss, tenesmus (rare)


Cl perf C/D
E. coli
Nutritional scours
Viral diarrhea

Your medicine chest should contain the following items for treating diarrhea: kaolin pectin (veterinary use type), Pepto-Bismal® ,Sulmet® oblets 2.5G, Terramycin® scours tablets, Probios Bovine One®, rennet tablets, Corid® amprolium, Levasole® sheep boluses, C and D Antitoxin, Albon® (sulfadimethoxine), a broad spectrum injectable antibiotic such as pen G or LA200®, a veterinary thermometer. The use of these will be described in the treatment sections which follow.


If all the above has left you confused. If the runs looks like the runs, but you know you should do something. You’re standing there with an armful of pills and potions. Here is a basic routine that you can start with in just about every case:

If the kid is severely distressed (extremely runny, signs of dehydration such as unresponsive skin and/or sunken eyes), mix up a dose of "alkaline" electrolytes (or whatever kind you have). Most of the packages are designed for calves, so you will have about a half gallon of this stuff, which is much more than you need. Put about 8 ounces of this in a pop bottle and warm it to body temperature. Put a lamb nipple on the pop bottle. Somehow or another you have to get this into the kid. If it is a bottle baby it will tell you that it tastes pretty awful but reluctantly take it, most likely. If the kid is being raised on mom, you may have a project ahead. Take your time and make sure it doesn’t go into the lungs, as you well know! Hopefully, you have not waited so long that the kid is too weak to nurse. (In that case you will have to use electrolytes formulated for IV or SQ administration.) When you get this down, you know that you're on your way. If it's not a critical situation, skip to the next paragraph.

Now give a Sulmet® tablet as per the label (one pill per 25 pounds). If the baby is pretty small or you are afraid of it choking on the pill, grind it up (in 2 spoons or mortar and pestal) and stick the powder on the back of the tongue with your finger, a little bit at a time. Instead of the amprolium which used to be recommended here, we now use Albon® 250mg tabs. These can be given along with the Sulmet. The advantage of this is that the Albon is great for treating coccidiosis, which is a very common cause of diarrhea in kids. Then give a dose of 5 - 10 cc C and D Antitoxin orally. A couple of hours later you can start vet KaoPectate (10-25 cc).  Does the kid have a fever? If so, give it a shot of about 1 ml penicillin Procaine G or LA200. This is about all that you can do for about 6 hours, so rest and ponder the situation with careful attention to keeping the area clean, warm and dry.

Some general notes on diarrhea:

Kaolin pectin may be absorbed thru the gut and cause further problems. Pepto-Bismal ® does a better job of protecting the gut lining.

Among experts, there is a new feeling that oral antibiotics may be detrimental and that you should rely more on injectable antibiotics, oral electrolytes and products that restore digestive function.

Powdered milk replacers are mostly indigestible in young animals under ten days of age.

The dosage for amprolium may be confusing when you read the package. If so, put 8 teaspoons of the powder in 8 ounces of water and put this mixture in a sealed jar. Of this amount, give 3 ml per 10 pounds of body weight once per day for 4 or 5 days. Corid amprolium is now available in a liquid form which is much easier to prepare.

Rennet tablets, such as those by Junket ® for custard or cheese, sometimes help when nothing else seems to. We give one tablet to a kid, once a day for two or three days.

Probiotic products, such as Probios Bovine One Gel®, are very helpful in restoring disgestive funtioning after a bout with diarrhea. VetsPlus now has a probiotic paste under its Goats Prefer label which has several essential vitamins added. 

Cinnamon is usually very successful as an aid in treating diarrhea in all ages of goats. It can be added directly to the milk if the kid is a bottle baby. If you're dealing with a baby who is nursing off it's mother, you'll need to put it into the little one's mouth. The cinnamon powder tends to burn the oral mucosa. You can get around this by mixing about 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon into 2-5 g of Probios Bovine One Gel®.

But which treatment is really best?

Let's be frank: I've had a lot of cases respond well to cinnamon. I've had a lot of cases respond well to oral C and D antitoxin. I've had a lot of cases respond well to Albon®. I've had a lot of cases respond well to Sulmet®. I've had a lot of cases respond well to KaoPectate. I've had a lot of cases respond to various mixtures of these rememdies. The lesson to be learned from this is that each case will be a little bit different. You have to be ready and willing to try different things. Which of course means having a good supply of remedies at hand in the medicine cabinet.


The following steps will help to prevent diarrhea in its many forms:

Make sure the kid is not overfed or underfed.

Vaccinate the mother with CD/T and give a Vitamin A/D shot 3 weeks before delivery.

Cleanliness is extremely important. This includes careful cleaning of birthing stalls, bedding, bottles, udders to eliminate ingestion of organisms wherever possible.

Cut milk amounts in half at the first sign of loose bowels (for one or two feedings only).

Never let a case of diarrhea get away from you. Start treatment right away

On the other hand, loose bowels may be the result of eating too much green grass and clears up in a few hours on its own. Just keep a close watch.

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