Attention! This is a potentially life-threatening condition for your goat. Time is of the essence, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Polioencephalomalacia (PEM) is a nutritional/metabolic syndrome in goats which causes cortical necrosis. It is associated with disturbances in thiamine (vitamin B1) metabolism. PEM is characterized by a sudden onset of apparent blindness and disorientation, followed by neurological symptoms and death, if left untreated.

PEM is most frequently seen in young animals that are on a diet with high concentrated grain. Risk factors for PEM include sudden changes in diet, consumption of horse feed with high amounts of molasses or moldy hay, dietary stress associated with weaning, deworming with levamisole or thiabendazole, consumption of braken fern, and overdosing of amprolium.

Symptoms

Depression
Loss of appetite
Depressed heart rate
Apparent blindness
Disorientation
Behavioral changes
Muscle tremors
Excitability
Circling
Ataxia
Recumbency
Convulsions

Diagnosis

  • History
  • Clinical signs
  • Physical exam

Treatment

Supportive care with administration of thiamine

Prevention

  • Ensure diet is sufficient with proper amounts of thiamine
  • Minimize risk of exposure to braken fern in pastures
  • Do not feed moldy hay or horse feed
  • Wean from mother gradually
  • Supplement diet with brewers yeast

Article Reference

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