A Scary Day

There are some gardening tasks that I can’t do. When we built this house a dozen years ago, we planted a screen of bushes and tress to hide the view of the neighbor’s large yellow house and lawn. It was designed to look natural, but it still requires occasional pruning. I don’t go up ladders, but I know the best people who do. I’ve been using the crew at Rudy’s Tree for twenty years.

tree work


I asked them to give some of the branches to the goats.

I’ve got a huge stand of rhododendron in the front woodland. It’s a gorgeous plant that must be over seventy years old. The guys were trimming it, too. They know and love my animals, and decided to give them some rhodie branches because they know that deer like it, and thought it’d be a treat for the goats. It was my total fail that I didn’t tell them to not feed it. Rhododendron is toxic to goats. An hour or so after the crew left, I saw the rhodie branches in the goats’ enclosure. I tossed them into the woods. I wasn’t worried. The goats have walked by these plants numerous times and never nibbled at them. The guys had given the goats plants that are tasty and that they gorge on, like pine and birch. I didn’t think that the boys would bother with the rhododendron. That evening, Pip looked a bit off his hay, but I still wasn’t worried.

What I didn’t know that this plant doesn’t just cause stomach upset. It kills.

Steve opened up the barns the next morning at 7. He came and got me. Pip was vomiting. It was green. He was foaming at the mouth. I still didn’t know enough to be in a panic. He’s eaten things before that have upset his stomach. However, even bloat that doesn’t cause vomiting is serious, and I immediately drenched him with pepto-bismol, and then did an additional drench of epsom salts. This is done using an oral syringe. It’s messy, but effective.

I called my vet, Dr. Sarah, who has cared for these goats since they were two months old. What she said did send me into a panic. There’s nothing that I can do. The plant is toxic. If we’re lucky, he vomited out the worst of it, but it’s been in Pip’s system for 12 hours. His body has already digested and absorbed the toxin. You’ll know if he’s going to die by tomorrow.

It looked dire. Pip was lying down. He was not chewing his cud. His mouth was swollen. One ear dipped down, as if he was having a stroke. As always, though, the two brothers were together.

two goats


There was nothing that I could do about the toxin, but I could keep Pip as healthy as possible so that his body could fight back. For goats, that means keeping food in the belly and the rumen working. When the rumen shuts down, the goat dies. I hand-fed mint. He nibbled a leaf and stopped. I tried a peanut. He chewed and it fell out of his mouth. I thought that I was watching my goat die. I massaged his belly.

I put out hay and baking soda. Baking soda is very good for a goat’s digestive tract. They actually know to eat it when they have an upset. At first Pip was too miserable to touch either, but mid-morning I saw him lick some of the baking soda. It gave me a glimmer of hope.

As you can see in the photo, Pip’s eyes are half-shut in pain. Caper remains by his side.

goat and baking soda


Using Caper as a lure, I got Pip up. I let them eat things that they’re never allowed to eat, like the raspberries. Pip could not resist.



After a rest, I lured him back out to the strawberries. Even a goat with pink pepto-bismol in his beard, and pain in his gut, will eat strawberry plants. Caper could not believe his good fortune.



In between the eating, Pip would lay down in the sun and look miserable. I rubbed his belly some more.



Finally, in the late afternoon, I saw Pip chewing his cud. That was a sign that the digestive tract was working. Pip even head butted his brother out of the way when I handed over a peanut.

I avoided googling frothy bloat (which is what this is called) all day. I trust Dr. Sarah, and I didn’t want to see all sorts of “remedies” to subject Pip to. If he was going to live, it was going to be because of sheer luck that he didn’t ingest enough toxin to kill him. But now that he was looking on the mend, there were things to do to hasten his recovery. I did an internet search and set off for the pharmacy.

The tree guys were still on the property. They were as worried as I was. While I was gone, they massaged Pip’s belly and encouraged him to walk around. (I found this out later, and have no doubt that the TLC from Pip’s friends was an essential component of why Pip pulled through.)

