Sheep Doctorin’: Suspected Footrot

In the nearly two years that we’ve had sheep we’ve had a few issues arise.  This year a few things came up that I called the vet about.  By calling the vet I expected to bite the bullet and have a big farm call to pay.  Instead, he told me what he would try if he came out and told me to do it.  Ahh, the joys (and overestimations) that coming with being a vet tech!

To start this series off I’ll share how we handled it when 2 of our ewes came home limping.

Footrot

I never actually confirmed that this was footrot but I suspect so.  Footrot is caused by two different bacteria mixing.  It generally occurs in wet or damp conditions.  The only reason I’m not completely sure our ewes had footrot was because it didn’t spread to the other ewes.  Otherwise, it fit the bill, and the treatment for footrot fixed the problem.

When we sent our ewes off on their date with the rams two of them came home limping.  I suspect they were in a pasture that was too muddy for too long.  The best way to treat footrot is to prevent it by offering dry bedding or relatively dry ground for the sheep most of the time.

First, I trimmed the hooves back.  I didn’t find anything obvious and hoped a trim would fix the lameness.  It didn’t.  A few days later I soaked the affected feet in a bucket of warm water and epsom salts.  The soak removed any stuck on dirt and debris and allowed me to get a better look.  I found an oozing, bloody sore between the toes of one ewe.  One toe had a large pocket of dead space when I poked around with my trimmers.  The other ewe wasn’t as bad but did have a small area of damaged/dying hoof tissue on one foot.  I squirted a generous amount (2-3 ccs) of penicillin directly on to the affected area, wrapped it with paper towel, and finished it off with some vet wrap.

Before retreating I picked up a bottle of LA-200.  It is another injectable antibiotic that works better on the kind of bacteria that causes footrot.  I repeated the same process every few days: soak, trim back dead material, squirt on LA-200, and bandage.  The first ewe healed quickly.  As soon as her lameness resolved I stopped treatment.  The second ewe stopped limping almost immediately but her hoof continued to slough off for about 2 weeks.  At one point the entire horny shell of one toe came right off.  For several days I could hold up the shell and squirt the LA right under it.  I left it in place until the new growth underneat had a chance to toughen up, then I trimmed it off to reveal a whole new hoof underneath.

Both of the ewes have completely recovered.  There fit look healthy and they have had no further lameness.  If you had a large number of sheep afflicted you would want to look in to soaks and other less labor intensive treatments.  In our case this type of individual treatment worked great.

These posts are in no way meant to substitute the care of a professional veterinarian.  I only share my experiences with the hope of helping you become a better shephard.  If at any time you think you might be doing more harm than good STOP and call your vet instead.

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5 thoughts on “Sheep Doctorin’: Suspected Footrot

  1. Rich

    I know very little about sheep, but there is a blog at:

    http://colliefarm.wordpress.com/

    where she has done some experimenting with different mineral supplemental formulations to help with her sheep’s feet problems. After some research, she has started to include copper in the mineral supplements for her sheep (even though it isn’t commonly suggested for sheep).

    There are some interesting posts about mineral availability, supplementing sheep with copper, and foot care of sheep.

    Reply
    1. marriedtothefarm Post author

      Thanks for the link, I’ll be sure to head over there at some point. The mention of copper caught my eye. I’ve never heard of anyone trying that and am interested in the levels she is using. I hope to avoid any further outbreaks by keeping the flock on relatively dry ground and trimming regularly.

      Reply
    1. marriedtothefarm Post author

      Thanks! I was checking the site for awhile waiting for that to become available but I guess I quit checking because that’s the first time I’ve seen it. Definitely worth reading through.

      Reply

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