The Real Reason Goats Walk on Their Knees

Seeing goats walk on their knees can be both cute and bewildering. Many animals will exhibit this behavior. Sometimes for fun, sometimes for real medical reasons.

Goats walk on their knees because of a medical condition called laminitis. This is also known as foundering and occurs for a number of reasons. Foundering can be prevented by proper feeding and hoove care in goats. If a goat develops laminitis it can be curbed by using proper care immediately.

So if your goat is walking on its knees read on to learn about the causes for laminitis. You’ll also learn about how to identify laminitis early and start treatment for a foundering goat.

Causes Of Laminitis

Laminitis in goats is a serious problem and should be handled accordingly. The best thing you can do for a goat that is foundering or even walking on its knees is to take it into a vet to find out what the problem is. If left untreated laminitis will kill the goat.

One of the reasons for this is that laminitis comes with a serious infection of the goat’s hooves and joints. This causes them to run a temperature over their entire bodies. The joints are especially inflamed and hot to the touch. They will not want to move because it is in immense pain.

Laminitis can be caused by a number of reasons. We will be covering a great number of these. Especially the more common causes of laminitis.

Bad Feeding Habits

One of the most common causes of laminitis is keeping your goats on a poor diet. Luckily this is easy to control. You have to keep an eye on the foods your goats eat. If their diet is high in calories, carbohydrates, or protein your goats are much more likely to founder than a goat on a good diet.

What exactly you need your goats to eat depends on the breed of goat you are raising. A good rule of thumb is that you need to feed your goats a whole lot of roughage, and not a lot of other things. Goats are ruminants, meaning they can eat roughage till the cows come home (get it) and not have any problems.

Another thing that could cause laminitis is a sudden diet change. This is also because they are ruminant animals. The bacteria that live in their stomach are fragile and need time to adjust to new foods. So if you are trying to change a goat’s diet it should be done slowly.

Increase the amounts of new foods by following a diet plan for your goat. What plan and how fast depends on the kind of goat you have. The best way to know how to do this is by consulting your feed store or a vet. Both will know how to properly change a goat’s diet.


If a goat gets sick it is likely to founder. This is why it is very important to make sure your goats are healthy and eating a good diet. A good diet will greatly increase your goat’s immune response. This makes it far less likely for a goat to get a serious illness or infection.

If a goat does get sick then take good care of it. Taking good care of your sick goats will help prevent foundering just by virtue of your goats being healthier.

A high temperature will affect the homeostasis of your goat’s body. Increasing the likelyhood of laminitis.

Severe colic could also start a goat on the road to foundering. Colic is a combination of indigestion and the inability to expel built-up gasses. This causes goats to bloat and could in itself be fatal. This will be very painful to the goat, possibly triggering the process that leads to laminitis.

Obesity in a goat will also lead to the beginings of foundering.

Physical Injury

Physical injury in a goat can also lead to foundering. These really could be anything, most often though they are some combination of the following four.

Excessive foot trauma. This could be a goat’s environment being too wet and causing hoof rot or excessive hoof concussion.

Hoof rot is a very contagious bacterial infection and is especially a problem in wet environments. It is characterized by a foul smell and tenderness of hooves. It is treated by limited hoof trimming, antibiotics, and using an antibacterial compress placed between a goat’s toes.

Hoof concussion is when a goat’s hooves are distributing the weight improperly when they step. This is less of a cause and more of a symptom/accelerator. If a goat’s hooves are properly taken care of this isn’t really an issue.

Retention of a placenta will also increase the likelyhood of a goat developing laminitis.

A leg injury that results in excess weight being put on the other feet will cause a goat to founder. This is a cause of hoof concussion as it leads to improper weight balancing and bad form.

These are the three most likely causes of physical injuries that could result in a goat foundering. There really are a wide variety of physical injuries that can cause laminitis in a goat. So before you start treating it is best to consult a vet. They will be able to properly diagnose why a goat is experiencing laminitis. They will also be able to provide more accurate care instructions than we will be able to here just because they will know the exact problem.

With that in mind though let’s move on to basic treatments and care for a goat experiencing laminits.

Treatments Of Laminitis

Treating laminitis can be a tiring process. But it is well worth it for the life of your goat. There are a number of ways to go about this. The best thing you can do is consult a vet. They will be able to provide real-time advice and guidance for the treatment of your goat.

Hoof Leveling

This can be quite a process and will take a number of repeats in order for it to really work. You will see immediate results every time you do this though. Your goat may immediately stand better, but for a whole and proper healing to occur takes a long time. This works best in the early stages of foundering. Long before the goats fall to their knees. So, what is it and how do you do it?

Hoof leveling is simply making sure that both toes on every hoof are as level to each other as possible. Let’s go through the process here.

  • Identify where the goat’s toes need to be trimmed
  • Place the clippers flat
  • Cut hoof

Sounds pretty straightforward right? Well, honestly, in most cases it is. The biggest thing to remember here is that to make both toes parallel to each other and the ground. If the toes are slanted in any way then you have just done a great disservice to the goat.

This process can take up to a year and a half to complete. How long really depends on both the goat and how bad the hooves are. There is also the problem with the quick.

Quick is the fleshy pink part that the hooves protect. If you cut this you are opening your goat up to infection and potentially lasting damage. The quick bleeds a lot and in order to stop the bleeding you have to pack the wound with a styptic powder.

You will be cutting the toes differently because you are trying to get them to be level with each other. The basic process of cutting though will stay the same. You start at the base of the hoof, place your clippers flat, then cut. How much to cut depends on the toe.

You will repeat this process for all four hooves and often over the course of the next year or so. I have included a video that properly demonstrates this process. It’s not very long and has a lot of good information.

Diet Change

We already talked a little about how to properly feed a goat. A proper diet will do wonders when it comes to goat health and lasting hoof health. If you are curious about your goat’s specific needs consult your feed store or vet. They will know common trends in the area and how to combat poor nutrient intake for each specific breed.

Remember to change a diet slowly. Changing your goat’s diet too fast will do more harm than good.

Proper Treatment

Properly treating an illness will also do wonders for preventing laminitis. Don’t forget to check on your goats often for strange behaviors or signs of sickness. Remember to consult a vet if you notice hoof rot or your goat is on its knees. A goat being on its knees is not healthy and is a sign of serious trouble.

If you see a goat on its knees remember the following. Is its diet healthy? Is it physically hurt? Has it been wet recently? If it has been wet does the hoof smell bad or look raw? Has the goat been sick lately? Does it look bloated? Has there been a recent diet change?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes then it is time to consult a vet. If a goat is already on its knees then laminitis has progressed past the point of prevention. It is time for medical intervention.

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