By Sarah Carey
Almost three months after a young goat named Daisy Mae came to the University of Florida’s Large Animal Hospital unable to walk due to a rare disease, she is now a dress- and diaper-wearing “house goat” at home in The Villages®, where she continues to recover, showered with attention everywhere she goes and cuddling with her owner to watch Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy when it’s time to chill.
“That’s her normal,” said her owner, Amanda Cohen. “It’s maybe not a normal goat’s normal, but Daisy has always been different and loves her life.”
Daniela Luethy, D.V.M., , a clinical assistant professor and large animal medicine specialist, is one of the clinicians who cared for Daisy Mae when she first arrived at UF on March 3, unable to stand on all four legs. Cohen had noticed the baby goat’s problems when she was 4 days old, but Daisy Mae did not respond to initial treatment and Cohen decided she needed to bring her to Gainesville for a more in-depth examination.
“Based on my previous experience with some similar cases, we were suspicious of vertebral osteomyelitis, or an infection of the bones in the neck,” Luethy said. “We performed a CT scan and were able to obtain images that confirmed Daisy did have this disease.”
Thanks to the medical care UF veterinarians provided, which included a combination of antibiotic and extensive physical therapy performed over six-and-a-half weeks, along with Cohen’s commitment to her treatment, Daisy Mae made huge strides.
“She is now able to stand and walk on her own,” Luethy said.
Daisy Mae’s physical therapy was provided through the hospital’s integrative and mobility medicine service, which treats a wide variety of animals from dogs and cats to tortoises and “everything in between,” said Melissa Narum, D.V.M., an intern with the group.
“We also love to work with other services in the hospital, with a shared goal of helping each animal feel better and grow stronger,” she said. “But Daisy Mae’s case was special, as she was such a young goat with strong willingness to work hard, and with such a supportive owner.”
Daisy Mae received several types of physical therapy while at UF, including acupuncture, stretching and neuromuscular electrical nerve stimulation. She also benefited from underwater treadmill therapy, which helped her gain confidence in using her legs to stand and walk.
“Our whole team was invested in her progress and cheered her on every step of the way, as she progressed from small movements to walking across the room all by herself,” Narum said.
Cohen drove over 60 miles back and forth from her home in The Villages® to see her beloved Daisy Mae every day. When she first received Daisy Mae’s diagnosis, Cohen was relieved to know what the exact problem was but devastated knowing treatment might or might not work.
“After talking with all of the doctors, we all agreed that with her great personality and her will to live, she was worth trying to treat,” Cohen said. “She did wonderful. Every day, I swear you saw a change for the better. Maybe the changes were small, but we knew we were headed in the right direction.”
Cohen, a former hairdresser, and her husband, a former judge, moved from New York to Florida after their retirement three years ago. In addition to their home at The Villages®, they bought a nearby farm to have space for animals — including goats. They found a breeder of Tennesee miniature fainting goats in Vero Beach and reserved five baby goats to add to the farm.
“Unfortunately, one did not make it,” Cohen said. “Another, a female, needed to be bottle-fed, as her mom was not producing enough milk.”
That goat was Daisy Mae.
“I drove to go pick her up and she was the tiniest little thing,” Cohen said. “I fell in love instantly. The breeder was unsure if she had received any of the colostrum that is so essential to their immune system. I was given the girl, unsure if she would make it or not.”
But make it she did. Daisy Mae was discharged on April 15 — the day of the college’s traditional Open House event.
“She was in her cart at the time, and she was wheeled right out through the crowd,” Cohen said. “Everyone said it was ‘true Daisy style.’ She loves attention from everyone at all times, so it seemed fitting that she would have a crowd of people petting her, taking pictures and videos and posing with her as she left.”
Back at home, Daisy Mae hangs out with Cohen’s Labrador, Bentley, and her Shih Tzu, Bug, along with the family cats. The other goats the family picked up in Tennessee are growing at the family’s farm. They’re still trying to get used to Daisy, Cohen said.
“They’re all just pets for us to spoil and love,” she said, adding that Daisy Mae loves to head-butt everyone and they play back with her.
“She still receives an antibiotic shot every other day and we do physical therapy together every day,” Cohen said.
Daisy Mae continues to return to UF every few weeks for rechecks. Each time, she is greeted by clinicians and students who go out of their way to make time to visit her.
“The staff is incredible,” Cohen said. “The students are beyond dedicated and the doctors’ and students’ passion for every animal that comes through their doors is noticeable at all times.”
Luethy said successful treatment of vertebral osteomyelitis has not been previously reported in goats.
“It’s a rare disease, and one which a lot of people would probably give up on and not treat,” Luethy said. “Many might have seen her lesions and recommended euthanasia given their severity. But thanks to the clinical strengths we have here at UF and her owner’s commitment to her improvement, Daisy Mae’s recovery has been remarkable. We are all thrilled to have been a part of it.”