The WIMPY KID page

The purpose of this page is to provide a simple down-to-earth place to help deal with those kids who at birth or shortly thereafter look like the proverbial dish-rag. I've tried to avoid technical jargon wherever possible. Because we know that you are probably not one of the fortunate few who have a complete diagnostic laboratory in your kitchen, we won’t be spending a lot of time talking about specific technical causes of the problem. Besides, you won’t have time for all that. By the time the blood and tissue samples are all analyzed by the lab and by the time the vet gets around to notifying you of the results, the kid will probably be buried under the favorite tree out back.

Random introductory comments

This page was created some time after the other topics in Baby Care; there will be some duplication. The links refer to other pages at the goatwisdom web site.

If you’re looking for causes, basically they will be similar to those item mentioned on our Causes of abortion page.

Our term "Wimpy kid" refers to ANY newborn goat baby ten days of age or younger which DOES have a viable heart beat, IS breathing normally or at least attempting to, but has readily observeable muscle weakness with difficulty in standing, walking, nursing, maintaining body heat, and performing digestive functions. Other terms that may refer to this include: weak babies, cachexia, premature, depressed, lack of muscle tone, weak and/or swollen joints, motor difficulties (and probably a lot of others).

"Wimpy kid" is not to be confused with the term "Floppy kid syndrome," which is a technical term referring to a particular set of symptoms centering around a finding of metabolic acidosis. Recent work on this ailment, long noticed by goat raisers but only recently substantiated by clinical and laboratory investigation, has also been very important in understanding which treatment measures are successful. Just because a baby hangs limp in your arms does does mean that it has this particular disease.

Prevention, by getting the kid to nurse right away either by helping it find the nipple on mom or by squirting about 6 oz of colostrum into a bottle and hand feeding as soon as the birth fluids are well-cleared from the lungs, will go a long way in getting the little ones off to a strong start. Some people tube feed some colostrum into all babies right away. We feel that this needs to be done only for those who show an inability to suck. Irregardless of the method, heroic efforts exerted at this important time (no latter how late the hour or how tired the "midwife") will save a lot of lives and a lot of hard, frustrating work over the next few days.


It is essential that the weak baby be kept warm. It simply does not have the energy reserves to maintain life AND body temperature. This can be done by any of the following:
Heat lamps: By far, the largest single cause of barn fires is heat lamps falling into the bedding hay. If used, these should be secured with strong WIRE and not twine, the clamps that come with them or any other hurried creation. They should also be used in such a way as to provide a uniform temperature throughout the day and night, not just when the outside temperature is lowest. Remember that radiant heat does not warm the air, only objects which it strikes. The air which the baby breathes will still be cold. Any animal placed under a heat lamp should be checked frequently to make sure that it is not too warm. A wet animal should NEVER be placed under a heat lamp; take the time to make sure it is thoroughly dry. As the baby gets better, gradually raise the lamp rather than suddenly removing it.

Warming the air: Whenever possible, and I realize that this is easier said than done, the air itself should be warmed to a reasonble temperature, depending on the condition of the baby. This will lead to greater expense and the danger of fire should always be considered.

Jackets: Little baby jackets can easily be made out of old sweatshirts, sweaters, coats and the like. These are excellent ways to help preserve body heat. Make sure they are kept dry and clean, since a weak kid will not always be very selective in its toilet habits. Also, make sure that they are designed in such a way that they don’t strangle or hang the baby.

Heating pads: Several suppliers offer (rather expensive) waterproof electric heating pads, mostly designed for canine use. Some of these are excellent and will provide a steady supply of regulated heat. The heating pads designed for people use can be placed in a box NEXT TO or OVER the patient, but NEVER under. Other devices such as heated artificial rocks for reptile cages can be used with care; more of these are coming onto the market all the time.

Into the house: If you have ever visited a sheep farming family during lambing season, you’ll find any number of little boxes in the house each containing one or more little "bummer" lambs. There are several reasons which make this the best choice. The baby and the surrounding air can be kept at a uniform, comfortable temperature. The patient is readily available for feeding, cleaning and checking without having to make all those trips to the barn. And if you’re looking for a particularly good way to aggravate the wife, make sure you don’t participate in keeping the mess cleaned up.

