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Author Topic: Ewe won't eat/ruminating poorly (if at all)  (Read 534 times)

Pomme homme

  • Joined Feb 2013
Ewe won't eat/ruminating poorly (if at all)
« on: November 14, 2019, 12:59:05 pm »
Nine days ago I discovered our five year old Suffolk ewe collapsed against the fence in the field. Her ears and hooves were cold, her eyes dilated but her temperature wasn’t abnormal (38.6? C).  She couldn't stand so I transported her to the shed, put her into a pen and called the vet. The vet put her on a saline drip and injected antibiotics and a pain killer. The following day, when she was not back on her feet, still unwell and grinding her teeth, the vet returned and injected more antibiotics and pain killer. On the third day I was able to get her on her feet but had to steady her by standing astride her back. On the fourth day she had got onto her feet, was able to stand unaided and her temperature was 39.3? C.

On her second visit the vet recommended we give the ewe 50 ml of Sodilene (glycol 70%, sorbitol 6%) each morning and evening. However I anticipate that this was on the basis of it being a supplement to, rather than a replacement for, solid food. But for the last week it has served principally as the former and I've had to administer it by a syringe into her mouth. I put hay and water in the pen but she refused both. She did the same when offered sheep pellets and wheat. Equally when we put her onto fresh grass - in the garden - she would not graze. Not even when I cut handfuls of grass and offered these to her. I’ve tried old favourites like ivy and raspberry leaves. But all without success. I've had many ideas suggested - including feeding her Guinness, cider vinegar and sodium bicarbonate – but the outcome has been the same. No change.

For a week now the ewe has survived principally on Sodilene and water, fed into her mouth by syringe, and the small amount of sheep pellets that, manually (essentially pellet by pellet), I've been able to introduce into her mouth. She will take these for a while but then refuses more. I've had to work on a 'little and often' principle. She is producing normal, solid faeces and is urinating, but both in small quantities about once a day. She has good days, when I think that she is recovering, and bad days, when I expect to find her near death on my next visit to the shed. But still she won't feed herself, she is ruminating little, if at all, and not chewing the cud. She is surviving rather than thriving.

Neither I nor the vet have been able to ascertain the cause of the problem. The vet suggested that it might be poisoning but she was in a field that I've used, and she has grazed, for years, and I've walked this field and found nothing on the ground or in the hedges that is apparently injurious and which hasn't always been there. And what's more, the rest of the flock (principally Vendéen) are in the same field and unaffected. She also suggested stress (if so, with all the rain and flooding of late, I can empathise!). Also she said that the possibility of an internal problem cannot be discounted. She mentioned the possibility of an ulcer, tumour or twisted gut but said that such are impossible to diagnose externally. I haven't yet received the vet's bill but, I suspect, already I've incurred fees in excess of the ewe's replacement value and can't justify the additional cost of surgery.

It may be the case that rather than not wanting to eat, for some reason the ewe cannot eat. But if I'm going to give her a fighting chance give, then I need to give her strength and that means I've got to get her eating solid food (more than the measly portions I can introduce into her mouth manually) and wanting to do so for herself. I need to get her ruminating properly. If not then, probably very soon, I will reach the inevitable conclusion that it will be kinder to put her down rather than allowing her to continue to exist and, possibly, ultimately die of starvation.

I've now tried everything that I can think of and that has been suggested to get the ewe's rumen going and to get her eating. But now my ideas and the suggestions have run out. So if anyone else has had a similar problem, particularly with a Suffolk sheep, I'd be very grateful for their input. If so, it would be helpful to know what was the problem diagnosed; how it was treated; what was the feeding regime employed; and what was the ultimate outcome. Beyond that I can only wait for constructive comments and suggestions and offer my thanks in anticipation.
Voss Electric Fence

Possum

  • Joined Feb 2012
  • Somerset
Re: Ewe won't eat/ruminating poorly (if at all)
« Reply #1 on: November 14, 2019, 05:26:19 pm »
I'm so sorry to hear of your problem. You have obviously worked very hard to save this ewe and have tried everything that I would normally suggest. The only two things that I can think of is;
a) that it might be a neurological problem. Has the vet checked for this?
b) that different antibiotics may be needed. Did the vet change the antibiotics on subsequent visits?


