Pet Columns, Office of Public Engagement, College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Pygmy Goats Can Make Good Pets!

Pet Column for the week of January 21, 2002

Office of Public Engagement
2001 S. Lincoln Ave.
Urbana, Illinois 61802
Phone: 217/333-2907
Jennifer Stone
Information Specialist

I was standing in the goat barn at a farm where I worked one summer when I noticed a little goat approach me with a rather inquisitive look on her face. At first I wondered what she wanted but as she started to butt my hand gently, I realized that she was just looking for some affection. I was surprised but quite charmed. I had not realized that goats could be so sweet.

Dr. R. Dean Scoggins, an equine Extension veterinarian retired from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine in Urbana, says, "Pygmy goats are very docile and are often kept as pets and as company for horses." In fact if they are raised as pets, then they can grow to be as faithful a companion as any dog.

Pygmy goats usually grow to be around the size of a large dog (standing at around 16 to 23 inches from the shoulder blade to the ground) and can weigh 120 pounds or more. Their hair coat can be light or dense making them able to adjust to different climates. They also have a variety of colors including white, tan, black and a color called agouti, which consists of white and black hairs mixed together that give the coat a predominantly gray color. Female pygmy goats are very docile and make wonderful pets. Male pygmy goats can also make good pets but have an unpleasant odor caused by glands that can be removed in a procedure called "descenting." They should also be neutered because they have a tendency to become aggressive as they reach adulthood.

If they are to be kept as pets, pygmy goats should also have their horns removed (a procedure called debudding) in order to prevent them from hurting people or other goats. They are also notoriously curious and often get their horns stuck in fences or other tight spots. Debudding is safest and least painful when done at an early age.

Pygmy goats can even be kept in the house. Dr. Scoggins says, "Some goats are raised indoors and some people even claim that they can be housebroken; but, they usually spend most of their time outside where they readily adapt to the outdoor environment." They do not tolerate cold quite as well as sheep but can exist comfortably in temperatures as low as 20 degrees.

A standard goat chow supplemented with hay is the preferred diet. An excessive number of treats should be avoided because goats have a tendency to get fat. Nutritional deficiencies and obesity can result if a goat is fed the wrong diet. It is also important to remember that goats like to munch on any available foliage so ornamental outdoor plants such as Japanese Yew, which are poisonous to grazing animals, should be kept out of their reach.

Unless they are worn down by walking on a rough surface, hooves should be trimmed regularly. "This procedure should be done every 4 to 6 weeks and there are many resources in books and on the Internet that give simple instructions on how to do it", commented Dr. Scoggins. Seriously overgrown hooves can cause lameness. Goats suffering from lameness will often kneel on their knees while eating; and, extended periods of time spent in this position can eventually lead to arthritis.

Dr. Scoggins warns that, "Goats are fairly vulnerable to attack by stray dogs and other wild animals; so, it is wise to watch out for unwanted trespassers that might harm your pet."

As with any other pet, a pygmy goat should have a physical exam by a veterinarian once a year and should be vaccinated for diseases common to goats such as tetanus and over-eating disease. If you have any other questions about pygmy goats, please contact your local veterinarian.