|Diarrhea (scours) in small ruminants|
Diarrhea (scours) in small ruminants
By: Susan Schoenian
Small ruminant Info Sheet
Web Site: http://www.sheepandgoat.com/By: Susan SchoenianSmall ruminant Info SheetWeb Site: http://www.sheepandgoat.com/
Diarrhea is defined as an increased frequency, fluidity, or volume of fecal excretion. The feces may contain blood or mucous and be smelly. The color of the feces may be abnormal. However, it is not possible to definitively determine the infectious organism by looking at the color, consistency, or odor of the feces. A definitive identification requires a sample for microbiological analysis.
On the other hand, the dock should be left long enough to cover the vulva of the ewe and an equivalant length on a ram lamb. If a lamb can "wag" its tail, it will be able to use its tail to project away feces. Otherwise the feces will run down the lamb's back end. It is usually not necessary to dock the tails of hair sheep or rat-tailed breeds.
Diarrhea in young (neonatal) lambs and kids
Despite improvements in management practices and prevention and treatment strategies, diarrhea is still the most common and costly disease affecting neonatal small ruminants. A study at the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station (Dubois, ID) showed that diarrhea accounted for 46 percent of lamb mortality.Diarrhea in lambs and goats is a complex, multi-factorial disease involving the animal, the environment, nutrition, and infectious agents. The four major causes of diarrhea in lambs and kids during the first month of life are E. Coli, rotavirus, Cryposporidum sp. and Salmonella sp. E. coli scours are most common.
Antibiotics are used for both treatment and prevention of E. coli scours in lambs. Spectinomycin oral pig scours medicine is commonly used, though it is not approved for sheep and goats. Ewes and does can be vaccinated with bovine E. coli vaccine before they give birth to increase passive immunity. The use of neomycin in lambs that appear normal may stop the progression of the outbreak. Adequate ingestion of colostrum by newborns decreases the incidence of the disease.
Rotavirus is treated with supportive care. Vaccinating ewes and does with bovine rotavirus vaccines before they give birth will increase passive immunity. Viruses tend to be less a cause of diarrhea in lambs and kids than calves.
No consistently effective treatment for cryptosporidiosis in ruminants has been identified. Anectodotal reports suggest that decoquinte (Deccox®) and monensin sodium (Bovatec®) may be useful in the control of Cryptosporosis. Ammonia and formalin seem to be most effective at removing Cryptosporidiumfrom the environment. The best control of cryptosporidiosis comes from lambs and kids getting adequate immunity through colostrum soon after birth.
A scouring lamb or kid loses large amounts of fluids and electrolytes, such as sodium and chlorine. Usually the cause of death in scouring lambs and kids is dehydration and acidosis, or increased body acidity. Whatever the microbial cause of scours, the most effective treatment for a scouring lamb or kid is rehydration by administering fluids.
Diarrhea in older lambs and kids
The most common causes of diarrhea in older lambs and kids are coccidiosis and gastro-intestinal parasites (worms). Other major causes of diarrhea in older lambs and kids are clostridium perfringins, rumen acidosis, and nutritional.
Clinical disease is common after the stress of weaning, feed changes, or shipping. The diarrhea of lambs and kids is usually not bloody, but it may contain blood or mucous and be very watery. Treatment of affected animals includes supportive care and adminstration of coccidiostats. All animals in a group should be treated during an outbreak. Prevention involves improved sanitation and the use of coccidiostats.
Clostridium perfringens type C tends to affect very young lambs (<2 weeks of age) and presents itself as bloody diarrhea, hemorrhagic enteritis, and bloody scours. Clostridial diseases are easily prevented in the young by vaccinating pregnant dams about three weeks prior to delivery and subsequent vaccination of offspring. Consumption of adequate, high quality colostrum is important.
Diarrhea in adult sheep and goats
Adult-onset diarrhea is less common than in lambs and kids, but nevertheless is possible. Parasitism can cause diarrhea in adult sheep and goats. Coccidiosis can occur in adults under extreme stress or due to lack of immunity. The ingestion of toxins, of which the list is long, can also cause diarrhea. It is not uncommon for sheep or goats to scour when they are grazing lush or wet pasture.
Johne's Disease (pronounced "Yo-nees")
Diarrhea should not be considered an illness in and of itself but rather a symptom of other more serious health problems in sheep and goats. It can be the symptom of many different illnesses, e.g. bloat, acidosis, enterotoxemia, and polio. Diarrhea is not always the result of an infectious disease. It can be induced by stress, poor management, and nutrition.
Before treating an animal for diarrhea, it is essential to determine why the animal is scouring. Take the animal's temperature using a rectal thermometer. If body temperature is above the normal range (102-103°F), fever medications and antibiotics can be used to control the infection.
Many of the common causes of diarrhea are self-limiting, and the major goals of treatment are to keep the animal physiologically intact while the diarrhea runs its course. A variety of oral antidiarrheal medications have been used in sheep and goats. They may be helpful, but no trials have ever been reported.
Pepto-Bismol (Bismuth Subsalicylate, Bismusal) is commonly used to treat livestock with diarrhea. Pepto Bismol contains bismuth which coats, soothes, and relieves the irritated lining of the stomach. Kaopectate (Kaolin-Pectin) can be used to treat non-infectious causes of diarrhea. Drugs which decrease gut motility (e.g. Immodium AD) should not be used. Oral yogurt or probiotics are often given to restore a more normal gut flora.
Antibacterial drugs tend to be very overrated in the treatment of diarrhea but they are sometimes indicated. Treatment with antibiotics is usually not useful when animals are infected with viruses or protozoa. However, antibiotics are useful when bacterial infections are the primary infective agent or where the risk of secondary bacterial infections is high. Sulfa-antibiotics or amprolium should be used in the case of coccidia.
***It is important to note that many of the organisms which cause scours in livestock can cause disease in humans.
Resources and additional reading
Created or last updated by Susan Schoenian on 21-Dec-2009 .