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Swollen Belly of Orphan Lamb-what do I do?!  RSS feed

 
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My husband worked a docking today at a nearby ranchers house. They found two orphan lambs which he brought home to me to care for. One of them has a swollen belly and has labored breathing often. She looks uncomfortable and has her tail tucked under and head lowered. I force fed her 2 oz of lamb formula in a bottle, she took it well. A few hours later I gave her some probiotics I have on hand for livestock. (5 cc's).
Wondering if there is anything I can do to help her tummy? I've heard about debloating a lamb with a tube- but we live two hours from town and I am unable to go to town to get a tube for at least a day or two.
Another random fact that may help is a different lamb died at the docking today. It was also bloated and when it died it was bleeding out of its nose. I'm not sure if that has any similarity to the lamb I currently am caring for- but thought I may add that for reference.
Thank you for any thoughts or advice!
 
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I raise Dahl sheep.

I've had lots of experience with moms that reject their young right at birth. Usually, there's a reason. I'm afraid a large number of those rejects are just going to die, and please don't beat yourself up over it.

But still, it is very human and compassionate to want to try. So let's try.

The first thing the newborn reject will die from is body temperature drop. Get them warm, in the 90 degree range, and your odds will improve. Next, colostrum or as close as you can come to it from a feed store or Veterinary Clinic. Getting this down them in the first few hours, say 3, will improve your odds by a couple of points. If they are too weak to suckle, you will have to insert a tube past their swallowing reflex (into their esophagus, NOT their trachea!  put it in their windpipe and you will drown them right then and there.)

I have never seen a newborn bloat. If they are too young to have consumed solid food of any kind, I cannot imagine what that would be. Bloating as far as I'm aware is gas caused by  the respiration of bacteria in the gut.

The intestines of newborn lambs are filled with meconium, which is typically dark or almost black in color, and crumbly or dirt-like in consistency (they won't form sheep pebbles until some formula goes all the way through their system).

In adult sheep and goats with bloating or other forms of indigestion, including diarrhea and locked up rumen, I give them 1 or maybe a couple fat shots of mineral oil--maybe an ounce at a time, you might give another in six or twelve hours if you don't see movement. This oil is completely indigestible. This coats their intestinal tract and shoots the problem substance right out the other end--when it works. (And it works pretty often, I've pulled off a lot of frightening saves with plain old humble mineral oil. It'll set you back a whole two bucks.)

The risk of doing this with a newborn though is that you're knocking out that precious first dose of calories, enzymes, bacteria, etc. in an animal that has precisely no safety net.

When I was young, I worked for a large animal veterinarian for a short time. In the glove box of his truck he used to carry a terrifying spike mounted on a t grip handle. He told me it was for sticking bloated cows in an emergency: sometimes when he arrived the cow was so bloated that they couldn't move, and the expansion was crushing them from the inside--breath was first concern, as the animal would die immediately if they couldn't get oxygen into their blood.  He would leap out of the car  and stick them just like a balloon-- which was just as awful as it sounds. There was definitely internal bleeding, and the risk of organ damage, a whole slew of things.

But then he had a living animal to work with, and anesthesia and surgery and medication followed.

If money is not an object for you,  then taking the animal to a vet for elaborate medical attention is definitely in order. Unfortunately for many of us, the cost of this elaborate service outstrips the profit to be made in not one but several animals, possibly even a year of animals.

These are choices that we have to weigh carefully.

Calculate the cost of keeping your family alive without the next three paychecks, and put this on one side of the scale, the cost of medicating the lamb on the other.

Sweep your own doorstep first.

 
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