Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A post wherein I discuss worms and maggots (you have been warned)

Over the past two days, I've been paying particular attention to Cocoa. Partly because he is so interesting to watch and partly because he seems so independent and often is separated from his flock by quite a distance and I'm not sure why. Anyway, on Sunday I noticed that he was lying around and not eating when the other sheep were grazing. I made note of it but didn't think a whole lot about it. I attributed it to him being smaller, younger and not as hungry.

Yesterday morning when I went out to the sheep pen to let them out to their pasture, and to feed Sophie, everyone but Cocoa met me at the gate, happy to see me (or at least any treats I might have) but Coke was lying over in the grass by himself. His head was up and he was watching me but he didn't make a move to get up and come over to me. I went in the pen and walked toward him and he jumped up and ran to catch up with the rest of the sheep. I checked on him a few times during the morning and sometimes he was eating grass, and other times he was curled up in the grass, not sleeping, just hanging around. Not Normal; at least to my inexperienced eye.

I fired off an email to Kristin, the woman who sold me the sheep, and she reminded me that the first thing to check for is worms. You do this by catching the sheep, pulling down the lower eyelid and checking the color on the inside of the eyelid.
It should be dark pink. If it is pale pink to white, worms are likely the cause. The pallor is a sign of anemia. In sheep, intestinal worms attach to the stomach lining and the blood loss causes anemia in a hurry. The sheep were wormed the day before I brought them home, about two and a half weeks ago, so it didn't click that I had a worm problem until I went back out there, caught him and looked at his eyelids. Sure enough, pale pink, almost white. I called the vet and scheduled a visit for this morning at 10:00. I might have been able to handle this myself but I really wanted some professional guidance this first time. I'm glad I called the vet.

Kristin had suggested I give him a little extra feed and also check the site where he'd been neutered. I managed to catch him again but he was struggling so much, I only got a cursory glance "down there" and did not see anything alarming.

When the vet came this morning, she quickly assessed the situation and we decided to worm everyone. While she had Cocoa on the ground, she wormed him and then took a look between his back legs and sure enough, the snip site had opened up. I'll save the clinical data for another time, but to summarize, maggots were involved.

Obviously, I was horrified but she said it was common, not to worry, and got some stuff to spray to help keep it clean and the flies off. She injected an antibiotic to be on the safe side, then let him up off the ground and he tore off to rejoin his friends.

I got a quick lesson on worming, had a conversation about Coccidosis, Flies, and barn/pen sanitation, and she gave me the stuff to spray on Cocoa's open wound (He's gonna love me by the end of this week) some extra wormer for the lambs, and some stuff to put in their drinking water for Coccidosis, a parasite not treated by the oral wormer she used. Kristin had also indicated this might be a possibility if worms were ruled out as the problem. Hopefully I'm on top of the worm situation now and Cocoa will be back to his usual self in short order.

Based on Cocoa's reaction (he's about 25 lbs) the correct sheep behavior, when grabbed by the back legs is to turn into a kangaroo and attempt to spring away. Hard to imagine with a 100 lb Jilly Bean or Tebow. I'm going to need some practice before I can wrestle one of the adult sheep to the ground. Maybe I'll practice on Sophie. She'll probably think it's a game...

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