Do let us know how you get on.

twizzel

  • Joined Apr 2012
Re: Ewe won't eat/ruminating poorly (if at all)
« Reply #2 on: November 14, 2019, 05:58:36 pm »
Has she been treated for liver fluke? In all honesty if she’s not eaten properly in a week I’m not sure her rumen will be functioning and that’s pretty bad. If she was mine I’d probably put her down.

Pomme homme

  • Joined Feb 2013
Re: Ewe won't eat/ruminating poorly (if at all)
« Reply #3 on: November 14, 2019, 06:02:13 pm »
A brief update.

This afternoon the ewe has started eating grass of her own volition rather than having it put into her mouth. But she's fussy about what she will eat. Coarse blade grass does not interest her. She will eat only the freshest (i.e. cut closest to the ground) narrow blade grass that hasn't grown long. She's not eating a lot but she eating something, without having to be fed, which is a step forward. However I've received some funny looks, whilst on my hands and knees in the garden cutting the desired grass with scissors. I'm just waiting for my neighbour to enquire whether my lawn mower is hors de combat! Also the ewe is grinding her teeth much less than hitherto.

The vet didn't mention the possibility of a neurological problem. But I'll bear that in mind if the ewe's recovery falters. As to antibiotics, as I haven't yet had the vet's bill I don't know what she injected. The vet didn't suggest a need for a further course of antibiotics after her last visit and so the ewe hasn't had antibiotics or painkillers for eight days now. I know that some might consider the view heretical, but I prefer to use antibiotics as sparingly as possible and administer pain killers only when there's clear evidence of pain.

I won't yet hang out the flags but I'll monitor the ewe closely. Hopefully I'll see an improvement in her condition. But being a natural pessimist, I don't take anything for granted. If the weather tomorrow is on my side, I might try to take her into the garden, where the lawn grass is ungrazed, to see if she'll eat that of her own volition. However I'll watch her carefully, and ensure that not too much grass is eaten, as the grass is damp and I don't want to introduce the risk of bloat into the equation.

Finally thank you, Possum, for your helpful contribution. Others still will be welcome and I'll be grateful to those who offer such.

Pomme homme

  • Joined Feb 2013
Re: Ewe won't eat/ruminating poorly (if at all)
« Reply #4 on: November 14, 2019, 06:10:28 pm »
Thank you, twizzel, I must have been typing my second post whilst you were posting yours.

Yes, she has been treated for liver fluke. The wormers I use (I try to rotate these to avoid building a product specific immunity in my sheep) include fluke specifically.

I appreciate that being totally objective and commercial, I might have put the ewe down by now. Certainly I would have done so had she been suffering and unresponsive. But it's a matter of judgment and, inevitably, the exercise of that differs from person to person. I try to do the best by my animals and as the ewe is showing signs of improvement, I'll stick by her for the present. How it will all end, only God knows.


twizzel

  • Joined Apr 2012
Re: Ewe won't eat/ruminating poorly (if at all)
« Reply #5 on: November 14, 2019, 07:06:06 pm »
Hope she gets better soon. I have had a couple of “no hope” ewes over the years that have rallied and survived, where most would have called it a day. Having said that I’ve also called time on a several too. I think you know when to call it a day...

Anke

  • Joined Dec 2009
  • St Boswells, Scottish Borders
Re: Ewe won't eat/ruminating poorly (if at all)
« Reply #6 on: November 14, 2019, 08:19:52 pm »
Is she in good condition, or even a bit over-conditioned? If yes, I would suspect fatty liver disease.

crobertson

  • Joined Sep 2015
Re: Ewe won't eat/ruminating poorly (if at all)
« Reply #7 on: November 14, 2019, 08:56:42 pm »
Have you tried a coarse mix (usually for rams)?

We had a poorly ewe once who wouldn't eat hay, ewe nuts etc but she did like and ate the coarse mix.

Alternatively would something like a crystalyx energy block help just to get a bit of sugar in her and stimulate appetite.

Pomme homme

  • Joined Feb 2013
Re: Ewe won't eat/ruminating poorly (if at all)
« Reply #8 on: November 14, 2019, 09:42:41 pm »
Thank you, Anke and crobertson.

Having regard to her diet over the past ten days, her condition is unexpectedly good. But I wouldn't say that she's over conditioned. However I'll look into fatty liver disease tomorrow.

