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Author Topic: Sheep with raised liver enzymes. Chronic fluke??  (Read 1893 times)

Zan

  • Joined Jul 2021
Sheep with raised liver enzymes. Chronic fluke??
« on: July 12, 2021, 05:25:42 pm »
I have a wee flock of 11 Shetland sheep.Just grass cutters--- I don't breed them. The first 8 arrived, ranging in age from that year's lambs to 8 years old all from the same place, in October 2017, and I wormed on arrival with Combinex ( triclabendazole) In January 2018 one of them was losing weight and dropping fleece-- blood tests showed raised liver enzymes and the lab said probable cause was historical fluke damage. I presumed that meant before she arrived here. She was a year old on arrival and since then has been a bit stunted and always thin, but I have nursed her along with extra feeding and she's still here.
I have done pooled faeces samples and  treated twice a year since with no further problems. They were last treated in January with Supaverm( closantel) and pooled sample in May was negative for worms and fluke. Now another one has been losing weight which I suspected but became obvious when they were sheared. Faecal sample showed no worms so I got blood sample done and have just come in to a message from vet saying raised liver enzymes probably caused by historical fluke damage. I tried phoning back but haven't got him yet.
I am a bit perplexed to say the least. All the other sheep, apart from the first poorly one, are too fat, and this particular one has always been one of the fattest.
Is it possible for one sheep out of eleven to be so badly affected by fluke? Is it unusual for one sheep and then a second one more than three years apart? While all the others continue to be too fat? The vet in the practice who is most knowledgeable on sheep, and has kept me right on when to treat etc. is unfortunately on maternity leave, and sheep is not this one's strong point. The sheep vet had said about the original one that maybe it wasn't fluke, but that was the obvious thing for the lab to assume. I'm wondering if there is something else on my land that could cause this, but that doesn't seem likely with the three year gap either.   I am feeling terrible that this has happened and really want to make sure it doesn't happen to any more, but really don't know what else I can do.
Also, is there any way this second one can make a full recovery--- anything I can do--- or am I going to have a second poor looking skinny sheep?

Edited to add-- I have just realised there is a specific sheep forum. Please move tis there if possible. thanks.
« Last Edit: July 12, 2021, 06:01:45 pm by Zan »

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: Sheep with raised liver enzymes. Chronic fluke??
« Reply #1 on: July 12, 2021, 09:36:35 pm »
Have requested the post be moved to Sheep for you.  (For future reference, there's a link "report to moderator" bottom right, you can type a few words to describe your request.)

Did the bloods get tested for mineral levels?  Does your dosing regime include minerals and vitamins? 
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 cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

Zan

  • Joined Jul 2021
Re: Sheep with raised liver enzymes. Chronic fluke??
« Reply #2 on: July 12, 2021, 10:02:01 pm »
Thanks-- I've had a look round the forums now and hopefully won't make same mistake.
I haven't spoken to the vet yet about the blood results for the latest sheep so I'm not sure what they tested for. Will have more info tomorrow. He just said on e voicemail that liver enzymes were up, protein was down and the lab said most likely cause was fluke damage.  I don't regularly dose with minerals--- they have free access to a Chrystalix molasses and mineral/vitamin tub all winter and 8 acres of good grazing which they share with four equines. They also get a bit of standard sheep coarse mix most days through the winter just to make it easy to pen them and check feet etc., and good quality hay if there is snow. All the rest of them are in very good condition-- to fat actually ( apart from the one who had raised liver enzymes in 2018)- I don't know if one sheep out of  11 can be affected by fluke like this, and it's strange two of them appear to be affected, but three years apart.

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • ScotHebs
Re: Sheep with raised liver enzymes. Chronic fluke??
« Reply #3 on: July 12, 2021, 10:33:59 pm »
Hello and welcome  :)
I know little about fluke as we are lucky enough not to have land that harbours it.  Years ago we did lose a shearling ewe to fluke - she had been out-grazed for a few weeks on land which turned out to be flukey.  Your vet should know the local area and whether or not your land is prone to fluke, but you can assess it roughly yourself by seeing if your land tends to have standing water anywhere; you can also talk to your immediate neighbours and see if they have fluke.  Can you also speak to the person you bought them from to see if it is likely they did have untreated fluke at any time?  This would help in that if it is extremely unlikely the sheep ever had fluke, then the two sick ones need more investigation to find out what it is.  Vets are often not very bothered if a single sheep has died or is ailing, but when two or three go down with the same thing they should take more notice.
I would challenge the 'not so good with sheep' vet to do a bit of research on your behalf and find out just what is going on for you.  There must be other vets in the practice as one person cannot be doing all the work so perhaps you can see someone else.
What the lab results are saying is that it could be historical fluke, but it might not be, so ask about alternative possibilities.
If the failure to thrive is truly caused by historical fluke damage, then there's not a lot you can do about it.  You can do as you have been doing but you must consider whether the sheep are in discomfort or pain and make a judgement as to whether they are better off struggling on or should be put down.  The meat would be unlikely to be edible.
What is really concerning you is whether more are going to go down with the same thing.  No-one here on TAS is in a position to tell you that, only your vets can do so.  Can you get all the sheep tested now, although I'm not sure a positive result would be all that helpful.

