Rosedean Ryelands Yarn

Author Topic: Pain killers and when is enough, enough?  (Read 21462 times)


  • Joined Feb 2012
Pain killers and when is enough, enough?
« on: February 04, 2012, 12:13:46 pm »
Hello Sheepers!

I have a small flock of mixed sheep who are basically pets. I have no desire to send them to the meat factory and they will all die on the holding one day.

I have a home bred 7 year old ewe (never been bred from) who was always the runt of the flock in that she walked a bit funny and is a little smaller in size.

As she has gotten older, she is now spending more time lying down and obviously finds it painful to walk.

The vet has never found anything wrong with her per se. No swollen/hot joints, but her front feet turn out slightly.

She has a healthy appetite and a perky character.

The vet prescribed Metacam to ease the pain which has helped to some degree. Metacam is very expensive!

First question; has anybody tried ibuprofen on sheep? Or asprin?
Second question; what are your thoughts on pain/quality of life/euthanasia issue?

To my mind the ewe is happy and if given the choice, she would chose life. I was saddened to read in another thread that a member felt the need to euthanase because of fear of public perception and the potential to get in trouble with the authorities.

Comments and advice welcome
Voss Electric Fence


  • Joined Feb 2008
  • Near Bodmin, Cornwall
    • Val Grainger
Re: Pain killers and when is enough, enough?
« Reply #1 on: February 04, 2012, 02:13:05 pm »
I will give my opinion...but it is my opinion and you may not agree :bouquet:

A sheep is a prey animal and in the wild if they go down hill a wolf or lion etc would get them. We as humans have a huge responsibility to make sure animals do not suffer, whether we eat them or just have them as pets. I personally would try and find out exactly what the problem is....I would, if i was not experienced, ask a local sheep expert to look at the sheep....your vet may not be a sheep expert...he/she may know more about dogs!

If nothing can be found and the animal is still in pain I would do the animal the best service I could and kindly put it to sleep.

Overall winner of the Devon Environmental Business Awards 2009

robert waddell

  • Guest
Re: Pain killers and when is enough, enough?
« Reply #2 on: February 04, 2012, 02:23:05 pm »
for her to get to 7 years old is not bad for a sheep
aspirin if taken on a regular basis even prescribed by doctors burns the lining of the stomach and causes ulcers and that is one per day  so half a table on a sheep would have the same effect
if you are getting the metacam from the vet  it is maybe time to change your vet
some sheep walk with a circular motion pigs as well  they should not be bred from  :farmer:


  • Joined Dec 2011
Re: Pain killers and when is enough, enough?
« Reply #3 on: February 04, 2012, 02:37:27 pm »
Metacam (and everything else) is HUGELY expensive from the vet - I have to give it to my dog and I paid over £40 for 100ml - then found it on the net for £13! Even having to pay £9 for a prescription it's a huge saving.  If the sheep is better on this (and if you can afford it) ask your vet for a prescription, they are legally bound to give it to you (how much they charge though is another thing  ::)).

It's difficult to make that decision especially when an animal is a pet, but it's up to us to make sure they don't suffer unduly as they can't tell us.  In my experiences of having animals PTS I've always known when they've had enough .. if the animal is perky and happy and takes an interest in eating and it's surroundings then IMO it is worth keeping it going.  When they've had enough they seem to give up on life.
1 horse, 2 ponies, 4 dogs, 2 Kune Kunes, a variety of sheep


  • Joined Dec 2009
    • onnyview free range produce
Re: Pain killers and when is enough, enough?
« Reply #4 on: February 04, 2012, 05:41:34 pm »
But make sure you get it off the 'net from a reputable online site. On line pharmacies are not subject to the same licencing as vets and pharmacies and any crook can set a site up and sell you dodgy stuff. Please be careful. :thumbsup:

The prescription you pay for at the vet is for the vets time in writing it.

Remember, it's more expensive from the vet because they have overheads, staff to pay etc...The amount of times I have phoned my vet and chatted to them about a problem animal and never been charged for speaking to them. I am more than happy to pay to get my bits from them.They are a buisness afterall and I dare say it won't be long before vets don't sell prescription products as they have been undercut by online pharmacies and I have to pay to speak to my vet on the phone  :o But that's just my opinion. :wave:
Onnyview free range produce- Gloucestershire Old Spot pigs, Hill Radnor and Llanwenog sheep.