Crobertson, can you please elaborate on 'coarse mix'? I'll give anything a go! As to the energy block, I've tried offering her the mineral lick that I get from the local co-operative, which I put out for the sheep at this time of the year when the grass quality is getting poor, but she wasn't interested in it. But I'll try again tomorrow.

pgkevet

  • Joined Jul 2011
Re: Ewe won't eat/ruminating poorly (if at all)
« Reply #9 on: November 14, 2019, 10:32:18 pm »
This is just a historical note:

Back when i first qualified the standard answer to things like this was a drench of strychnine, ginger and an ammonium salt to alkalinise any ruminal acidosis. +/- a cud transplant if you could grab one. It worked quite well. Of course i then went on to small animal practice and things changed over the next 45-50 years. Things like strychnine even in low doses just are non-PC but it worked by stimulating muscle activity and ginger is great for any stomach pains or nausea. I used it once when still available around the early 80's for a goat with ruminal atony (a goat with indigestion! Unbelievable). When one my own sheep was having similar I discovered such simple stuff is no longer available and nothing similar to replace it unless no-one cleared out the pharmacy cupboard in 40 years.

Pomme homme

  • Joined Feb 2013
Re: Ewe won't eat/ruminating poorly (if at all)
« Reply #10 on: November 15, 2019, 09:56:01 am »
Thank you, pgkevet. Whilst I haven't got the strychnine, I've got ginger in the kitchen. I'll try chopping that finely and feeding it to her by hand.

The ewe is still eating cut grass from a bowl, but she seems to be able only to eat a limited amount before having to take a break. So I'm continuing with the 'little and often' approach.

It's another miserable day - damp and cold - chez moi so I don't think that it makes much sense to turn her out into the garden to see if she'll graze the lawn. And in such weather I've no inclination to sit out there to make sure that, if she grazes, it's the grass, rather than the garden plants and shrubs, upon which she focusses!   

kanisha

  • Joined Dec 2007
    • Spered Breizh Ouessants
    • Facebook
Re: Ewe won't eat/ruminating poorly (if at all)
« Reply #11 on: November 15, 2019, 11:46:05 am »
vit B1 ( thiamine) injection and +1 for cud transplant if possible. have heard of this being done by sampling directly from the rumen of a sheep by paracentisis and drenched into the patient...
Ravelry Group: - Ouessants & Company

Pomme homme

  • Joined Feb 2013
Re: Ewe won't eat/ruminating poorly (if at all)
« Reply #12 on: November 15, 2019, 01:14:04 pm »
Thank you, kanisha. My research took me in the direction of a possible vitamin B1 deficiency. However both the lick the ewe has and the pellets I'm feeding to her contain vitamin B1. But I'll look at supplementing that.

The ewe seems to be making slow but steady improvement so I think I'll continue a conservative approach to her treatment. I'll keep my fingers crossed whilst accepting that there's many a slip twixt cup and lip.

I beginning to wonder (after five years!) whether buying a Suffolk ewe wasn't the cleverest decision I made. She seems to be more 'delicate' than my Vendéen sheep. Maybe, being the local breed, they are more suitable to my land and the climate. Touch wood, they seem to be hale and hearty on the same land and in the same conditions.

Pomme homme

  • Joined Feb 2013
Re: Ewe won't eat/ruminating poorly (if at all)
« Reply #13 on: November 17, 2019, 10:16:09 pm »
She's now eating hay, b####y great handfuls of it! But even though I put her out on grass, during the brief interlude when the sun deigned to show its face today, she won't feed herself. I fear that this may be because her sight has been compromised (hopefully temporarily), so I'll try putting one of her daughters in with her tomorrow in the hope that she'll act as a lead. I'm also picking up a vitamin B1 supplement for her in the morning. So I've got my fingers crossed. She's survived thirteen days, so I hope that her improvement will continue. Watch this space!

kanisha

  • Joined Dec 2007
    • Spered Breizh Ouessants
    • Facebook
Re: Ewe won't eat/ruminating poorly (if at all)
« Reply #14 on: November 18, 2019, 07:21:36 am »
vit B1 is a standard part of my arsenal. I Always keep a supply in.
Ravelry Group: - Ouessants & Company

 

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