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Common Sheep Ailments


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Some common sheep ailments, sheep diseases about which to be aware, and sheep behaviors to watch out for during maintenance grazing.

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Common Sheep Ailments

  1. 1. Common Sheep Ailments What you might spot
  2. 2. What is normal? Parameter Sheep Goats Rectal Temperature avg. 102°F (101.5-104°F) 102-104°F Ruminations 2 per minute 1-2 per minute Respiration 12 to 20 breaths per minute 15 to 30 breaths per minute Pulse 70 to 80 beats per minute 70 to 90 beats per minute Hematocrit (packed cell volume) 27 to 45% avg. 35% 22 to 28% avg. 28%
  3. 3. Watch for Environmental Stresses on Flocks • Handling and transportation stress. • New surroundings. • New pen mates • Contact with other animals. • Close quarters. • Strange people. • Different water, food • Heat stress. Anything out of their normal routine.
  4. 4. Predators • Dogs & coyotes • Black vultures
  5. 5. Internal parasites (GI worms) are the primary health problem affecting sheep. The barber pole worm (Haemonchus contortus) is the worm of primary concern. The barber pole worm is a blood-sucking parasite that causes blood and protein loss (anemia) and edema (“bottle jaw”). Worms have developed resistance to most of the anthelmintics (dewormers). Parasites
  6. 6. The Five Point Check®
  7. 7. Check Point Observation Possibilities 1. EYE Anemia 1-5 (FAMACHA© card) Barber pole worm (Haemonchus) Liver fluke Hook worms Other worms and causes 2. BACK Body condition score 1-5 (BCS card) Brown stomach worm (Teladorsagia) Bankrupt worm (Trichostrongylus) Nodular worm Other worms and causes 3. TAIL Fecal soiling (1-5) Dag score card Brown stomach worm (Teladorsagia) Bankrupt worm (Trichostrongylus) Coccidia (Eimeria) Nodular worm (Oesophagostomum) Other worms and causes 4. JAW Soft swelling “Bottle jaw” 1-5 Barber pole worm (Haemonchus) Coccidia (Eimeria) Liver fluke Hook worms Other worms and causes 5. NOSE Discharge 1-5 Nasal botfly Lungworms Pneumonia Other causes 5. COAT Coat condition 1-3 Barber pole worm (Haemonchus) Brown stomach worm (Teladorsagia) Bankrupt worm (Trichostrongylus) Coccidia (Eimeria) External parasites Other causes
  8. 8. # 1 Eye • Anemia is caused by blood-feeding parasites, such as Haemonchus, hookworms, and liver flukes. Coccidiosis can also cause anemia. • Anemia (packed cell volume) is estimated by evaluating the color of the lower eyelid and comparing it to the colors on the FAMACHA© guide. Category Color PCV Tx 1 Red > 28 No 2 Red-pink 23-27 No 3 Pink 18-22 ? 4 Pink-white 13-17 Yes 5 White < 12 Yes Selective deworming prolongs effectiveness of anthelmintics by reducing selection for drug resistant worms.
  9. 9. #2 - Back - Body Condition Score • Many worms can cause a loss of body condition. • Poor or declining body condition can also be a sign of age, poor nutrition, or other diseases. • Animals also vary in their ability to carry and hold body condition.
  10. 10. #3 - Tail - Dag Score • The hindquarters of the animal are assessed to determine dag score or degree of fecal soiling. • Many worms can cause scours (diarrhea). • Stress and diet are other causes of diarrhea. Score Description Action 0 No fecal soiling at all. No indication for treatment/action. None 1 Very slight soiling on edge of tail/on each side None 2 Slight soiling on edge of tail/on each side Usually none 3 Moderate soiling, dag formation Consider treatment/action 4 Severe soiling, severe dag formation Treatment recommended 5 Very severe, watering diarrhea extending to hocks. Treatment essential
  11. 11. #4 - Bottle Jaw (submandibular subcutaneous edema) • An accumulation of fluid (swelling) under the lower jaw of a sheep, goat, or calf. • Usually a result of anemia (blood loss). • Occurs primarily due to the infestation of barber pole worms (Haemonchus contortus) or other blood-feeding parasites.
  12. 12. #5 - Wool Condition • Wool can be indicative of its overall health and thriftiness. Sheep loosing wool due to fever or lice
  13. 13. Common Diseases • Parasitic • Respiratory • Hoof • Reproductive • Metabolic
  14. 14. Avoid Diseases with Biosecurity • Know the disease status of flock of origin  Ask questions!  Start with healthy stock.  Buy from reputable breeders.
