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Ill/recovering sheep that cannot stand/walk (We need Dr. House...)


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Posting this for a friend, who lives in beautiful place on a beautiful farm, with nice sheep and lousy internet.


This post will demonstrate how little I know about sheep. Please bear with me.


Our good friends live on a farm in SE Indiana, about 40 acres. They farm their own food, raise chickens, and a small flock of sheep, maybe 20. The sheep are hair sheep, some sort of a brown hair sheep (have forgotten the name) and Dorper crosses. They raise them for meat.


John is a meticulous guy. If I am reincarnated as either a chicken or a sheep, I hope I end up on his farm. His creatures receive excellent care.


About 10 days ago, three of his flock grew ill. The first, a ram, began acting "drunk", walking in circles, went into respiratory distress and died. A second, a large ewe, presented the same way, then went down and could not get back up. John tended her where is was, till she kept tumbling out from under the electronet and rolling down the hill, then he put her in the barn, cos he could lean her against the wall, Later she took herself out of the barn, right as rain. The thrird one is a small ewe--this spring's lamb. Same presentation. Now, ten days out, she is alert, eating like a hog, drinking, but she has legs made of marshmallow! She can't get her legs under her for love or money. John's been carrying her about the yard close to the house lying her down in nice clover to munch. She eats a clear spot around her head; we move her. But she can't get up at all. Finally, we built a sling out of two saw horse s and a feed sack and put her in that like they do racehorses with leg fractures She looks around, eats everything in sight....but can't her legs under her right. She looked a little better after being vertical in the sling for a while, but then seemed tired so we lay he down in some clover close to the house for night. He eyes are bright, she is breathing normally, she does not feel to have fever, he belly sounds good, peeing and pooping like a champ. We suspect some Datura poisoning...it's around..John wonders if it might have contaminated some hay. IN any event, she looks great----exceptn for not being able to stand up, The vet * does* see large animals, but preferes cats/dogs...wasn't much help. John has given her B vitamins.



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Dear Shepherd,


Sure sounds like poison/poison plant. I don't know any disease that'd hit so many so fast. Sheep avoid jimsonweed given decent graze. I can't really picture how it'd get into hay - it tends to thrive where the ground has been badly disturbed (old corrals etc), not in hayfields. But if it did that'd be your culprit.


I suppose we've put half a dozen sheep/lambs in slings over the years. The only ones that ever walked on their own again (kind of) were those with deerworm.


Donald McCaig

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Thank you!


Evidently, the vet suggested listeriosis too... this vet, as I said, does see some large animals, but John said she clearly prefers pets/dogs/cats, and the tech in the office even offered on the side to John that sheep were not her strong suit. But, the ewe was given the appropriate antibiotic course for Listeria early in her presentation.


She is so....well....except for not being able to get up and stand.


She is eating, not only well, but with gusto. Quite literally, as John carried her down to fresh clover closer to the house last night (part of the way, going down the hill, he had to carry her upside down, by her four legs, because she was kicking and headbutting when carried right side up), John had to be careful of her little head because, as she passed any tasty clump of vegetation, she'd whip her head around upsidedown and sideways to grab a mouthful.


She looked relieved once she was in her sheep-sling, at least oriented in the right direction, with her legs under her and her head on top. After a couple hours, she seemed to tire of it, and was able to push hard enough with her front legs to launch herself out of the sling backwards, into a sitting position, then roll over on her side. But, then she was too weak to get herself up into a regular sheep-lying-down position, so we propped her up. Once propped, she went back to the happy business of looking around, occasionally bleating, and stuffing her face.


Stupid question, perhaps: Has anyone seen a sheep get quite ill, then need some long period of time to successfully rehab? I mean, it seems to be an arrangment not compatable with a long life to be a grazing animal who can't stand up without help. John's quite willing to tend her until she recovers, but is wondering if there is really not any recovery waiting for her at the end of this exercise.


I am a human nurse, so assume that keeping the patient safe, warm, clean, with good quality nutrition/extra calories/protein, extra fluids, an approximation of normal activity/position until muscles have regained strength are good ideas...but understand that sheep aren't humans so may have some different requirements in practical application. Is there any special trick useful for the nursing care of a recovering sheep?


Oh--and the jimsonweed... They've been on this land maybe 4-5 years now. There are areas that have been having a great deal of terraforming/bulldozing, etc. as they improve things....so are weedy. John knows there is jimsonweed about, but does not graze the sheep in those places. However, another man had the right equipment to mow hay for them...so John was not the person who prepared the hay. In trying to figure out what could have brought three sheep down ill so quickly, at the same time, he wondered if some of the hay might have been contaminated in some way. From what he said, the big ram that fell ill first went down rather spectacularly, looking poisoned, rather than *sick*.

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That sure is a conundrum. Thoughts of meningeal worm (deerworm/) popped into my head. I also thought of listeria. But the fact that the large ewe recovered without any treatment strongly suggests neither one of those diagnoses. It is possible (but not likely) that the large ewe suffered from a different 'disease', but presented the same symptoms. Thin, but a possibility.


Antibiotics wouldn't touch meningeal worm, so if the small ewe 'responded' to antibiotics, it may have been listeria or of another bacterial origin.


I have heard of several animals in a herd being affected by meningeal at the same time. It occasionally happens.



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PEM----that is the thiamine deficiency that ruminants can get, yes? The vet had proposed that, so the ewe was treated with thimine injections over several days early on in the course of things; John is now giving her some manner of, IDK, general sheep multivitamin preparation by mouth.


John reports today that the ewe will no longer stay in the sling that was concocted---she has regained enough strength in her legs to propel herself out of it and land reasonably upright, though not standing. Previously, her head was all she seemed to have control over.


Thank you everyone for the help! I'll post back and let you know how things turn out. :)

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  • 6 years later...

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