  • Joined Feb 2012
Re: Pain killers and when is enough, enough?
« Reply #5 on: February 04, 2012, 06:38:15 pm »
It's very interesting reading through everyones opinions and comments. Food for thought. Thanks for all the replies.

I've only had one sheep suddenly drop dead on me for reasons unknown; that was the tup that was bought in about 6 years ago. The flock is now closed and no longer breeding so I am anticipating their twilight years; wanting to do the right thing when the time comes.


  • Joined Jan 2011
  • Dumfries & Galloway
Re: Pain killers and when is enough, enough?
« Reply #6 on: February 04, 2012, 07:40:44 pm »
A 7 yr old sheep is not old, depending on breed  and having produced lambs every year commercial ewes should do 9yrs , once all teeth have fallen out 2-3 more years are possible. She may have bad feet  (need trimming ) or arthritis, while i have never used aspirin or ibuprofen i have an american book that says you can use both to relieve pain /swelling/fever at adult human doses for short periods. So long as she is eating/drinking and walking, seems happy then she ok for now.


  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: Pain killers and when is enough, enough?
« Reply #7 on: February 05, 2012, 01:43:34 am »
Remember, it's more expensive from the vet because they have overheads, staff to pay etc...

A vet told me that the main reason it's more expensive from the vet is because they can only sell you properly tested and licensed or otherwise authorised meds.  Often it's quite okay to use human-grade meds, but the vet cannot supply those, only the veterinary grade ones.  The vet in question told me to get the meds I needed for my arthritic collie online, as it would be much cheaper, and told me exactly what I needed to look for, the dose, etc.

Mostly vets want animals to not suffer, and to make a living.   :)
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cow, beef cattle, pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing


  • Joined Dec 2009
    • onnyview free range produce
Re: Pain killers and when is enough, enough?
« Reply #8 on: February 05, 2012, 05:40:00 pm »
Well said Sally.  :thumbsup:
Onnyview free range produce- Gloucestershire Old Spot pigs, Hill Radnor and Llanwenog sheep.


  • Joined Nov 2011
  • Devon
Re: Pain killers and when is enough, enough?
« Reply #9 on: February 05, 2012, 06:01:38 pm »
Well said Sally!
The problem with meds and different species is use of a licenced product under the cascade system.
It is ILLIGAL to give an un licenced medication!!! Metacam is a licenced product for pain relief in sheep, one of the only ones I believe. And so your vet had prescribed it. If money is an issue, talk to your vet or get a written prescription and get it online.

I too had an elderly sheep(10 years) who had arthritis in her knees
My vet put her on Bute. (phenobutizone- pants spelling sorry!!), which is an anti-inflammatory for horses. She did well on it. - it is also cheap. Not as nice on the liver and kidneys as metacam and also not licenced, metacam did not keep her comfortable so could use it under cascade. I also had to sign an off licence drug form.

Do not give human meds to animals- doses and processing of drugs differs as each species needs differ t amounts and quality.
You have to be very careful with ruminants and medications. Ibo is very very very toxic to some species!!!!!
Old and rare breed Ducks, chickens, geese, sheep, guinea pigs, 3 dogs, 3 cats, husband and chicks brooding in the tv cabinate!


  • Joined Jan 2010
    • Allt Y Coed Farm and Campsite
Re: Pain killers and when is enough, enough?
« Reply #10 on: February 05, 2012, 06:09:32 pm »
I think you have two options - pay for the correct medication or have it put down.

In my opinion I dont think I'd keep a sheep if it needed daily pain relief to feel comfortable and it looked like things would never improve - but then I have never faced that dilemma and a dilemma it must be.

I would never give human meds to animals either unless it was one of those nod of the head whilst saying no situations that you get from vets sometimes.

I hope it goes OK and she lives out the rest of her life in happiness with your company. Best of luck.



  • Joined Feb 2012
Re: Pain killers and when is enough, enough?
« Reply #11 on: February 08, 2012, 10:57:33 am »
Hello GoWest

We are in the same position as you.  We have 3 Zwartbles that are simply pets.  They are now 10 and 11 years old and have been with us all their lives.  They are spoilt, pampered and cost us a small fortune but we get immense pleasure from them, love spending time with them and always try to do the best for them. 

I have been following this forum for a long time, but have never posted before as I have not felt my comments would have added value.  However, in this case I do have some experience which I would like to share with you.