  15. 15. Note Zoonotic Diseases of Public Heath Concern • Abortion diseases • Skin diseases • Enteric diseases • Raw milk and meat
  16. 16. Diseases of Primary Concern Contagious – Skin diseases • Soremouth • External parasites • Ringworm – Foot rot – Abscesses – Pinkeye – Pneumonia Non-contagious – Stomach worms – Coccidia – Acidosis/feedlot bloat – Diarrhea – Foot scald – Rectal prolapse – Heat stroke/exhaustion
  17. 17. Skin Diseases: Soremouth contagious ecthyma, contagious pustular dermatitis, scabby mouth, orf • Most common skin problem in sheep/goats • Caused by a virus in the pox family.  Highly contagious to other sheep/goats, as well as to people. • Lesions most commonly seen on mouth and lips. blisters → ulcers → scabs • Clears up in 1-4 weeks.
  18. 18. Skin Diseases: External Parasites Symptoms • Rub, bite, scratch • Intense irritation • Excessive grooming • Dull coat, hair/wool loss, bald patches, dry skin • Snotty nose • Redness of skin • Nodules • Mites • Lice • Ticks • Nose bots • Blow flies
  19. 19. Skin Diseases: Ringworm • Caused by a fungus.  Very contagious.  Can be transmitted to humans. • Transmitted by animal, equipment, or surroundings. • Slick shearing makes lambs more susceptible. • Causes skin lesions. • Definitive diagnosis is made by culturing the fungus. • Heals on its own in 8 to 16 weeks.
  20. 20. Foot Rot and Foot Scald • Foot rot is caused by the interaction of two anaerobic bacteria and is highly contagious.  Foot rot has a characteristic foul odor. • Foot scald involves only one bacteria and is not contagious. • Primary symptom is lameness in one or more feet.  They appear the same until you examine the feet.  Foot rot infection is in hoof vs. foot scald which is between toes.
  21. 21. Abscesses Disease of concern: Caseous lymphadenitis (CL) • Disease has internal and external form. • Abscesses at lymph-gland sites. • Caused by a bacteria.  Very contagious. • No human cases have been reported in U.S.
  22. 22. Pinkeye Infectious keratoconjunctivitis • An inflammation of the inside of the eyelid. • Usually bacterial in cause (chlamydia, mycoplasma). • Different from pinkeye in cattle.  Usually infectious and contagious to other sheep and goats.  Symptoms: watery, red, swollen yes; formation of new blood vessels’ cloudiness in white part of eyes; tearing; and crusting (yellow or green pus). • Mild cases heal in 10 to 14 days; severe cases may take 6 weeks to heal.
  23. 23. Respiratory Symptoms • Infectious – Pneumonia Symptoms to look for – Elevated body temperature – Yellowish discharge – Heavy, labored breathing – Chest congestion • Non-infectious – Allergy – Dust – Poor ventilation – Nasal bots – Lung worms
  24. 24. Bloat • Caused by an accumulation of gas in the rumen and reticulum; animal unable to belch. There are two kinds of bloat:  Frothy Caused by diets that promote the formation of froth (foam): legumous forages, wet, grass pastures, cereal grain pastures, garden greens, and grain.  Free gas Caused by diets that promote excessive free gas production: high- grain diets .  Abomasal bloat can occur in artificially-reared lambs/kids. It is caused by improper milk feeding. • Symptoms Severity varies, can be life-threatening or self-curing. Distended abdomen, swelling on left side • Treatment Varies by severity Passage of stomach tube (free gas) Drench with vegetable oil, mineral oil, antacid • Prevention Introduce to feed or pasture slowly Feed dry stemmy hay before allowing access to legume pastures Commercial bloat preventatives, ionophores, baking soda Proper milk feeding.
  25. 25. Diarrhea – Scours Increased frequency, fluidity, or volume of fecal excretion. Infectious • Bacterial • E. coli • Salmonella • Viral • Protozoa • Coccidia • Cyrptosporidia • Giardia Non-infectious • Parasites • Nutritional • Management • Stress Normal stool is hard round balls, but feeding can alter consistency.
  26. 26. Heat Stroke/Exhaustion High temperatures + high humidity Symptoms • Rapid breathing. • Panting. • Collapse. • Inability to stand • Elevated rectal temperature, over 104°F; critical over 105°F. Prevention • Transport and work during cool part of day. • Clean, fresh drinking water. • Fans. Treatment • Cooling therapy  Shade, ventilation  Spray with water (cold water may be too much of a shock).  Wet head, legs, and stomach  Rubbing alcohol to the area between the hind legs.  Do not soak a wooled sheep with cold water to attempt to cool them. • Fluids, drugs
  27. 27. Ewe Prolapse • Multi-factorial problem – Sex (female) – High level of grain feeding – Straining – Genetics – Short tail docks • Can repair prolapse, but animal is usually salvaged.
