Prolapses in sheep

Hi Readers,

As we enter lambing season I wanted to explore a little more into common issues I face when working on the farm during this busy period. I chose today to look specifically at prolapses of the vagina as this is something I have had to deal with regularly without completely appreciating what I was dealing with.

What are they?

In some ewes a prolapse of the vagina is only seen as a pink, fleshy protuberance when lying down and disappears when she stands. However, in some ewes the prolapse doesn’t disappear when she stands and the delicate tissue becomes infected, swells up and can become damaged further and bleed. The ewe suffers discomfort at this stage, straining more and increasing abdominal pressure – this makes the situation worse.

As more of the vagina protrudes the pressure blocks off the urethra so the sheep cannot urinate. This leads to rupturing of the bladder. The vagina can also become so congested and damaged it may rupture allowing coils of intestine to escape resulting in peritonitis. Ewes usually die at this stage.

What causes them?

Usually occurs very close to lambing and in older ewes, where the cervix fails to open properly and allow birth of the lambs. The ewes usually have low calcium levels (hypocalcaemia) – calcium is important for maintaining muscle tone, so a lack of tone in the muscular walls of the vagina may lead to a prolapse.

Ewes carrying twins/triplets are more prone than those carrying singles as there is less room and abdominal pressure is greater.

How can you treat it?

In mild cases keeping a close eye on the animal should be sufficient and, as a lack of calcium could be involved, injecting 50ml of 20% solution of calcium borogluconate under the skin would be helpful.

Lukewarm water can be used to carefully clean a permanent prolapse containing a small about of very mild disinfectant and gently dab dry with a towel. Using cupped hands, the prolapse can be pushed back in slowly and patiently; care should be taken not to use fingertips as this could rupture the vagina and lead to peritonitis and eventually death. From experience I have then applied a harness in order to stop prolapsing occurring again before lambing.

Have any of you ever seen this during lambing? I’m interested to hear how you’ve dealt with it.



The Veterinary Book For Sheep Farmers, David C. Henderson 2010.

X-ray positioning

Hi Readers,

After just completing a week of work experience at an equine clinic I learned a lot about different scans and how they are taken. The vets discussed the different views with the vet nurses so this week I’ll be looking into the names of those views so as to understand the terms being communicated between vet and vet nurse.

This diagram helped me visualise the different positions the vets were referring to. I found a table which describes the meaning of each view.

Caudal Refers to parts of the head, neck, or trunk facing toward the hind part of the body from any set point. Also refers to those aspects of the limbs above the carpal and tarsal joints facing in the direction of the hind part of the body
Cranial Refers to parts of the neck, trunk, and tail facing the direction of the head from any set point. Also refers to superior or anterior aspect of a body part or limb above the carpal and tarsal joints
Distal Refers to any part away from the center of the body
Dorsal Refers to the back or posterior part of the body; opposite of ventral
Lateral X-ray beam enters either the right or left side of the body and exits on the opposite side
Mediolateral X-ray beam enters the limb medially and exits laterally
Palmar Refers to the posterior or inferior aspect of the forelimb from the carpus, distally
Plantar Refers to the posterior or inferior aspect of the hind limb from the tarsus, distally
Proximal Refers to the end of a limb or other part closest to the point of attachment
Recumbent Refers to the animal lying down
Rostral Toward the head or nares
Superior and inferior Refers to the upper and lower dental arcades, respectively
Ventral Refers to the abdominal or sternal surface of the body
Caudocranial The beam enters the caudal aspect of the limb and exits the cranial   aspect. Difficult or impossible to differentiate from the craniocaudal view.
Craniocaudal The beam enters the cranial (front) side of the limb above the carpus and exits the caudal (back) of the limb
Ventrodorsal The beam enters the ventral surface and exits the dorsal surface.
Palmar dorsal (plantar dorsal): Taken from the back to the front of the limb distal to the proximal end of the carpus.

Horizontal Beam Views – Horizontal beam views are views taken with the patient in lateral, dorsal, or ventral recumbent positions or with the patient standing in lateral, dorsal, or ventral standing positions.


In this example, the xray is being taken in the lateral position – so enters on left and exits on the right. It is recumbent as the animal is lying down and VD stands for Ventrodorsal which means the beam enters in the ventral surface (abdomen/sternal surface) and exists by the dorsal surface (back of the body).

In this example, the dog is placed in the dorsal recumbent position with it’s forelegs extended cranially. Therefore meaning: dorsal recumbent – lying on it’s back, forelegs extending cranially – it’s forelegs extended up by it’s neck.

Another thing I learned during this experience was the plate always has to be parallel to the xray beam – which seems obvious but when holding up the leg of a horse and holding the plate at the same time, it makes being exactly parallel that bit harder! I also saw an X-ray of a horse with kissing spine and watched them use the X-ray scan to medicate between the vertebrates which I thought was amazing that the vet knew exactly where to push the needle in and the angle to hit it at just using an X-ray they had taken.