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Zan

  • Joined Jul 2021
Re: Sheep with raised liver enzymes. Chronic fluke??
« Reply #4 on: July 12, 2021, 11:02:19 pm »
Thanks for your reply
There is a good sheep vet in the practice but she is on maternity leave.Frustrating because she saw Bluebell at her worst and could compare, and a second sheep showing similar liver damage might give her more clues.
The first sheep ( her name is Bluebell so it's easier to describe her as that!), who lost weight in 2018, is very bright and active and there is no welfare issue with keeping her going, In fact she is quite dominant in the hierarchy. She is small and always thin, but I give her extra concentrates all year round and she holds her own. She has never been terribly ill--- just had a poor appetite and was really, really thin, she was much thinner than the second one (Acorn is her name) at her worst, lost fleece and looked terrible. Acorn's fleece was fine and she is only a bit thin, not emaciated like Bluebell was.
There are a couple of places where water lies when it is really wet, but it dries out. There does seem to be some fluke in the area but it's patchy. My immediate neighbour has immaculate sheep. I did speak to the woman I got them from when Bluebell was first ill --- she had bought Bluebell and her sister in and blamed any historical fluke on the previous owner. She wasn't in a flukey area. It doesn't seem likely to me that two sheep individually would pop up with fluke in a flock of 11, three years apart, when all the rest are fat, and I was wondering if anyone on here  could tell me if that is likely because I am very new to sheep. And if not fluke what it could be, but that is a job for the vets to investigate. The one who phoned is a small animal vet, but he can speak to sheep specialists. 

shep53

  • Joined Jan 2011
  • Dumfries & Galloway
Re: Sheep with raised liver enzymes. Chronic fluke??
« Reply #5 on: July 13, 2021, 01:14:37 pm »
The answer to the question is yes ,sheep will graze in different areas of the field and when you get fluke in a flock it is normally only a few individuals not all  and the fluke affects them to different degrees , if say 2or 3 sheep show bottle jaw then you will treat all  even though some may have no fluke some  a few and some many

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: Sheep with raised liver enzymes. Chronic fluke??
« Reply #6 on: July 13, 2021, 01:58:17 pm »
A few thoughts and factlets :

You don't need to wait for shearing to discover if a sheep is thin as you suspect.  Learn to assess their body condition, and check it regularly.

The ground in the entire UK is deficient in copper, cobalt and selenium, and so will your livestock be if they don't get some supplementation.  There will be minerals in concentrate mixes, and there are minerals in the licks, but many of us - and most farmers and farm vets - find that nothing really beats a regular - once or twice a year - drench with a good quality chelated mineral drench.  Chelated minerals stay in the system for weeks, even months, whereas our vet described the Crystalix licks as "sweeties - like barley sugars". 

Lots of livestock get by with low mineral levels.  But when there is another problem about, they will be less resilient to it.  As with many things that sheep can get, you may see little sign of a problem in the flock, but then one sheep will get something and be hit quite hard by it.  So just making sure they have good minerals can help them weather any other problems that may arise. 

I have farmed on flukey ground and ground which is not nornally flukey and here are some things I've learned about fluke.

- the lifecycle is complex and the occurrence and seasonality of the infections can be affected by the weather, so that a farm which has always drenched for fluke from October to March but not April through September may find it gets an outbreak of fluke in the summer in certain years, and a farm which has never had a fluke problem may get fluke at any time if the weather patterns have created the optimum conditions for it.  Good agri vets do newsletters - read them for early warnings.

- when a farm gets an outbreak, very few sheep will show any clinical signs.  We had 520+ ewes and would see maybe three to five presenting clinically - but others can be affected, just not showing clinical signs.  The vet said that by the time you see the classic bottle jaw, the sheep is almost certainly a goner because it will have suffered longterm damage. 