  28. 28. Ewe Mastitis • Most infections are caused by bacteria: Streptococcus spp., Staphylococcus spp., Pasteurella spp., and coliforms (e. coli). Mastitis is also a common symptom of OPP and CAE. Predisoposing factors • Stressful conditions (e.g. weather) • Poor sanitation, hygiene • Teat and udder damage • Poor udder conformation • Heavy-milkers, age • Sore mouth • Genetic susceptibility
  29. 29. Where Not to Find Your Flock • Start with healthy stock • Buy from reputable breeders • Isolate new animals for at least 30 days Better production/yield Higher profit Reduce risk of zoonoses Clean and disinfect items other flocks Have designated boots for off-farm use, wash clothing
  30. 30. Biosecurity • Start animals on regular vaccination plan • Inspect for footrot, caseous lymphadenitis, skin conditions and external parasites • Deworm or evaluate for internal parasites (egg counts) • Test for diseases of concern via blood samples (CAE, OPP, Johnes, CL) • Start animals on regular nutrition program
  31. 31. Practice Preventative Management • Examine animals regularly – Keep track of weight, abortions, disease, etc. • Keep track of sick animals, treatments, etc. • Know what’s normal so you recognize problems early • Cull susceptible animals • Necropsy dead animals
  32. 32. Basic Assessment of Health Normal Behaviour – Hungry – Alert – Good body condition – Bright eyes with good eyelid color – Dry nose or slight clear (or white) discharge from nose. – Head and ears up – Tail up (goat) – Healthy hair coat – Clean hocks and hindquarters – Formed stools – Freedom from scabs, sores, abscesses, etc. – Normal gait Abnormal Behaviour – Off-feed – Lethargic – Poor body condition – Runny, red, or swollen eyes. Pale eyelids. – Colored discharge from nose – Head and/or ears handing down – Droopy tail (goats) – Rough hair coat – Scabs, abscesses, sores. – Soiled hindquarters – Runny or liquid feces; blood or mucous in feces – Abnormal gait
  33. 33. Normal Behaviour: Flocking • Sheep will run from what frightens them and band together in large groups for protection. This is the only protection they have from predators. There is safety in numbers.
  34. 34. Normal Behaviour: Following • When one sheep moves, the rest will follow, even if it is not a good idea. • Even from birth, lambs are taught to follow the older members of the flock. Ewes encourage their lambs to follow. The dominant members of the flock usually lead, followed by the submissive ones.
  35. 35. Normal Behaviour: Socializing • Sheep are a very social animal. In a grazing situation, they need to see other sheep. • A sheep will become highly agitated if it is separated from the rest of the flock.
  36. 36. Normal Behaviour: Sight • Sheep depend heavily upon their vision. With only slight head movement, sheep are able to scan their surroundings. • On the other hand, sheep have poor depth perception. This is why they will often stop to examine something more closely. They tend to avoid shadows and sharp contrasts between light and dark. They are reluctant to go where they can't see.
  37. 37. Normal Behaviour: Hearing Sheep have excellent hearing. They can amplify and pinpoint sound with their ears. Sheep are frightened by sudden loud noises, such as yelling or barking. In response to loud noises and other unnatural sounds, sheep become nervous and more difficult to handle. To minimize stress, the handler should speak in a quiet, calm voice. Sheep should not be worked in the presence of barking dogs.
  38. 38. Normal Behaviour: Smell • Sheep have an excellent sense of smell and know what predators smell like. • Sheep use the sense of smell to locate water and detect differences in feed and pasture plants. • Sheep are more likely to move into the wind than with the wind, so they can use their sense of smell.
  39. 39. Normal Behaviour: Touch • Since most of their body is covered with wool or coarse hair, only the sheep's lips and mouth (and maybe ears) lend themselves well to feeling behaviour. • Groups of animals that have body contact remain calmer.
  40. 40. Abnormal Sheep Behaviour • A sheep or lamb that is isolated from the rest of the flock is likely showing early signs of illness. • Lack of appetite is probably the most common symptom exhibited by a sick sheep.  Sheep spend about fifteen percent of their time sleeping, but may lie down and rest at other times. Upon rising, they often defecate and stretch. A sheep that is reluctant to get up is probably in pain. A sheep takes a long time to lay down is probably in pain. A sheep that cannot relax is under stress. Teeth grinding is another common sign of pain in sheep. 
  41. 41. Resources