Lily Toxicity

Hi Readers,

After completing my first day of work experience at a small animal veterinary hospital, one of the most interesting cases that really caught my attention was a cat with lily toxicity. I wanted to look into this a little further before I go back in tomorrow to see how it has progressed.

All parts of the plant, including the pollen and water from the vase, are considered toxic to cats and result in severe acute kidney injury. The exact toxic dose and nephrotoxicant mechanism is still currently unknown; however, the toxicant in the lily is considered water soluble.

Lily nephrotoxicity may cause symptoms such as inappetance, lethargy, hiding, vomiting, diarrhoea, halitosis (bad breath), dehydration, excessive or decreased urination or thirst, seizures and unfortunately death.

The decreased urination can cause hyperkalemia which is high levels of potassium in the blood. Potassium is an essential electrolyte which performs several functions such as:

  • regulating nerve impulse and muscle contractions.
  • maintains intracellular volume.
  • assists in maintaining blood pressure.
  • maintains heart function.
  • maintains the body’s electrolyte balance and acid/alkali levels in cells and tissues.
  • it also plays an important role in heart, skeletal, and smooth muscle contraction, making it an important nutrient for normal heart, digestive, and muscular function.

It is the role of the kidneys to remove excess potassium from the blood via the urine, if they are no longer functioning as efficiently potassium levels can build up. This is the case with lily toxicity as it causes acute kidney failure, causing frequency of urination to also decrease. With too much potassium the heart may begin to beat abnormally and in very severe cases, stop beating all together.

Treatment includes decontamination (like inducing vomiting and giving binders like activated charcoal), aggressive intravenous fluid therapy, anti-vomiting medication, kidney function monitoring tests, blood pressure monitoring, urine output monitoring and supportive care.

Once anuria (where kidneys fail to produce urine) develops, peritoneal dialysis or hemodialysis is the only potential treatment.

Peritoneal dialysis – A dialysis technique that uses the patient’s own body tissues inside the abdominal cavity as a filter. A plastic tube called a dialysis catheter is surgically placed through the abdominal wall, into the abdominal cavity. A special fluid is then flushed into the abdominal cavity and washed around the intestines. The intestinal walls act as a filter between this fluid and the bloodstream. By using different types of solutions, waste products and excess water can be removed from the body.

Hemodialysis – A medical procedure to remove fluid and waste products from the blood and to correct electrolyte imbalances. This is accomplished using a machine and a dialyzer, also referred to as an “artificial kidney.”

I believe this can only be carried out to an animal over a certain weight.



Alpaca Mating

Hi Readers,

Back in October, I did some alpaca work experience and was lucky enough to be involved in testing to see if the female alpacas were pregnant. I hadn’t heard much about alpaca breeding and was interested to see how different it is to calving and lambing that I have much more experience in.

When the hembra was pregnant and so had a functional corpus luteum, she would aggressively refuse the male’s efforts to mount ie. She would try to run from the stud alpaca, with ears down, and spitting. If the female was not pregnant and had not ovulated, she would sit for remating.

This indication of pregnancy is seen if he is reintroduced over 15 days after the initial breeding. A functional corpus luteum is present 2–3 days after ovulation.

The corpus luteum develops on the ovary at the site of ovulation and produces progesterone (the pro-gestational hormone) to maintain the foetus for the entire pregnancy as well as for implantation. If a female ovulates but fails to conceive, she will become receptive again approximately 12-14 days after the failed mating.

The fertilised secondary oocyte is usually found in the uterus by day 7 after mating, with implantation occurring after around 30 days of gestation.

Ovulation in a female alpaca usually occurs as a result of ‘copulation’ (alpacas are “induced ovulators” rather than having oestrus cycles like we do).  Females can ovulate as a result of the stimulation of being near to a mating pair. When the female is ready for mounting she will sit in a “cush” position. The male vocally “orgles” (a type of mating call) as he mounts her.

Gestation is usually around 11.5 to 12 months.

I enjoy learning more about what I see on work experience as there isn’t always time to explain what is happening. However, my favourite part on this farm was bottle feeding the crias, they are not as keen to suck as lambs are though!

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Has anyone else done any alpaca or even llama experience? I look forward to hearing from you!




Foot Rot in Sheep

Hi Readers,

Firstly, apologies for not updating my site recently; as I’m sure most of you are aware it’s lambing season, so I am currently balancing studying and lambing shifts! One of the things I’ve managed to do a lot of this season is foot trimming the ewes before we turn them out with their lambs. I’ve realised how much physical strength is required in order to turn the ewes over – a couple of bruises later, and I think I’m getting the hang of it!

