The comments and suggestions found here are not a substitute for the diagnostic help that is available through your veterinarian. In fact, most of the procedures will actively involve your vet in the process. Some elementary or preliminary tests can easily be performed by you at home. To do so will in no way be objectionable to the dedicated professional. It will only show him/her that you are eager to be involved in the care of your animals and do not want to spend your money needlessly. The final processing of most of the tests can only be done at a qualified laboratory and these facilities will only accept material from a licensed veterinarian or physician. Be prepared to pay a nominal fee to the vet for preparing and shipping the materials. Although your vet may have a good working arrangement with the lab at a local (people) hospital, that does not mean that you can show up there with a urine sample from Suzie Q. and expect them to run some tests for you.

As suggested in the "Veterinarian" section of "goatwisdom" it will be a great deal cheaper to take the animal to the vet’s office for a simple blood draw, for example. In most cases, this will be appreciated by the vet because of the time savings.

In order to do a fecal exam or to view a skin scraping at home, it may be necessary to buy a microscope. Any of the models sold as children’s toys will enable you to see some parasites. These typically have three opticals of 100 to 300 power. You will spend most of your time at the lower end of this range. Most of these come with a few slides and cover slips and stain materials. You are probably not going to have the skills necessary to identify specific micro-organisms such as bacteria, for example, and to put out the several hundred dollars necessary to obtain such an instrument would be a real waste.

In order to learn what the various critters look like you do not need to acquire an expensive library of microbiology texts. Images, descriptive material and treatment protocols are all available on the Web. You can do some creative searching at the Web sites of several of the vet schools. To get you started, here are some outstanding sites that you may never tire of exploring.

Veterinary Parasitology   Tons of images and information from The University of Missouri. Has excellent search function. Emphasis on farm animals.

The Nanoworld Image Gallery   You won’t be able to stop looking!

The Molecular Expressions Photo Gallery

Bugs on the Web

Some other things to buy: Small, tall, thin jars such as contain olives or Maraschino cherries for collecting urine sample, Ziploc® sandwich bags for fecal samples, Ziploc® freezer bags (gallon size) for whole kids or placentas.

Take a fresh fecal sample from the rectum, using a latex glove and using care not to injure the patient. Dilute in water and spread over slide. Put cover slip on smear. Use low power. Iodine or methylene blue can help find eggs. Eggs float in saturated salt water (in which no more salt will dissolve). Parasitology site above provides more suggestions for preparing slides.

If seeking help from your vet, collect the fecal sample as above and place in a Ziploc® bag. Label with your name, species, name of doe and date collected. Keep the sample in the refrigerator until you leave for the vet's. Samples should ideally be no more than 30 minutes old.

If you must collect the sample from the ground, select the freshest sample possible observing the identity of the animal making the "gift", invert the bag and use it as a glove, pick up the stool and then, with the other hand, close the bag around the sample.

Four methods to cause urine flow in does: (1) Rub skin below vulva briskly with hand full of straw. (2) Pour warm water over vulva (best). (3) "Reflex sudden urination" following invasion of individual space. (4) Does frequently urinate when forced to stand up quickly.

With a little dexterity and a lot of luck, the sample can be collected into a small sealable jar. Should this fail, your vet can withdraw a sample directly from the bladder, but you should probably not try to do this yourself. This provides a sample with the least possible amount of contamination.

Specific gravity: You can get a rough idea of kidney function, should you feel a need to do so, by means of a Specific Gravity test, using a hygrometer (obtainable at wine-making supply stores). It helps to take several tests at different parts of the day. 1.000 is pure water and thus extremely dilute. 1.020 is normal for cattle (I have not tested goats). If below 1.010 seek further help from your vet in the form of a BUN test (blood drawn from the jugular vein) to help diagnose kidney failure. [See "blood"]

Strip tests can be obtained from your local drug store for a large number of tests. In the hands of an amateur, these may be more of an entertainment factor than good science! For example, pH values will change with the diet and may vary considerably among different animals within the herd, providing material for some interesting studies. Without help from your vet, do not try to use these to diagnose mysterious ailments. They are to be used only in conjunction with other procedures. But if something out of the ordinary does show up in an animal that shows obvious symptoms of disease, be sure to share these finding with your vet. He or she may want to explore the matter further.