I created a magic goat elixir.

 and  (to detoxify the system),  (to whish out anything bad remaining in the nooks and crannies of the goat’s gut), dried ginger (to settle the stomach), pepto-bismol to soothe, and water to hydrate a goat who hadn’t had anything to drink all day. By now, Steve was home from work. He held Pip and I dosed with the oral syringe. It wasn’t difficult. Pip said that it was tasty, and that the water was fine. He smacked his lips.

Still, the toxins might have been working silently. Were they going to kill him overnight? I woke at 5 and went out to the barn in my pjs. Pip was chewing his cud. Where’s my breakfast? he asked.

A day later, and I’m sure that Pip is fully recovered.

pip on box


He’s wondering why the raspberry plants are again off-limits.


  1. I am so so glad Pip is okay, that was why I saw you rubbing his belly. Very worrying times. Lots of love and hugs to you both…:)

  2. So glad that lovely Pip is OK and has recovered. These animals really put us through our paces sometimes and cause us worry. Saying that though, we couldn’t live without them.

  3. Thank goodness, he made it… One of my cats was poisoned and died last week, I believe she ate a mouse that was in the corn field when it was sprayed. She was at the vet for 3 days. The vet did what she could but it was to little to late… She was the best cat!!! Thank god we have her 2 kittens ( who are a year old now)

  4. Oh my goodness, Terry…..Scary day indeed!!!! You all must have been just frantic with worry. I am so happy and relieved this story had a wonderful ending and Pip is back to his hungry goat self again and Caper still has his brother to share adventures with. Once again your blog will educate so many of us on a VERY important and this time life-threatening matter…what an eye-opener!!!!

  5. Thank goodness Pip made it through this. We will do anything for our animal friends won’t we? I can feel how desperate you were when you let them eat the raspberries and strawberries. Like a prayer to the gods, I will let them have anything, just please save Pip. & it worked. So glad for you.

  6. How scary. I really feel for what you went through this week. I’m so sorry. But I’m so happy that he’s on the mend.

  7. That is so scary!
    Someone gave some Rodies to my Jacob sheep ram once and the pepto the charcoal the extra good usually off limits plants , all the same as you did and I too was very lucky that “Archie” made it. SO HAPPY that Pip made it!! :)

  8. So glad for the happy ending! Pip got the best of care; he’s a lucky, loved goat. I’m guessing Pip didn’t eat much. My ewe lamb got out a couple weeks ago, and before I could grab her, munched down a rhodie leaf. It didn’t affect her in any way that I could see.

  9. Goats are tough, but when they get sick they get really sick…when I was a child one of our kids got bloated and she was gone within hours. My father , a dairy farmer, tried everything to save her but it didn’t work. We never did find out what she ate, but diligence is half the battle…take care and hugs!

  10. I lost a goat recently to bloat. Very frustrating to do all you can and it doesn’t work. I am glad your baby is okay. In hindsight (and after some vet advice), if I have a similar situation I am going to tube the goat instead of trying to put it into a syringe. I have only done it once but I feel like I could do it again. You might want to ask your vet to show you how to do it, if you don’t know how. It definitely gets the medicine/fluids right in quickly, and it’s not as messy.

  11. Congratulations on Pip’s recovery. And cheers to you for keeping them in such fine condition for so many years. I’m sure a strong and healthy constitution had much to do with giving Pip the ability to weather that storm. If you know, what type of damage can these particular toxins do? Liver? How wonderful that your two goatie boys are so solid and healthy overall.

  12. Oh thank goodness. My heart dropped and I had to skip to the ending…..Lots of hugs for Pip!

  13. Oh My! that is a scary day (and night)! We had a dog once that unbeknownst to us ate an entire bag of Hershey’s easter egg candy- wrappers and all. She laid by the back door for 3 days while we tried to figure out what was wrong- then found the colored foil wrappers in the yard…meanwhile *I* was accused of eating the candy :) Took that man on a tour once I saw the wrappers :) Too bad some of the things that are bad for them still get eaten!

