In Summary
  • Though goats are said to love kneeling, they actually use their carpal joint, which is the joint above the hoof joint in the front legs.
  • Carpal-walking is a common occurrence in goats with foot-rot and foot overgrowth. Some foot-rot cases may heal without treatment but others must be treated.
  • Some cases of foot-rot may recover without treatment but affected animals may become carriers of the bacteria and keep contaminating the environment, thereby keeping the infection live in the herd.
  • To keep foot-rot and hoof overgrowth at bay, farmers should regularly inspect the hooves of goats and trim.

I had barely reached home from church last Sunday when the phone call came. It was from Kimani of a farm in Kandara where he was the acting manager.

Kimani said he had two cases; one of sheep and the other of goats. “Doctor, our goats have formed this habit of behaving like though they are praying,” he said.

After prodding, he explained that over the past eight days, some goats in the herd would go down on their front knees and stay in that position for long even when they were feeding.

The goats were, however, eating and drinking water normally. Some of the goats would abandon the behaviour after two or three days but two were consistent.

I told Kimani I would attend to the case the next day because it was not an emergency.

“There is also the other case of two sheep,” Kimani said. He explained one sheep had a jaw swollen on the lower side and was unable to stand or eat. The other had started to show similar behaviour.

Now that was an emergency and in about an hour, I was on the farm. I first checked the recumbent sheep. It had swollen lower jaws, what is referred to as “bottle jaw”.

The name arises from the bottle-like appearance of the jaws when they are swollen. The insides of the eyelids and gums were white instead of pink or red. This meant there was very little blood in the sheep. There were no fleas, ticks or lice on the animal’s skin.

The heart was very weak and fast while the breathing was shallow and also fast. The temperature was low at 36 degrees centigrade. That was not a good sign for survival. The anal area was soiled with diarrhoea.

I diagnosed anaemia, and heavy infestation by gastro-intestinal worms. My question was, why the infestation while the farm dewormed the animals every three months.

Kimani said the sick sheep had arrived on the farm a month before but they had not been dewormed because the seller said he had done it.


I treated the two sheep with antibiotics, multivitamin, iron and worm medicine, which I gave both by mouth and injection. I instructed Kimani to keep them warm.

Sadly, I informed him the very sick sheep could either survive or die because it had lost a lot of blood to worms and the worm medicine would take time to kill the internal parasites.

Further, the drop in body temperature was an ominous sign that the body systems may already have started shutting down.

The less affected sheep had a very good chance of uneventful recovery since the mucous membranes were still pink, the temperature normal and had only mild diarrhoea.

Before leaving the sheep flock, I instructed Kimani to deworm all the sheep and goats that were in the same herd and repeat the treatment after two weeks.

This was to clear any worms the animals could have acquired from the sick sheep. Farmers are advised to deworm animals with a reputable product on arrival on their farm or at the farm of origin, prior to introducing them to the resident herd.

Now to the praying goat. I attended to them at a different section of the farm. The two persistently kneeling goats were still in the “prayer” posture.

Though goats are said to love kneeling, they actually use their carpal joint, which is the joint above the hoof joint in the front legs.

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