Salt Poisoning
By Dr Mackie Hobson BSc(Agric),BVSc

Tuesday, 23rd November 2021


Salt poisoning in Angora goats in the Karoo is unknown but can potentially occur


What are the symptoms?

Within a few hours of the animals quenching their thirst, there is the onset of acute nervous signs

  • Thirsty
  • Affected animals are dull, blind, and head press, or they may stand with their head pulled back.
  • Abdominal pain and diarrhoea in mild or early cases
  • Nervous signs- tremors, blindness, holding the head abnormally, circling and convulsions.
  • Urine may be dark from haemoglobinuria caused by intravascular haemolysis
  • Coma and death

A clinical condition that looks very similar to salt poisoning and which is more common is Polioencephalomalacia (PEM) Thiamine Vit B1 deficiency,


Causes of salt poisoning

  • Angora goats that have been fed a high salt diet or salt added to a concentrate diet but not mixed properly
  • Goats consume excessively saline water over a long time
  • Water withheld for more than 24 hours
  • Pregnant or young goats subject to heat stress, water loss


How does the excess Sodium (Na) cause the symptoms?

Acute poisoning - gastroenteritis results from local irritation to the mucosa of the stomach and intestines.

Chronic poisoning - accumulation of sodium ions in tissues, including the brain. If goats gain unrestricted access to fresh water, fluid moves to tissues to restore normal salt-water balance. The presence of elevated sodium levels leads to excessive fluid retention and cerebral oedema with increased intracranial pressure and nervous signs.

Intravascular haemolysis may occur during rehydration as water is drawn back into red blood cells.



  • Slowly introduce to fresh water. If allowed, free access to fresh water will cause clinical signs, Allow 0.5% of body weight water over a couple of days until symptoms recede.
  • There are no specific treatments, and the condition is usually fatal, even if supportive treatment is attempted.

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