Sick Lambs Again

So Monday our veterinarian called saying that the blood mineral analysis finally came back and was unremarkable.  So he is thinking it is a toxic ingestion of some kind and wanted us to continue to supplement with hay pellets.  Since I cannot supplement just 2 sheep with hay pellets and not the whole flock I kept them on the same pasture they were on thinking that since it was not overgrazed and they were getting the pellets too that they would be OK.  Yesterday they became sick again.  Patsy and Bambam are both holding up one front leg not putting any weight on it.  They are laying around more than usual and not eating as readily as they should.  The good news this time is that they are not as sick as last time, and we restarted all the same treatments as before when they recovered.  I did not restart the penicillin this time though doubting that it is an infection.  Tom and I have gone over that field multiple times and cannot find anything suspicious.  Now I am wondering if it could be the grain so we bought new grain from a different company.  But we have continued to have really wet weather so I do not know if that could play into this.  Here’s the second page of the mineral results:

The only think I notice is that Bambam and Patsy both have low Zinc levels while Magner (the healthy lamb) has normal Zinc.  Could that be contributing to this?  I have had toxic zinc levels in the past because of Multimin but have never dealt with its deficiency.  Any of you with experience with this?  Any other ideas people have?  Obviously these lambs will not go back on this pasture and will go back in with the flock once they have recovered without the hay pellets.  The other sheep and goats (including kids) have been on this pasture without difficulty.  Do I keep them there?  Fortunately I have not had any other problems with any other animals or pastures.  But I REALLY want to know what I am dealing with here.

PS: Yesterday was my 14th year sheepiversary.  And I spent it worrying and torturing these 2 lambs with shots and drenches.  I guess that is appropriate.


PPS:  We will be at the Bow Little Market this afternoon from 1-6.  Stop by if you are in the area.

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2 Responses to Sick Lambs Again

  1. Carrie says:

    I should say I don’t keep sheep! I’m sure you have thought of these things, but someone else asking questions might spark an idea? So, my starting questions would be: And their feet are absolutely fine? No sign of foot rot, abscesses or inter-digital dermatitis? Has the vet carried out a thorough foot inspection? Have you? Do they show signs of improvement if moved to a drier pasture/place and their rations increased/improved? Is their overall condition continually ‘poor’ – not thriving? If so, why? Why would a zinc deficiency would show up as lameness on one side? Unless genetic, surely the zinc deficiency will come from the grazing and fodder, why are are the rest of the flock not showing these signs? Are the sheep related? Are the joints in the affected limb/quarter hot to the touch? Do the ligaments feel tight compared to a well-moving sheep? If there is heat/inflammation in the joints, why is it in those joints and not to others? Could it be travelling up the leg? (Coming from infected foot lesions?) Is it travelling down from the shoulder? Any sign of it getting to joints on the other side/quarters? If so, could it be some kind of infectious synovitis? Indeed, do sheep suffer from infectious synovitis? (Maybe not, I don’t know!) If you carefully watch the affected lambs walk (without a conclusion in mind) can you begin to see from where the problem stems? (Often and animal will show you – give good clues – if you observe closely.) And so on. I’m sure you have it sorted out by now anyway! Here’s to a happy and healthy flock.

    • Donna says:

      Thanks Carrie for asking such great questions. I do believe the feet are absolutely fine. I looked at them carefully, and the vet did too. They both improved when placed in a pen and were given Eastern Washington Orchard Grass hay and timothy pellets. They were continued on the same grain initially but we have switched it since. They were also receiving the penicillin, thiamine, a laxative and anti-inflammatory as well as other nutritional supplements (no zinc though). They overall condition is great. They are both plump and growing well. As far as zinc deficiency goes, I know from my experiences with copper deficiency that just a few can show signs of the deficiency. Plus rapidly growing lambs may show signs of deficiency before adults. The lambs are not at all related and are of somewhat different breeds too. The joints of the legs, hips and shoulders were not hot and had normal range of motion without stiffness. The back exam was normal too. I have been reading that sheep can get infective synovitis. The first time they became sick they each started but not putting weight on one front leg but within one day all the legs were affected. When they were sick and walked they would not put any weight on the affected legs and seemed weak rather than a limp. But they were grinding their teeth like they were in pain. So whatever they had seems systemic rather than localized. The vet thought it was central nervous system in origin rather than from the musculoskeletal system.
      I appreciate any further thoughts you might have on this. They are fine now but back out on pastures (different from the original one) so I am nervous without knowing what it is.

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