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? White muscle disease


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Had a single ewe lamb born about 2 1/2 weeks ago. Actually saw the birth, so know there were no problems with the birth. The lamb is a dorset/montadale cross.


Lamb had a very wide rear stance initially, but didn't think too much of it. It had a BoSe shot, 1cc immediately after birth (we are in a selenium deficient area and this is dose prescribed by vet). Mom has had access to high selenium minerals year round. Mom had twins last year as a yearling without any problem. No problems with any other lambs that are being born.


The lamb continues to have a wide rear stance and is wobbly in the rear, it recieved daily 2-4 pumps of Lamb survive also. It gets around OK, but you can tell which lamb it is by the gait. Joints are not swollen or warm.


Lamb is gaining weight fine, weighed 24lbs yesterday (I did not weigh it at birth, but would guess it was around 11 lbs).


The only thing I can think of is white muscle disease, even with the BoSe and year round loose minerals high in Selenium (have not had anyone or anything tested for selenium defiencey).


any other thoughts on what might be wrong with this lamb?


Nancy O

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You can't absolutely rule out WMD, but it seems unlikely to me given the BoSe injection, though my vet told me that ideally he'd like to have us give injections at 2 days (or less) two weeks, and two months.


If the gait has been strange since the get-go, I would guess that it is some sort of nerve damage in the spine or perhaps trauma. I'd talk to your vet about banamine or some other sort of NSAID


Of course we can't eliminate infection as a possible cause, particularly if the gate became affected at about 10 days. It could also be a combination of infection and trauma, becuase infections often settle in the traumatized tissue.


And the final heresy -- could it be copper deficiency, also known as swayback?


If it were my lamb, I would probably presume that it had either nerve damage, an infection, or both. I would treat it with Banamine and penicillin.


It may be doing fine and getting around now, but these things seldom seem to resolve themselves left untreated. Are you planning to ship it for Easter?

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Thiamin deficiency (ie polio)? Seems unlikely since you've seen it since birth but a B-plus shot wouldn't hurt anything.


There's been a rash of it this year among my goaty friends.

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Thanks for your reply. In response:


If the gait has been strange since the get-go,
Yes the gate has been off since the start.And I saw the birth and it was a very easy birth. No trauma at birth and I jugged the ewe and lamb afterwards, but don't think trauma occured then as the problem seemed to be there from the start.


if the gate became affected at about 10 days
No, gate problem was immediately noted after birth.


could it be copper deficiency, also known as swayback
Would have to look into this. No other lambs are affected. Have lambed about 18 ewes and 6 more to go.


Are you planning to ship it for Easter?
That was my original plan. If given antibiotics and banamine, will have to check what the withdrawal times are. What anitibiotic would you suggest? I also have banamine available, will have to check the dose.



The only other odd thing I've had occur during lambing, was a single lamb I found with it's cord intact and the cord and placenta wrapped around the lamb. Looked like mom had licked at the lamb. Lamb did not look like it had been moved from when it was born. Lamb was obviously dead when I found it. Looked like the placenta had been delivered with the lamb. Was not there for the birth so don't know for sure what happened or if it was a stuck lamb that the ewe eventually delivered, the lamb did not have a large head.


Nancy O

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Hi Erin,


White Muscle Disease is a shepherd's term for vitamin E and/or selenium deficiency. BoSe would cover both.




My vet would recommend penicillin G procaine at a rate of 1 cc per 15 lbs body weight twice a day, and banamine at the label rate once a day. I'd give all the injections under the skin to avoid damaging the meat. The penn G would be a four day course with a nine-day withdrawal, and my vet has told me in the past to follow the withdrawal recommendations for cattle on the banamine label. I can't remember offhand what that is, but I don't think it's more than 30 days, and you have nearly 60 until Easter, probably 50 until marketing time.

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Bill wrote


BoSe injection, though my vet told me that ideally he'd like to have us give injections at 2 days (or less) two weeks, and two months.
Bill, if you give this many BoSe injections, what dose do you give.


Kim, I did take the temp of the lamb around day 3 or 4, know it was normal then.


Rebecca, didn't originally see your posts, but I had given the vit B plus injection, figure it couldn't hurt.


Nancy O

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If it's been gimpy since birth, that would seem to rule out "navel ill." I might opt for the Banamine for a few days (it has been shown to also help with infections - my vet recommended Banamine alone (after an initial dose of PCN) for a couple of my ewes who traumatically delivered stillborn lambs). I'm pretty conservative with antibiotics, so probably wouldn't give the PCN as long as the lamb is growing well and is afebrile.



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Hi Nancy,


I actually never gave all the injections my vet suggested. I found that a half (for a normal lamb) to 1 cc (for a big one) given when I was docking, tagging, and castrating did the trick for us, particularly once we started giving the ewes a mineral mix year round with triple the normal selenium levels.


And I don't remember what it is, but for the later doses he said to follow the label dosage.


Hi Kim,


I wouldn't necessarily rule out infection just because the lamb has been gimpy since birth and is afebrile. Here's a scenario: lamb is traumatized during birth, causing inflammation around the spine, involving some of the nerves that serve the hindquarters. Lamb encounters some infective agent in the environment, and the infection settles into the inflamed tissue, exacerbating and prolonging the problem. A birth injury that would normally have healed itself continues to present the same symptoms for several weeks.


No fever because baby lambs have very limited immune response. In lambs less than five or six weeks old, I consider a high temperature as part of the totality of the circumstances, but its absence certainly doesn't rule out infection, nor is its presence diagnostic. (Ever hold a bottle lamb after a feeding? Temp spikes up to 107 aren't uncommon after a lamb eats.)


Anti-inflammatories on their own might help in this situation by allowing for increased blood flow to the inflamed area, which could alleviate the pressure on the nerves (if that's what's going on). But generally speaking, blood flow alone isn't going to be enough to treat an infection in a young lamb. The combination of antibiotics along with an NSAID -- which will increase the amount of antibiotic that gets to the area by increasing blood flow -- will do the trick.


Since I started using Banamine or its generic equivalent in combination with penicillin on baby lambs and on adults with tough infections like listeriosis, restults have improved and the duration of treatments has declined. In the treatment of listeriosis, the difference went from sometimes treating a sheep for two or three weeks to a week or less on average.

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