Under the covers: You won’t find this one in your fancy text books, but I’ve never failed to revive a dying baby when at the end of a long hard day of maternity care we both curl up under the electric blanket for a nice nap. It works pretty good too if you’re looking for an excuse for a divorce.

Treat diarrhea or constipation as needed


Kaopectate, Peptobismal® [Don’t use products containing depressants, narcotics, tranquilizers on weak babies]

See sections on Neonatal diarrhea


This problem is extremely common in baby goats. Frequently, kids do not pass the myconeum the black, pasty first poop and will lose their appetites shortly after birth. This situation is usually mistaken for some other exotic ailment and incorrect treatment remedies only do more harm than good. The kid may lie on its side, kick randomly while standing or lying down, walk aimlessly and/or be nervous. It can easily be corrected by gentle enemas, digital stimulation (finger in anus, gently) or a warm, wet cloth passed over the anus. Use mineral oil and other laxatives with extreme caution in babies, since they can have some negative effects. Finally, be aware that it is faily common for diarrhea to follow the successful treatment of constipation. More on this can be found at Constipation

Legs - splints

One of the most common problems in weak kids is that there will be weakness in the joints and tendons of the legs. This will cause it to walk either on the front of the knucles or on the back part of the lower leg. (I’m sure that there lots of technical terms for these, but they aren’t available in the memory bank right now!) This condition may be hereditary and you should probably make note of which kids are affected so that this is taken to consideration when breeding plans are made.

This problem is easily taken care of by applying splints to the affected joints. Tongue depressers make excellect splints for the babies. Popsicle sticks can also be used. Be sure to wrap the leg with Vetrap® first, then tape on the splint using black electrician’s tape or some similar strong tape. We usually put the splints on the front of the leg. Do not get it too tight so as to restrict the circulation and tape it high enough that the splint cannot pull loose from the leg. Always put the splint all the way to the bottom of the foot and secure it firmly there with the tape.

Take the materials off every other day or so to check your progress, to make sure everything is nice and dry and not too tight and to make sure that you have not caused any injuries, which will rapidly become infected. The tongue depressers can be easily shortened with strong scissors.

Treat local symptoms
Some problems may have to be ignored until life-threatening conditions are resolved. Others can receive temporary treatment measures. For example, cloudy eyes, which can be a symptom of any number of broader disorders, can receive a little ointment for relief without knowing the cause. Hot swollen joints can be helped with aspirin and arthritis pain rub long before the exact cause is known.


How to get the kid to nurse off mom

On just about every page it seems we have emphasized the importance of helping the baby learn to nurse as soon as possible after birth. Once the fluid has been cleared from the lungs, it is time to start the training. Should every attempt to get the kid to nurse off mom fail, milk 4 - 8 ounces of colostrum into a small "nipple bottle" and feed it directly to the kid without delay. Once a little has reached the taste buds in the mouth, the nursing instinct will be stimulated in almost every case. (More hints on bottle feeding will be offered below.)

Before you try the kid on mom, milk out one or two squirts from each teat into a towel in order to guarantee that the "plug" has been removed and that milk is flowing freely. If nothing comes out, either she has no milk or you need to work further on the plug. Sometimes you will need to manipulate the plug out with gentle force by squeezing and sliding your thumb and forefinger down the teat. Never insert a foreign object into the teat to remove the plug. (The following technique may sound overly-acrobatic, but do it anyway--because I said so!) With the dam restrained, preferably by someone holding her, lie all the way on the ground on your side or back so that you are looking up at the mom's belly. With the kid held in a position so that it is about ready to nurse, squirt a drop or two of milk onto your little finger. Put the upside-down milky finger into the kids mouth and try to get the kid to suck on your finger. It helps to rub the roof of the mouth a few times with your little finger If you succeed, it will make the next step easier; if you don't, then go to the next step anyhow. While holding the kid's mouth slightly open, use the other hand to squirt a small amount into the mouth and then again stick you little finger in the mouth and rub the roof of the mouth. Try to aim the stream so that it hits against the tongue or some other part so that the milk has an opportunity to stimulate the taste buds and does not just run down the throat in such a way that it can get into the lungs. You are trying to get the kid to want the milk and go searching for it rather than just passively letting you pour it down the throat. This will do so much more to train it to nurse on its own. Usually it will start wiggling around trying to find out where this good-tasting stuff is coming from and your job is now simply one of helping it find the teat by moving the teat to the kid rather than trying to force the kid toward the teat. By lying completely on the ground, all your efforts can be directed toward this one task. Otherwise, you will find yourself standing on your head, off-balance, fighting with a reluctant kid who is trying to go backwards and, by now, a mom who is getting very impatient with your silliness. It may take several attempts before the kid learns how to grasp the teat, but if you reward it frequently with a little milk aimed into the mouth, you'll find that a few minutes spent in this ungraceful-looking position will save many minutes or even hours spent fighting with an unwilling partner. If you have to force the situation, use the index finger of one hand to hold the mouth open while inserting the teat into the mouth with the other hand. You will be more apt to be successful if you make a real mess of the job and start the stream BEFORE the teat gets into the mouth so that there is an opportunity to taste the milk before this strange object is jammed into its mouth. If failure continues, go back to the milk-on-the-finger step and get it sucking on your finger once again. The most important thing is to stimulate the sucking instinct; if this is present, the rest will follow.

