A pain in the mouth

The pus-filled abscess did some noticeable damage to the goat’s jawbone, and would have made life uncomfortable for this cud chewing animal.
The pus-filled abscess did some noticeable damage to the goat’s jawbone, and would have made life uncomfortable for this cud chewing animal.
Courtesy SMM

Goats and other ruminants have very efficient digestive systems. Their four-chambered stomachs allow them to extract nutrients from just about any organic substance. When pressed for food, a goat might eat small amounts of wood, paper, or even cotton cloth. Generally, however, a goat would prefer a diet of grass and the soft tips of shrubs and twigs.

Maybe this goat was particularly hungry, and attempted to eat something a little woodier than it might normally try. Or maybe something sharp got into a mouthful of softer food. Either way, it’s likely that the goat got a nasty jab in the gum while it was eating. When the puncture became infected, the goat developed something called an abscess.

Pus from the infection accumulated inside the gum, causing pressure and swelling in the mouth. The teeth on the right side of the goat’s mouth are more worn than those on the left, suggesting that this animal probably lived with the pain of the abscess for some time. Because of the pain, the goat would have chewed mostly on the opposite side of its mouth, resulting in uneven tooth wear. The abscess was never fully drained, and it began to press up into the bone of the jaw, causing the deterioration of surrounding bone, and the loss of the tooth beneath. Ouch!