Thursday, December 3, 2009

Tough Day Today

One of my long yearling Suffolk ewes died. Her name was Thirty (because I couldn't think of a name and her ear tag number was 8430) and she would have been 2 years old in January. She's the one in the middle. She came home from the Alaska State Fair in September underweight and unthrifty. I worked extra hard with her as far as feeding away from the rest of the flock and hand feeding grain. She was dewormed, had access to a sheep mineral block and finally was completely separated from the flock and kept in a semi-heated box stall. I called the vet in last week when I couldn't think of anything else I could do by myself and Thirty's face started swelling up.

The swelling was caused by edema and is known as bottle jaw. Sheep get it usually because of a parasite overload. The first thing I noticed was a swollen left ear. I thought it was frostbite but when the vet came out she said hematoma. We pulled fluid and it was just edema. Then the space under Thirty's jaw got bigger: more edema and the diagnosis of bottle jaw. We pulled blood and a fecal and sent it off to the lab in Washington. (Another drawback of living in Alaska - no lab.) Meanwhile Thirty is getting weaker. We thought pneumonia so I started a round of antibiotics and probiotics. She didn't get any better. Last night she was lying flat out so I called the vet who said she would come out this morning to give some steroids to see if we could get some of the fluid off Thirty.

I plowed from 2 am until 5:30 am. Thirty was still alive at 5:30 but when I checked on her at 7 she was gone. The vet came out at nine thinking she was just going to do some injections but our plans changed. So she did the things she had planned and came back about 1:30 pm to do a necropsy. Boy did I learn some interesting things. Briar took pictures. No, I didn't post them but they are on my photobucket if anyone is interested.

Bottom line? Thirty died of congestive heart failure. Why? We don't know. Her lymph glands were swollen, there was bruising on the tissue in her throat and heart, and her heart was abnormally formed. There was a lot of fluid in the heart cavity as well as the abdominal cavity. The rumen was working fine. We found no signs of parasites, a blockage, or a foreign body. The bloodwork hasn't come back yet so we're going to ask for another test to determine Vitamin E and selenium levels.

I have a long list of things to eliminate to get to the bottom of this. Meanwhile, I have eight sheep that are fat, happy and hopefully five of them are bred for late February lambs.


  1. I'm sorry about Thirty. Sounds like you did everything right by her. Keep us posted on the rest of the results; curious as well.

    Glad you got the countdown clock going:)

    I did get home before dark tonight. Felt good to actually "see" my horses for a change! The moon is gorgeous, too.

  2. awww, dang it all. I'm so sorry. At least you did all you could and gave her the best life possible. Hugs to you up there..

  3. Awww, RIP Thirty. You did everything you could for her.((Hugs))

  4. I'm so sorry for your loss! I know that Thirty had a good life with you. She was loved and cherished and you did right by her.

  5. How sad for you. And you did all you could do. If the heart was malformed, it sounds like a birth defect.

    Glad the rest of the flock are doing well...look forward to seeing lamb pics in the spring!