Until recently we had 4 Zwartbles.  About a year ago one of them, Amy, started limping.  We went through all the usual routines but there was nothing to see and no infection.  Our excellent vet manipulated and felt her joints and said that she had arthritis.  It upset me to hear that there are no long term pain killers for sheep, but we tried her on a 2 week course of Bute.  I really wanted this to work, but I don't think it did.  Well, at least, she didn't stop limping, but it might have relieved some of the pain.  Then we tried an injection of Voren, a non steroidal anti inflammatory, but that didn't seem to help.  The vet said that there really were no further medical options, and even if the ones we had tried had worked they weren't a long term solution because of their side effects.

I then went into research mode and we decided to try some alternative treatments. I know this is a contentious topic, but in my case I wanted to believe in it, and we wanted to be able to say that we had tried everything for Amy.  I found a homeopathic vet who came to the house on 3 occasions over 2 months and gave her laser treatment.  It is like acupuncture, but with a laser not needles.  He also prescribed some homeopathic remedies which we gave her daily for a few months.  I suppose I could try and convince myself that this had some healing effect, but if I'm honest I don't think it did.

All throughout this time Amy was her normal self - happy, bright, alert, eating, coming over for cuddles, not losing condition and enjoying life as usual.  So I decided to try something else.  I found a herbal supplement containing Glucosamine and MSM, amongst other things and we started her on that.   

After a couple of months we had cause to take one of our other sheep to the Royal Veterinary College and whilst there I spoke to their vet about Amy and her arthritis.  He said that he had had good results with aspirin in an arthritic goat and suggested we try Amy on that.  Amy was a big sheep, around 90kg, so her dose was very large.  It isn't a long term treatment because the risk is damage to the stomach, but as a painkiller I think it helped.  It wasn't easy though - nowhere would sell us more than 32 aspirin at a time and we needed to build up quite a stock for her dose.  We got the dispersible ones and put them in a drenching dosing syringe and administered them that way. 

We carried on with the aspirin for another couple of months, before taking the heartbreaking decision one day last November to have Amy put to sleep. 

As others have said, you will know when the time is right.  We knew we could not let Amy go through another winter so we always had that deadline looming over us.  The risk that she would have stumbled, fallen over, not been able to get up and lain freezing out in the cold was unacceptable.  Towards the end we were shutting her away overnight in a stable, but this isn't normal sheep behaviour and her friends stayed close by her.  Towards the end Amy didn't move around as much, she grazed on her knees and shuffled about on her knees.  If there was 'danger' like a gun shot from the nearby shoot, she was too slow to flock together with the others for security.  The decision would have been so much easier had she been a poorly sheep.  But she absolutely wasn't.  She was still bright eyed, alert, friendly, happy, in good condition and with her head held high.  I know that sheep hide the fact that they're weak to avoid being preyed on, but I do think you'll know when the time is right. 

We woke up one morning to a lovely sunny day, spent all morning outside with Amy.  She was laying down and we sat with her, talking to her, cuddling her, brushing her and feeding her far too many treats.  She loved it.  Then we phoned the vet.  He came within an hour and by then we had her in her stable.  She was laying down with me sitting with her.  He gave her a quick jab of sedative and after about 10 minutes Amy drifted off to sleep in my arms with me talking to her to her the whole time.  Then the vet administered the final injection and she was gone within seconds.

So I know this is a bit long, but I guess what I'm trying to say is that there is no magic cure for pain in sheep.  You try what you can and if you're lucky you strike upon something that works.  The downside is that the side effects of that treatment could make it not a long term option anyway.  And the cost is something not to be taken lightly.  I would have tried anything for Amy, and hope that I did.  But did anything cure her pain?  No.  Did anything relieve her pain?  I don't know.  But I do know that for 11 months after she first showed signs of limping she lived a happy life, doing what she liked to do.  Maybe the end would have come sooner without the things we tried.

I have delayed posting this reply because I have been worried about other people's opinions.  They matter to me, although I wish they didn't!  This is what we did, I think rightly, based on our personal circumstances.  If it helps you, GoWest, then I'm glad and I wish you all the best.


robert waddell

  • Guest
Re: Pain killers and when is enough, enough?
« Reply #12 on: February 08, 2012, 12:21:47 pm »
Fiona you should never delay from posting experiences your comments count just as much as others do :farmer:


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