If you want to collect a blood sample to take to the vet, you can’t just draw some blood into a syringe and take it to the office. You first need to obtain from the vet special vials which contain anticoagulants. With practice a blood sample can be obtained from the jugular vein (in the groove on the side of the neck). Either finger pressure or a tourniquet will make the vein easier to find. Pressure is released prior to the actual withdrawal of blood. Find out ahead of time how many ml’s will be needed for the tests which are to be run. Store it in the refrigerator. The collection of the blood has to be done properly or the sample will be rejected by the lab.

Put a drop of mineral oil on a slide. Run a scalpel (or very sharp knife) blade through the oil or put a drop of oil on the blade. (This holds the scraped debris to the blade.) Scrape the skin rather vigorously. Some parasites live in burrows in the skin and so you have to scrape until a small amount of blood is obtained. You may need to pinch up the skin a little in order to do this. The scraped material is spread in the oil drop on the slide and a cover slip is placed on top. The area is then viewed under low power. Epithelial cells (normally sloughed skin) will dominate the view. These are irregularly shaped "blobs" that don’t have any moving parts. Also, you will probably see lots of pieces of hair. Look for eggs attached to these. Skin parasites will appear as bilaterally symmetrical critters that may have some moving parts. Make quick sketches of what you have observed and compare them to the images found at the sites above.

Most skin scrapings which I have taken have proven to be negative for parasites. In a high percentage of cases all you will see is epithelial debris and broken hairs. Refer to our "Skin" section for a more thorough discussion of skin diseases.

Put the whole thing in a Ziploc® one gallon freezer bag, label with your name, species and name of doe, and attach a BRIEF case history. DO NOT FREEZE If you are suspecting that the baby is dead because of one of the many diseases which can cause an abortion, you can request a series of tests known as an "abortion scan." This is a very valuable procedure. Transport in an iced cooler.

Put the whole thing in a Ziploc® one gallon freezer bag, label with your name, species and name of doe, and attach a BRIEF case history. Refrigerate but do not freeze. Transport in an iced cooler.

Many times, specific organs from a deceased animal will be requested. Most common are liver, lungs, heart, and brains. If dangerous diseases such as rabies or anthrax are suspected, this is a job for your veterinarian. Never handle one of these animals. Collect whole organs as soon as possible after death. Do NOT freeze. Put in Ziploc® bag and refrigerate. Label with your name, species and name of animal, attach BRIEF case history. Many labs will want the name of specific tests and/or diseases or toxins being looked for. This is where participation of your vet is essential. Transport in an iced cooler.
Carefully follow instructions of the test or the vet for whom you are collecting the same. You will usually be instructed to wash (and sometimes sterilize) the teat. For most tests you will be asked to collect the FIRST few squirts. Others will require that you throw away the first few and then begin collecting.

Should you suspect mastitis, you can purchase a California Mastitis Test starter kit and do this yourself. Be sure to follow the instructions exactly. Once you get the hang of it, it is really easy and highly accurate. We recommend that every goat owner have CMT kit on hand. To examine for gross abnormalities of the milk, such as strands or clots, a finely meshed black cloth will prove to be very helpful. Also let a sample of the milk stand for a few hours in a clear jar and observe for blood, cream (or fat) and any discoloration. All this information will be very helpful to your vet should you need to seek his/her help in treating any diseases of milk production.

Should you want a lab analysis or culture of the material exuding from an abscess or other sore, you will need to get from your vet a special swab which comes with its own container for protection of the material and any who handle it. This method is highly preferable to taking into the vet office a tissue or rag into which you have squeezed this obnoxious material.

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