Wednesday evening we went down to feed the animals like usual. I walked over to the sheep pen and one of our momma sheep turned and her hind leg stuck straight out, almost like it was paralyzed. This caused her to fall over. I immediately hollered to hubby that we needed to call Marty, our sheep advisor. By the time hubby walked over to the momma she had gotten back up and was eating. He is from the show me state. He really has to see it with his own eyes to believe it so he thought the sheep was fine. I went ahead and called Marty to see what he had to say. Marty was not sure what would cause a sheep to act that way, but gave me some ideas to consider. By the way, it is difficult to describe wonky sheep behavior over the phone. You really have to see it.
A few minutes after I got off the phone with Marty, hubby witnessed the momma fall down. You know what he said? “Something is wrong with that sheep! She fell down!”. Within an hour, the following video was taken. It was like she couldn’t get control of her hind legs. Sorry for the darkness.
We called the vet, who said she’d come the next morning. She advised giving 3 ounces of pepto bismol. We poured it into a measuring cup, then used a syringe to administer it. We only had a 3 ml syringe so it took awhile to get the full dose in her. She was weak enough it was very easy to hold her, open her mouth, and put the medicine in. We felt like we should do more for her, so we posted the above video on a farming group on Facebook. We got several pieces of advice. We ended up giving her gatorade and a Flintstone vitamin. We were concerned about sheep polio, which is due to a deficiency in thiamine or b12. The Gatorade was to help with an electrolyte imbalance. She had diarrhea for about two days before she fell down so we thought maybe electrolytes would help.
I went down again around 9 pm that first night and she couldn’t even stand at that point. I picked her up and she couldn’t use any of her legs to hold herself up. I was pretty sure she would not make it through the night. I had to lie her on her side so the lamb could access her udder. I started thinking that maybe we needed to put her out of her misery. I didn’t want her to suffer and I didn’t want to waste her meat. After much thought and debate, we decided to see how she did overnight. The nursing lamb was what convinced me to give her a chance. I talked to God about it and had a peace that no matter what happened, He was in control. The next morning we tromped down to the barn. We could hear her baaaing before we got there. She survived the night! Something we did helped (or at least didn’t hurt).
She could get up and walk a few steps before falling. That was improvement compared to the night before. The vet came a few hours later and checked her over. She wasn’t sure what was wrong exactly, but suspected something neurological. She gave vitamin b12, thiamine, and a steroid injection.
Later on the second evening, we went down to check on the sick momma when we found another lamb had been born. We laughed since we’d spent all this time in the barn the last 12 hours and none of us noticed a laboring ewe. Anyways, at this point the sick momma could walk around. Her walk was not normal. Her legs would spasm/twitch. She high stepped at times. She walked a little sideways. However, she was walking without falling! Here is a video of her wonky walking.
By the third day and dose of the steroids the sick momma was walking normally! Praise the Lord! We still don’t know her exact diagnosis or which remedy helped. We did realize how our animals are important to us on a financial and an emotional level. It was difficult to watch her suffer. It was difficult to consider butchering her, but I also felt ready to do so if needed. Our Uncle Jon even showed up with all the proper equipment and knowledge to help us butcher her if the vet gave that advice. I’m so grateful that we didn’t have to use his skills yet.