- (you clearly know this already, but for completeness) faecal egg counts can give you a +ve for fluke but they aren't always shedding, so a -ve cannot be taken to mean fluke is not present.  One thing you can do if you breed and send sheep to slaughter is to ask the abattoir to mention to you if they are seeing sligns of fluke in the livers of your sheep.  (It is so common that many will not mention it unless you specifically ask.)
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 cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

Zan

  • Joined Jul 2021
Re: Sheep with raised liver enzymes. Chronic fluke??
« Reply #7 on: July 13, 2021, 04:52:20 pm »
Thanks for your reply.
I knew she was thinner, and at first I was pleased because normally she is too fat. It wasn't till she was sheared that I saw that, compared to the others, she was a bit too thin--- though this is still only compared to them. When the vet came out to blood test he thought she looked fine and wondered what I was worried about. Test results show I was right to be worried.
I spoke to the vet today and from my treatment regime and every single faecal sample being -ve twice a year for fur years, he is doubtful about it being fluke, but doesn't have any ideas what else would cause lowered Albumen and raised GGT, other than eating something toxic. There's no ragwort or any other obvious poisonous plants, and again it seems strange if only 2 would be affected three years apart if there is something toxic on the land.
There are still mineral level results to come so they may shed more light.
Otherwise I will have to assume it's fluke damage I suppose--- maybe due to her accidentally not getting a full dose at some point or some other random occurrence. 

Zan

  • Joined Jul 2021
Re: Sheep with raised liver enzymes. Chronic fluke??
« Reply #8 on: July 13, 2021, 05:02:22 pm »
The answer to the question is yes ,sheep will graze in different areas of the field and when you get fluke in a flock it is normally only a few individuals not all  and the fluke affects them to different degrees , if say 2or 3 sheep show bottle jaw then you will treat all  even though some may have no fluke some  a few and some many
Thanks--- that clears that up.
 Neither of these two have been bad enough to have bottle jaw--- I have just noticed them losing weight, and blood tests have shown something causing liver damage--- and I have always treated all of them.

shep53

  • Joined Jan 2011
  • Dumfries & Galloway
Re: Sheep with raised liver enzymes. Chronic fluke??
« Reply #9 on: July 13, 2021, 07:49:15 pm »
You are doing all you can for her so hopefully the tests will finally reveal something  , as a quick visual aid if you look at the gums and they look pale or the whites of the eye look pale or yellow then a sign of fluke damage

Buttermilk

  • Joined Jul 2014
Re: Sheep with raised liver enzymes. Chronic fluke??
« Reply #10 on: July 15, 2021, 06:41:28 am »
As you have had a sheep with fluke on the land then most likely there is fluke still there.  The drug does not have any persistance in the sheep so treat today and tomorrows fluke larvae will still thrive.  The damage is done by fluke larvae before they get to the mature egg laying stage so they do not allways show up on egg counts.

For this reason I would treat as if the sheep do have fluke and dose accordingly. 

https://www.nadis.org.uk/disease-a-z/sheep/endoparasites-of-sheep/liver-fluke-control-in-sheep/

Zan

  • Joined Jul 2021
Re: Sheep with raised liver enzymes. Chronic fluke??
« Reply #11 on: July 15, 2021, 09:15:55 am »
Thanks, but that's exactly what I have done, even although there was a question mark over whether it was fluke which caused the first sheep's liver damage. I have treated twice a year and tested pooled faces sample twice a year. I thought I was doing enough, which is why both the vet and I are questioning whether the second sheep with raised liver enzymes has been caused by fluke or something else.


SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: Sheep with raised liver enzymes. Chronic fluke??
« Reply #12 on: July 15, 2021, 11:10:55 am »
Well, the other major cause of liver problems in sheep is cobalt deficiency...
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 cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

twizzel

  • Joined Apr 2012
Re: Sheep with raised liver enzymes. Chronic fluke??
« Reply #13 on: July 15, 2021, 12:09:34 pm »
Could the liver be knackered from historical fluke infection? Iím not a vet but wondered if itís a possibility.


Have you tested for other wasting diseases (are the raised liver enzymes a red herring) like MV and johnes?




Zan

  • Joined Jul 2021
Re: Sheep with raised liver enzymes. Chronic fluke??
« Reply #14 on: July 15, 2021, 01:03:36 pm »
Well, the other major cause of liver problems in sheep is cobalt deficiency...
Thank you. Still waiting for results of mineral blood tests.

 

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