I often get questions about the diets of various animals, and, specifically, “Is what I am giving my animals safe or toxic?”
This is a very serious concern for all homesteaders and pet owners, because nobody wants to see their beloved animals suffer. If your animal does ingest something poisonous, you will want to know what to do and how to treat it.
Is it safe for goats to eat tomato plants?
The answer is both yes and no. Yes: it is safe for your goat to eat the fruit (i.e. the actual tomato), but in moderation. No: you must never give or let your goats eat the leaves and stems of a tomato plant, as these are very toxic for goats.
It is always important to check the area where your goats are housed, and any area they could break into, for toxic plants of any kind. If you do not, the outcome could be very tragic.
It is impossible to completely goat-proof a property! Goats will find a way to get out or in if they get curious. Goats are curious and naughty by nature – it is what makes them so darn sweet.
Goats are browsers. They enjoy scouting out anything yummy to eat. They like to eat leaves and brush over grass. Which means you should be careful what you plant.
The leaves and stem of a tomato plant contain high levels of alkaloids which are highly toxic to goats. They are part of the nightshade family, which is very toxic for many animals. However, in very small quantities, most goats will not get life-threateningly ill.
They would have to consume at least half a plant to really be in danger of poisoning. But they will still need treatment to alleviate pain, neutralize the poison, and recover quickly.
Prevention is always better than a cure. So, what can you do to protect your goats and how do you treat them if they have ingested the leaves and stems of a tomato plant or other toxic plants?
How To Prevent Your Goat From Eating Whole Tomato Plants
The number one rule for goat ownership is:
NEVER TRUST A GOAT!
Goats are curious, but just as the saying goes: curiosity killed the cat, the same holds true for goats.
They love to rip things up, pull up plants from the ground, chew on wood, and even destroy outdoor furniture. They browse for their food. They can easily jump fences, climb on roofs, or even climb trees.
That is why goat-proofing your property is very important. To do it, and to protect your tomato plants, you could:
- Keep your tomato plants in a greenhouse
- Do not grow your tomato plants near fences where goats could reach through for a snack
- Grow your tomatoes in a very securely fenced-in area
- Keep your goats in a fenced-in area or barn
- Make sure there are plenty of safe plants to keep them busy
- Do not feed the goats tomatoes at all so that they do not associate the delicious fruit with the forbidden plant
- Or do not plant or grow tomatoes
How Do You Know If Your Goat Has Ingested Toxic Plants Like Tomatoes
It is important that you monitor the health and well-being of your goats constantly. Some goat farmers say you should check on your goats every two weeks for health. But leaving it that long could guarantee a bad outcome.
I like to check on all my animals daily. That way I can become aware of ‘normal’ behavior of each animal, which makes it easier to spot personality changes that could indicate a poisoning.
Sadly, too often we find out a goat has eaten something toxic when we find its dead body.
If you have tomato plants that the goats could get to if they are determined, it is a good idea to also monitor the plants daily. If you see they have been nibbled on, you will need to take action quickly.
Why? Because toxic plants like tomatoes act quickly on goats.
If your goat has ingested the forbidden parts of the plant, they will demonstrate at least some of these symptoms:
- Foam or froth around their mouths
- Sometimes they may vomit
- Cry out
- Appear to be confused
- Pant and struggle to breathe
- Shake their heads a lot
- Develop the shakes
- Have diarrhea
- They will have difficulty with their eyesight – they may bump into things
- Stagger and stumble
- Have seizures
- Go into a coma
- Eventually, die
What Should You Do If You Know Or Suspect That Your Goat Has Ingested A Tomato Plant
There are a number of remedies to treat your goat if he or she has ingested toxins. Some are more effective than others.
For me, the very first thing I would suggest you do is to call your vet. Your vet would be able to advise you on what to watch for, provide valuable insight into home remedies, or advise you to bring the goat straight in for treatment.
Here are a few things you could try:
- Call your vet.
- Check the goat’s mouth, and remove any remaining pieces of the offending plant.
- Don’t leave the goat in the sun, take it to a quiet, warm, dry place.
- Try to walk the goat around as much as possible.
- Mix 15ml Renco (rennet), 15ml milk of magnesia (Mylanta), and 5ml brandy, and give this to your goat with a drench, or syringe.
- Mix ½ cup cooking oil, ½ cup strong, black tea (let it cool), 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1 teaspoon ground ginger and give the mixture to your goat with a drench or syringe.
- Give your goat clean tepid water.
- If it is vomiting, change its water after each time it vomits.
- Lift the front legs to help release gases that cause bloating and cramping.
- Treat with twelve capsules of activated charcoal mixed into tepid water, and administer with a syringe or drench every two hours until vomiting and diarrhea stops.
- Mix one whole can of beer, two tablespoons of Epsom salt, and one tablespoon of baking soda; give the goat this mixture every three to four hours until the vomiting stops – use a big syringe or a drench to give the mixture.
- Mix ¼ cup of olive oil, ½ cup of strong, cold black tea, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 4 capsules of activated charcoal, 1 tablespoon of probiotic powder (Probios), and 1 tablespoon of Supernatural Silver (supplement, colloidal silver), and administer it using a drench or syringe every hour.
- Put a teaspoon of baking soda on the goat’s tongue every hour.
- Your vet may administer atropine sulphate.
If you do not see an improvement in 24 hours, I recommend you call your vet out, or take your goat to the vet. Hydration is very important in any poisoning. Your vet will probably put up a drip to hydrate the goat, and administer medication to help clear out the toxins.
When you see your goat is starting to get more interested in food, start it back of solids very slowly. Give small portions several times. You do not want to give your goat too much, and have it vomit it all out again.
As a homesteader and animal lover, I can’t stand to see an animal suffer. Sadly, with toxins from the nightshade plants (of which tomatoes belong), the animal will experience a great deal of pain and discomfort.
With animals, I am always amazed with their will to survive. Goats in particular love life and will put up a good fight to survive.
Unfortunately, sometimes medicines and home remedies fail, and the goat dies anyway. There is no way to really tell if a goat will live or die with your help to keep it alive. It really depends on the individual goats will to survive.
This is why prevention is always better than cure.
Make sure your goats do not have any access to your vegetable garden. If they get in there, you will lose your garden and your goat will get sick.
If poisoning does occur, do not give up hope. Your goat will fight to survive, and with your help and support, he or she will have a good fighting chance at survival.
Try out some of these home remedies for yourself. And let us know how things worked out for your goat. Also, let us know what home remedies you have for treating goats that have eaten the leaves and stems of tomato plants and gotten sick off them in the comments below.
Di-Anne Devenish Seebregts was raised in an environment where daily life consisted of hiking, environmental conservation, growing fruit and vegetables, and raising poultry for meat and eggs.
She combined her passion for the writing word with her love of the pride that comes with not relying on others. She raised three children (who are now adults) to value the environment, and understand the value of being self-sufficient.