What I wanted to look into on this post, is the reason I’ve found some ewes with bad feet who have clearly suffered from foot rot. This means I’ve injected quite a few ewes intramuscular with Alamycin – another skill I’m quickly getting the hang of!

Scald and footrot are caused by the bacterium “Dichelobacter nodosus”. This is contagious and can be passed onto other sheep especially in the UK climate – very damp and perfect temperature. It causes 90% of lameness in sheep in the UK. It may also be on set during lambing time, when the ewes are in for lambing and the straw becomes wet and warm.

The interdigital skin in the feet becomes red and swollen and covered by a thin layer of white exudate (a mass of cells and fluid that has seeped out of blood vessels or an organ, especially in inflammation). I treated any ewes that I found with this condition using blue spray, alamycin if very bad (to the point where there was a very strong smell) and leaving it untrimmed. We will move these ewes into a separate paddock to reduce risk of infection to other sheep and so they can be treated again in a few weeks. When I was trimming feet during pre lambing checks we used a foot bath which also proved very effective in helping to heal the interdigital dermatitis.




Bloat – Canine

Hello Readers,

After spending a week on work experience at a kennels one of the things I found was the importance of a dog’s diet as it could lead to complications with the animals health. Bloat was one of the problems I was taught was common in dogs if the diet was not kept consistent. I did some research into ‘bloat’ in dogs or medically known as Gastric Torsion.

I found that this syndrome is caused by the stomach filling with gas and causing it to twist. This can be caused by anxiety as commonly seen in kennelled dogs which I assume is why it was brought to my attention, as the dogs become stressed in a new and unfamiliar environment.

If changed onto very fermentable food, the dog may have gas build up in the stomach. Excessive eating and then vigorous exercise afterwards may also be a factor to consider which is why it was important I knew the correct amount of food needed to for each breed and size of dog; especially as it is most commonly seen in large, deep-chested breeds.

The following symptoms may indicate a case of bloat:

  1. Anxiety – Pacing around or trying to vomit, without success
  2. Too much air intake
  3. Dribble or saliva from dog’s mouth
  4. Gut bloating – a distended (swollen) stomach seen

Like in humans if we can’t breathe we begin to panic, the expanded and twisted stomach pushes the diaphragm and restricts breathing making the situation much worse. While the stomach is twisted, changes occur in blood levels of oxygen leading to the death of cells in other organs as well as in the stomach. It must see a vet immediately as this syndrome is fatal.


Have any of you had a dog with a case of bloat/seen it in a practice?




Pre Lambing Checks – Heptavac P Plus vs. Ovivac P Plus

Hello Readers,

So i thought I’d start off with a few older photos. These photos where taking during lambing at the beginning of this year (2016). I was helping out with herding and loading the ewes to be brought back to the farm, ready to be checked and in for lambing. I was taught how to inject the ewes subcutaneously (I did about 100 in one day).

This injection was ‘Heptavac P Plus’. After some research into this injection tonight I came across a forum discussing the difference between ‘Heptavac P Plus’ and ‘Ovivac P Plus’. I started to look into the difference between the two and how they can prevent pasteurella pneumonia (organism in tonsils – disease released when animal is stressed) and clostridial disease (organisms for this found in soil).

The Heptavac P Plus contains antigens from seven clostridial species. This provides immunity to the lambs via colostrum during lambing. This vaccination is given during pre lambing checks as it must be injected with enough time to make its way into the milk. I also found that this injection is the most expensive of the two.

The Ovivac P Plus doesn’t contain the antigens from as many clostridial species (only 4). It is usually used for store lambs as they need the extra immunity they are not receiving from a ewe’s milk. This boost of immunity increases chance of survival, especially in the winter months when there is a peak in number of cases of these diseases.

I rang the farmer I did this with back in January/ February time, who I have worked with throughout the year. He told me he sold some store lambs a few years ago and knew that the customer injected the lambs with Ovivac P Plus as a little bit of extra immunity as it moved onto a new farm. The Ovivac is cheaper so more economical to use, if just a precaution.

If any lambs from lambing/ store lambs are kept for replacement they are boosted with the Ovivac P Plus at the time of pre tupping. After this they join the regular routine of the older ewes, receiving the Heptavac P Plus pre lambing.

This particular farmer chooses to use the Heptavac P Plus on all 500-600 ewes as the ewes are in constant contact with each other in sheds during lambing so does not want these diseases spreading through and killing his flock as it is the biggest killer of sheep – despite the large cost.

I wonder if any readers would like to share their experience with the two; what routine do you use? Is the Heptavac P Plus worth the extra money? Does anyone give Ovivac P Plus to ewes as they are in a low risk zone perhaps? I would love to hear your thoughts.


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