How to get the kid to take a bottle

This is one of the hardest and most important things in all of goat raising. Several of the above techniques described above will help here as well. Try to convince the kid to suck on your milky finger. If you are feeding powdered milk, use any kind of whole milk (such as cow milk, condensed milk) to get it started. They don't usually like the taste of most powdered replacers. Make sure the nipple is rather soft, not a brand new hard one. Try putting just the very tip of the nipple in the mouth and squirting a small amount in ahead of it, making the kid reach for it a litte. You can try sliding the nipple in and out of the mouth a little.

Sometimes kids will nurse better if you have your finger in its mouth along side of the nipple and wiggle it around a little bit.

Some kids learn easier when sucking out of a small bowel or bucket. Stick your finger in the mouth and dip the mouth into the milk. The kid will get some in the nose, but that's OK.

Have various family members try. Sometimes one (usually one of your children) seems to have good luck when others fail and for no obvious reason.

If this is a kid which you purchased from someone else, try to acquire and use the same product which they were using and then gradually make the trasition to the type of milk that you will be using.

It's a lot better for the milk to pour out the side of the kids mouth than to have it running down the throat into the lungs.

[Without getting into a lot of technical details, it is important that the reticular groove reflex be stimulated by genuine sucking so that the milk doesn't end up in the wrong stomach, where it cannot be digested and will only cause further illness.]

Lack of sucking reflex
After no luck in trying to get the kid to nurse off mom and if trying to get it to take a bottle results in failure, then there is the possibility that the nursing reflex is just absent. Below we discuss the need to begin tube feeding, which takes a little practice to master. However, some folks have reported that within a couple of hours after giving a selenium shot (BoSe), the kid actually was able to suck on its own. BoSe needs to be obtained from a vet and we suggest that not more than 1/2 ml be given to a newborn.
Oral electrolytes

If the nursing instinct is intact but the intake of milk is inadequate to meet the needs of the baby (diarrhea, imbalances, malabsorption), an excellent choice is the use of oral electrolyte preparations. These usually come in packages of powder to which warm water is to be added. Most kids will take a while to adjust to the awful taste of these products, but do so eventually. While they do not contain a large number of nutrients, their use can sustain life for a few days while underlying causes are corrected. Their main purpose is to restore the electrolyte balance, which has usually been upset in kids which are critically ill.

This topic is also covered in our section on dehydration.

SQ (IV) electrolytes

One of the best ways to increase the chance of survival in a weak newborn is to give electrolytes intraveneously or subcutaneously. The only mail order source which I am aware of is Pipestone Veterinary Supply , but a prescription from a veterinarian is required.  The product should be warmed to room or near body temp and given at the rate of 40 ml per 10 pound of kid twice a day (per Pipestone). We would recommend that the average person stick to subcutaneous administration since IV use in a baby animal can be quite difficult as well as dangerous.

