A few weeks ago, one of my ram lambs didn’t “look” right. He ignored his feed, a sure sign that something was wrong. I didn’t know what the problem was. By morning, the lamb was down. He was seizing almost continuously, and appeared to have a high fever. Well, crap.
There were a lot of different things that could be causing this. He could have pneumonia. He could have blue tongue virus. I gave him a high dose of antibiotics in case he had pneumonia. Twenty four hours later, no response. Damn. On to the next plan. Could be blue tongue virus, but the neurologic symptoms were really troubling. Sheesh. He was unaware as far as I could tell. I put tender green forage into his mouth. He would mechanically chew a bite or two, swallow, and seize again. I could only get him to drink a mouthful of water at at time. It was too hot for not taking in any water. Research showed that one of the differential diagnoses was rabies. Well, then. Nothing I could do for that. Another potential diagnosis was deer worms migrating through the spine. A sheep will eat a snail infected with deer worms. Sheep are not the host for these parasites, and they migrate into the spine, causing great damage if massive doses of two different kinds of wormer aren’t given immediately and, even then, it may not work.
So, I gave massive doses of two kinds of wormer for several days. The temperature and seizures seemed to go down but he could not eat. He could barely drink. He was semiconscious at best. For another two weeks I fed him one mouthful of tender green weeds and leaves at a time. I held up his head several times a day so that he could take a sip of water at a time. I put him in a sling, as often as I could, so that he was in an anatomically correct position. I changed his position as often as I could. His integumentary system was starting to break down from urine and pressure, and he started getting pressure sores. I put him in a sling more often. He started getting some control of his neck and could hold his neck up for a few seconds at a time. His legs don’t work together. A front leg doesn’t move at all.
This week, he got his appetite back. He’s wasted away to about half his previous weight, and is eating constantly. I’m putting feed far enough away that he has to s-t-r-e-t-c-h waaaaaay out to reach it. He can hold himself up better, but still requires propping on one side. I picked him up today, steadied him by the wool on his back, and he stood on his legs by himself for about ten seconds before collapsing.
So, he’s getting slowly better. But he may never get any better than this. He may still die of pneumonia, he may choke on his cud, or I may accidentally put him in shade that turns into sun and he suffers a heatstroke. He may drown in a sudden rainstorm.
If you have a sheep with those type of symptoms, I’d think long and hard about the value of the sheep before you try to save it.