  14. SO GLAD Pip is okay. I saw rhododendron and didn’t want to read anymore. I just had to put my hamster down and didn’t want more death. But I also ‘had’ to know, so like Deanne, I had to skip to the ending. Whew! {{{HUGS}}} to you and yours and Pip.

  15. Oh my goodness – I’m so sorry you all went through that! So very glad to hear Pip came through it okay!

  16. thank goodness, I was going to mention charcoal to absorb the toxins

  17. Thank goodness! What a relief it must have been to find him feeling better the next morning. I’m so happy for you!

  18. So glad Pip is okay ….. I know it had to be a miserable and worrisome day for all…..Glad everyone and everything has recovered!!!!

  19. So glad Pip is on the mend! What a difference between the first picture and the last.
    Thank you for sharing.

  20. Oh my gosh, that really WAS scary. I’m so glad little Pip has recovered. I’m sure it was due to all the healing properties in the elixir you gave him (and the strawberries and raspberries, of course). What a relief for you…and all of us, too.

  21. i worried thru that whole story and very glad of the outcome. give the boys a squeeze for me – jean.

  22. What an awful experience but well done, goat mom, great job xxxxxx (And the goat chums too!)

  23. As everyone says, awful experience, but just so glad that everything turned out okay. Read this with heart in mouth, so glad goat boys are okay and well done you for doing all the right things for your babies, probably not the right description but I know you will know what I mean.

  24. I am so happy to know there is a happy ending to this story. You have really had a lot going on with your animal of late. They are so lucky to have such a great Mom.

  25. Terry, how awful that had to have been for you, Pip & Caper. The waiting and pain of not being able to help them is so difficult and heart wrenching. As I was reading, I was praying that Pip would pull through. I’m so happy to hear that he did!

  26. Thank God he is alright. What a stressful time for you and Pip and Steve. I’m sure Caper was upset too.

  27. I wish I could ship all of my extra black raspberry canes to Pip and Caper; there always are lots of plants in places they should not be, “planted” by the birds! I move as many as I can, but goat candy would be a better solution. I’m glad Pip has recovered. He is looking quite handsome in that last image.

    • I have black raspberry, too, right on the other side of the goat paddock, which the goats eye greedily. Once in a while I lop some branches and toss them over the fence for them.

  28. I’m so glad Pip is okay, and I also feel bad for the tree guys. How awful they must have felt knowing they gave them something toxic, thinking it was just a treat.

  29. Sometimes I was worried about what Caper and Pip ate: green tomatoes, raw beans and christmas tree branches. It all looked toxic or at least unhealthy to me. I thought goats must have stomachs of steel.
    But even a goat can’t eat everything. I’m so glad this thriller has a happy ending!

    • Actually, green beans and pine trees are yummy and good for the goats. Those green tomatoes he ate in excess (something his smarter brother would never do) were a lesson for both of us. The truly toxic plants are in another category – one I hope that I never have to deal with again!

  30. Hugs Terry..So glad the lil guy pulled though. He is a tough old goat!

  31. Oh thank goodness! He had the best nursing care ever :). Speaking of happy endings, between the activated charcoal, the Pepto, and the mineral oil, I’m sure he had some very interesting outputs!

    • Amazingly enough, all that did was to help the normal goat berries slip out. OTOH, cleaning up the vomit was not so fun. But, thank goodness that he did vomit – that’s what saved him more than anything.

  32. That was scary! So glad the goat brothers are ok now! I too hurried to the end of the story and pictures, for fear of the outcome! I have a pair of goat brothers, too! One of mine will eat most anything, and the other is very picky!
    Thanks again for all you and Steve do, Terry! I love HenCam, and appreciate all your wisdom!

  33. So glad things are going so well.
    Scary times when we have a really sick animal.

  34. Happy News about about Pip!! And for all of you. I hiked once with a Llama here in the Smokies. It was a constant effort to keep him away from the rhodies. They want to eat everything along the trail. I was worn out after that hike worrying about him getting poisioned.