Say No to Cottonseed in Goat Feed
A short article was published on the deaths of four goat guardian
dogs who died of heart problems over the course of three years,
usually in the winter. (Pannill et al. April 2006) The culprit was
cottonseed in the goat feed.
Cottonseed contains a high concentration of gossypol, which is a
toxin that affects primarily the heart and liver. Ruminants can
tolerate higher levels of gossypol than animals with only one
stomach because it binds to proteins in the rumen. An animal with
only one stomach, such as a human, a dog or a pig, is much more
susceptible to the poison. However, even young lambs and calves
have been found to have toxic reactions to gossypol; that can
probably be said about young kids, as well. This is due to the fact
that their rumens are not yet fully developed and, in many cases,
occurs when they are on free choice feed.
Cottonseed and cottonseed meal are now used as additives in
livestock feed. This is important to know if you have a livestock
guardian dog that develops depression, difficulty breathing, appears
to be having a heart attack and ultimately dies, and you know that
the dog consumes goat feed. Gossypol toxicity also may be a
consideration if you have a number of kids seeming to die of
overeating disease, or developing chronic, difficult breathing,
unthriftiness, failure to respond to antibiotics and going off feed.
These can be signs of such poisoning.
No treatment currently exists for gossypol poisoning, although its
course can be reversed with removal of the cottonseed in feed for a
period of time.
The writers estimated the amount of goat food that a dog would
need to have consumed to cause their fatal heart damage was only
3/4 cup daily for a few weeks. (Kid feed contained .01% and the
does' was .06%.)
You can do at least two things to avoid situations such as this: 1.)
Read the feed tag and make sure you know what you are feeding
your animals/aren't buying feed with cottonseed or cottonseed meal;
and 2.) Keep your guardian dog away from the goat feed. To read
more, see the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension web site at
www.osextra.com and look for the fact sheet "Gossypol Toxicity in
From "Health and Science News," Ruminations #53