I’ve written before about what items you might want to keep in a goat medicine chest, but some of those things are useless if you don’t know how to administer them. You’ll need to give vitamins, wormers and other medicines either via injection or by drench gun. Both are easy enough to do and get easier with practice.
We like to keep 3ml and 12ml syringes on hand. The 3ml syringe is good for CD/T vaccines or pain medications while the larger size is perfect for vitamin B shots. Our preferred needle size is 1-inch, and I prefer a 20-gauge needle. It’s big enough for viscous solutions such as Selenium/Vitamin E but not wide enough to cause pain.
There are three ways you can administer shots: subcutaneously (known also as SQ, meaning under the skin), intramuscularly (or IM) and intravenously (known as IV). I’ll cover SQ and IM today. If your goat needs IV medicine, it’s probably best to let a vet handle it.
First we put the needle on the syringe if we have not bought the kind that comes already assembled. The only other real prep we do before an injection is to clean off the top of the medicine vial before inserting the needle and drawing up the solution. Once you draw up the prescribed amount, hold the needle upright and flick it with your fingers to dislodge any air bubbles. If there is a little air, depress the plunger slightly until a tiny bit of the medicine squirts out, displacing the air. Then you’re ready to go. I like to give shots on the milk stand, so the goats can’t run away. If you don’t have a stanchion, you might have someone hold the goat by the collar. If you are alone, you can chain her to a fence and lean against her.
You can give a goat an SQ injection anywhere you can pull out a nice bit of skin to insert the needle. We find that the easiest place to do that is behind the “armpit.” Feel for a spot where the skin seems loose and pull it away from the muscle. Then insert the needle into the little tent you have made, from the top. If you try it from the side, you will probably push the needle all the way back out the other side and squirt the meds outside your goat, where they will do no good. 😉 Insert the needle into the area between skin and muscle, depress the plunger and you’re done. It really is that easy. After I give the shot, I like to rub the area briefly to help disperse the medicine.
We give IM shots in the rump. I go about halfway between hip and tail, and down the side a bit. Find a nice, meaty bit and just quickly push the needle in and depress the plunger. I used to fear the IM injection, believing it would take a lot of force and therefore be scary. It doesn’t. The needle should glide in pretty easily, and it is easier and faster than SQ injections.
Lots of things can be given via drench gun. The difficulty depends on how tasty the goat finds the substance you’re giving. Electrolytes and kaolin-pectin, for example, are pretty tasty. Wormers are not.
For any drenching, the most important thing is to keep the goat’s head relatively level. You should incline it just a little, but if you tilt it up directly at you, you increase the risk of aspiration/choking. The easiest way to achieve the right position is to either straddle the goat or stand beside the front legs and put an arm around the neck. Use your arm and body positioning to level out the head. Insert the tip of the drench gun into the corner of the mouth and get it on top of the tongue, at least as far as the back teeth before you depress the plunger.
If you have a large amount—20cc or more—do it slowly enough to not fill the mouth and allow some to spill out, but quickly enough that the goat doesn’t fight you.
This takes practice. Slow and steady is the way to go, though. If the medicine is foul tasting, I like to pull the gun out but clamp the mouth shut until the goat swallows. Again, depending on what you’re giving, this job can be easy or it can be hard. But like everything, it will get easier with practice.