We would also recommend that no more than 10 ml be injected into any one site. Any location where the skin is loose along the upper sides of the animal is suitable for administration. We prefer to give it 4 times per day (every 6 hours) at the rate of 20 ml per 10 pounds (10 cc per site). This is a case where more is NOT better since the kidneys may be unable to keep up with the amount administered. With a little practice and careful observation, you will become quite adept at arriving at the correct dosage. In some cases, the results will indeed be quite miraculous. [For the humorously inclined, you can create a squirting pincushion out of your darling little patient if you get enough liquid slushing around under the skin.]

Tube feeding

Tube feeding kits can be obtained from Pipestone; instruction for use are included with the kit. You can make your own by attaching a catheter to a regular syringe. Colosrum can be fed in this manner. If the kid is strong enough to swallow in a normal manner, the tube can end on the back of the tongue if the situation is closely monitored. Regular tube feeding involves inserting a tube into the mouth and carefully passing it into the stomach. One should listen to the open end of the tube; if breathing sounds are heard, the tube should be withdrawn and re-insterted. If done properly, the only sounds, if any, will be of the digestive process. The syringe is then attached (I attach the syringe before inserting the tube) and filled with the desired amount of liquid. (If troubles occur, pinch the tube and very quickly withdraw it. Never withdraw the tube in such a manner that it can release liquid into the lungs as it is being withdrawn.)  If there are no problems, the entire amount can then be released. It is helpful to have a partner refilling the syringe as needed until the whole amount has been given. But one person can hold the syringe and tube with one hand while filling the syringe with the other. I milk the mom into a small nipple bottle and then pour that into the syringe.

Always keep a secure grip on the tube with one hand, since it is quite easy for the baby to swallow it...which is a genuine disaster!

Home-made formula

In an emergency, you can make your own formula for kids

1 gallon whole milk (homogenized milk normall has a red cap on it)
1 cup buttermilk
1 can evap milk
Pour out enough whole milk to fit in the other two. Serve warm. Or you can do just whole milk and buttermilk, omitting the evap milk.

Abdominal glucose administration

This is a procedure which I have never undertaken. Some people inject about 35 ml of 20% glucose into the abdomen at a location about 1 cm to the side and 2 cm behind the navel, pointing the needle toward the rump (about 45 degree angle).

Nutritional supplements

Numerous products, such as Nutrical®, enhanced electrolyte preparations, microbials with vitamins, etc, are available through most suppliers.

Floppy Kid Syndrome

You can find a lot of non-functional links on the Internet about this mysterious disease. The "gist" of the matter is that it is a little-understood ailment which has acidosis as it's most distinctive clinical feature. Technically, I think it generally refers to a syndrome in which the kids appear fairly strong and normal at birth, but later turn into completely limp little "dishrags." The treatment is 1/2 tsp of baking soda given orally in cold water, according to reports citing Dr. Mary C. Smith of Cornell. And the good thing is that it's certainly worth a try since it can't do much harm if the diagnosis is wrong.

Misc things to try as a stab in the dark

Coffee - You didn’t read it here!
Probios® - Contains microbes that help the digestive process
Clostridium perfringens Type C&D antitoxin - usually for older babies
LA200® - the antibiotic of choice for undiagnosed infections in baby animals
Tylan® PenG - good choice if fever, but need to give every 8 - 12 hours
Sulmet (can give w/ systemic PenG) - oral sulfa bolus Terramycin tablets
Vitamin B Complex - Good for neurological problems, 1 ml every 1 or 2 days
Many vets recommend SQ administration.
Vitamin AD - Ricketts, eyes, mucous membranes; every 2 - 3 weeks
BoSe (Selenium and or VetE); Lse
Except for gel preparation, only obtainable from vet, but extremely valuable if weakness is actually due to selenium/Vitamin E deficiency (White muscle disease)
Aspirin (arthritis, swollen joints, fever, unspecific pain)
Epinephrine - as cardiac stimulant as last resort
Companionship as stimulant

Sometimes a very sick animal responds well to the presence of another animal as a source of companionship and body heat. One would not, of course, want to use a valuable potential breeder as a companion for one which has a contagious disease.

Congenital anomalies

Many of these are listed on our page on Inherited diseases. Some of these can be rescued by careful teatment of symptoms, while others are completely hopeless.

This is perhaps a good time to mention that an occasional inspection of the Medicine cabinet is essential to make sure that the necessary supplies are on hand in time of an emergency.