More About That Sheep… Update

This is a continuation of yesterday’s post about a lamb we found dead. It might bore you but I thought some people might be interested in what we suspect to be the real cause of death, especially if you might raise sheep of your own someday.

We happen to have a relief vet at work this week so I shared my story of the dead lamb with her. She, of course, thought about it a little more logically than me. She pointed out that A)There is no way that all those intestines should have come out even if she had started a major coughing fit and B)Even if they did come out, that wouldn’t have killed her. We hear about vaginal/uterine prolapses all the time and the cow or sheep simply lies there until the vet comes to put everything back in. The only way the prolapse itself would have killed that lamb is if there was a lot of blood loss or other trauma to those parts. I didn’t see any blood or evidence of that when I found her.

So… what killed her? For that I called a nearby large animal vet that just loves these kind of stories. I gave him a brief history and told him how I found her. He agreed that she didn’t die of the prolapse. The most common cause of these sudden deaths that he knows of is an internal abscess that suddenly ruptures. Say when she had her cough that there was infection in her lungs. Her body may have walled that off and build up a ton of white blood cells in the area. If she got to ramming around (excuse the pun) or kicking her feet up in the air the extra movement could have ruptured the abscess. Once all that infection was released in her body it would kill her quickly.

Then, when she died and her intestines quit pushing food through, the gas in her rumen (part of the stomach) built up and created a lot of pressure. Similar to how an animal on the side of the road bloats up. Since the muscles around her rectum were already weakened from when she was starting to prolapse before, that was the path of least resistance. Thus, the innards probably came out after she was already dead. We’ll never know for sure what her actually cause of death was but I feel better knowing that I was right not to be concerned with the hint of a prolapse that she had before. The vet offered to open her up and look for an abscess somewhere. I think that would have been a great learning experience but I opted to go to the fair and cheer on our niece instead.

More on the fair later, just wanted to update on this first!

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