I despise lice–those external parasites are extremely annoying for goats and owners! When my herd got a case of it, I decided to treat it naturally. This took a lot of trial and error–the title says it all, and wow, is it a saga!
It all started when I saw one of my sweet goats happily eating hay at the feeder, and pausing every so often to scratch his neck. Being the good goat mom I am, of course I walked over to give him a neck scratch so he could eat hay and not be itchy! While scratching him, I looked through his coat and saw a very tiny black spot. I picked it out of his fur and much to my surprise, what I thought was a piece of dirt, started moving across my finger. When I looked closer, I noticed it was a bug! It had a slight blue tint, and was extremely small.
I contacted friends and our vet, asking what this little creature might be, hoping it was not a louse (despite my instincts saying it was). I had not found any other bugs, and the goats weren’t scratching too much more than normal.
Two days later, I looked through the goats’ fur and found a few more bugs. I determined it was lice. I spent the next day in a complete panic, unsure of what to do for those “creepy-crawlies!” There were lots of options, but I didn’t know which would work.
I decided to start slowly with treatment, to discover what worked best. The lice situation wasn’t too severe at that time. My first treatment attempt was to use essential oils. I initially tried a homemade essential oil blend. I figured I should start with that as a baseline to repel the lice slightly and to keep the situation under control, if nothing else. Then I contemplated ways that humans deal with lice; one of the best things you can do (non-chemically) is just combing them all out and taking other necessary precautions (I won’t get into that, after all, this is a GOAT blog, not a parenting one!). I purchased many pet flea combs, and got to lice combing! And I did … every day. I had read about Diatomaceous Earth (DE) for lice. But I knew how dangerous DE could be if inhaled, and I wasn’t prepared to deal with a respiratory issue along with lice! So instead, I got creative, and I made my “special goat lice mixture” (not trademarked!) It contained a large amount of Diatomaceous Earth, pure essential oils, an essential oil blend from DoTerra, water, and fractionated coconut oil. The goal was to make a mixture in which we wet the DE for it not to be airborne. I used this mixture to comb through the goats every day. While combing, I found lice and nits, although not a large amount. Some days I barely found any, but if I missed a day of combing there would be up to 20 per goat the next day! The DE does not kill lice when wet, but it would dry out in the goats’ fur after a few hours. The wet DE is easier to apply, to avoid it going airborne, but it must dry out in order to work for lice (so if it’s humid and raining, it likely won’t dry).
After too long of a time keeping the lice in check but not getting rid of them, I had to consider other options. The DE mixture and combing was extremely helpful, but just didn’t kick the lice hard enough, so to speak. From a variety of sources, I learned of many different suggestions as to treatment options such as: pour-on chemical treatments like Ivermectin, or UltraBoss, Permethrin Fly Spray, Permethrin powder/dust, and even injectable Ivermectin. These are all chemical lice treatments. Though I was thoroughly stressed out by the situation, and wanted to be rid of the lice as fast as possible, I also had to consider the positives and negatives (and my own personal preferences) when it comes to chemical vs. natural treatments.
After due consideration, I decided that the lice weren’t “harming” the goats as much as a respiratory issue or worm infestation might. Sucking lice (which is what our goats had) can cause anemia in a severe situation, so we were sure to check on the goats to ensure that they were still healthy and happy. They did not seem as bothered by the lice as I was. So I went for my last try in the natural route: a product called VetRX, used for ear mites, and respiratory issues. I had read online that it could also be used to treat lice. This formula is in a natural oil base, and it is applied to the goat’s topline/spine. I put drops all along their backs; it did leave a “greasy residue” that I was informed about, but I guess that’s why it worked! I used one application of it, and continued combing after, and the lice consistently disappeared. We were careful to comb through searching for even a single nit, as that could restart the entire situation. After minor “cleanup combing”, with the lasting oily residue of the VetRX, the lice situation was finally resolved.
It took a lot of determination to not go the chemical route, and the chemical route isn’t something that I would advise people “not” to do. But I would say that going the natural route really benefited our goats, and it did conquer the lice!
When we had a second lice situation the next winter, I used VetRX immediately, and some combing, and the lice went away quite fast!
Now that I’ve told my story, I wanted to mention a few things about goat lice.
- They are species specific, which means you don’t need to worry about bringing lice infestation into your own home!
- There are different kinds of goat lice. Sucking lice suck blood, and they actually attach themselves to the goat which makes them easier to spot because you can see their “blood filled bellies”. There are also biting lice, which do not suck blood and only prey on the surface of a goat’s skin. And there are also mites, which are not lice at all. Mites are not able to be seen but they leave scabby areas and hair loss.
- Lice often infect goats in the early winter, and especially in early spring and late fall.
- In warm enough conditions, clipping your goats can get rid of lice fairly easily. And the lice have an aversion to strong sunlight, which is why they often affect goats in colder weather because of the time they spend warming indoors.
YOUR GOAT MAY HAVE LICE IF:
- They are scratching more often than usual.
- If you have found suspicious looking bugs in their coats.
- If they show signs of anemia (in severe situations, sucking lice can cause goats to be anemic, although there are many other causes of anemia in goats).
- If you notice hair loss areas (from scratching).
- If they have a dry, dandruffy, coat condition (also usually from scratching).
These are only some possible symptoms.
DISCLAIMER: I am not a vet, nor am I a licensed professional. I am in no way a “goat expert” and my opinions are only that of personal experiences, and my insights shared are not medical treatment suggestions, care suggestions, or any directions for raising goats at all. I am simply sharing my own personal opinions. Any and all changes to your goats’ health regimen, care, etc. should be approved by a veterinary professional or licensed professional. I also believe that every goat owner has their own way of doing things, so just as my opinions are my own, and cannot apply to anyone else, your opinions are also regarding your individual goats, and I welcome you to share them in a kind, constructive manner. Disclosure: This post may contain Amazon Affiliate Links, from which I will earn a commission.