flock history and, in some cases, laboratory diagnostics.
Samples (fetus, placenta) can be submitted to your veterinarian
vaginal discharges and feces of carriers.
Enters a non-pregnant ewe and lays dormant, accumulating
the dormant stage.
During pregnancy, the organism enters the uterus and
membranes are opaque, reddened and thick.
If infection occurs before conception, the ewe will abort
occur 60 to 90 days thereafter.
If infection occurs during mid or late pregnancy, stillbirths
in contaminated farms.
Recovered ewes are usually resistant for two to three years.
Ewe usually only aborts once in her lifetime; but may
bacteria when stressed.
A vaccine is available and generally considered to be
Crowding at lambing increases the risk of abortion in the
same or subsequent lambing season.
disinfecting infected pens).
Campylobacter, Campylobacter jejuni.
Ewes become infected by ingesting infected membranes or
will reabsorb the fetus.
If infection occurs during mid-pregnancy, abortion will
A late-pregnancy infection will result in stillbirths and weak
be expected to be immune to re-infection for several years.
Some ewes die of complications such as infected uterus or
history of vibrio.
Clean flocks should be vaccinated if replacement ewes are
flock of vibrio carriers.
Vaccinate just prior to flushing, breeding or at
coccidiosis in cats.
Ewes become infected by ingesting feed or water that has
cause clinical symptoms or detrimental effects.
If infection occurs during early pregnancy, the embryo or
If infection occurs during mid-pregnancy, abortion will
occur and the ewe may be susceptible to a
During late pregnancy, infection will lead to abortion,
signs and death occur on rare occasions.
Risk of infection is greatly reduced by preventing
toxoplasmosis must be weighed against the benefits
of rodent control.
determine whether the pregnant ewe aborts.
If abortion does occur, it usually is during the final month
Ewes that have aborted are immune but can carry and shed
a pink to reddish swelling just below the anus, sometimes only when
the ewe is recumbent but eventually at all times.
strain, will prolapse.
In severe cases, the bladder will be contained inside the swelling
visible as a red knot centrally and low on the mass.
In very severe cases, the rectum may also prolapse.
flock level risk factors.
Outbreaks of VP are often more common in ewe lambs – possibly due
ewes may be more at risk because of “wear and tear.”
Body condition has been associated with a higher risk, with fat ewes or
risk than ewes bearing singles – but this may be again related to body
capacity and size of the ewe.
the following year and so should be culled after weaning their lambs.
Genetics has been suspected but very little research has been
Forages that are of poor digestibility is the most common cause of VP.
Over-conditioned sheep offered free-choice forage will increase their
lack of room from the enlarged rumen and uterus containing the
fetuses. Once the vaginal tissue becomes irritated due to exposure to
the air or environment, the ewe will strain and eventually prolapse.
Feeds containing estrogenic compounds (phytoestrogens) are also
a softening of the ligaments and swelling of the tissues in the vulvar
area. When the ewe is recumbent, again the vaginal tissue protrudes
and is irritated. Feeds associated with phytoestrogens include red
clover hay or haylage, disease stressed alfalfa and grains affected by
the mycotoxin zearalenone. More research is needed to confirm
red clover, or in which the forage is of poor quality should be avoided.
A source of energy, i.e. grain should be offered to also avoid
Animals kept in confinement and unable to exercise may also be more
feeders or ewes forced to stand on their hind legs to feed out of
elevated hay racks during late gestation may have a higher incidence
should be monitored for progression.
It is advisable to have prolapses corrected within 24 hours of their
damage to the vagina.
A veterinarian can be called to replace the prolapse and suture the
of birthing and the suture untied when lambing is imminent.
If the female does not lamb when expected the suture can often be
after weaning and not keeping any of their offspring as replacements.
What is pregnancy toxaemia?
Pregnancy toxemia (pregnancy ketosis) usually occurs in the last few
ewe is at a maximum.
The cause is very simple – affected sheep are not consuming enough
feed energy as those carrying singletons.
Ewes that are already thin when entering late gestation are at
conditioned are also at risk of pregnancy toxaemia, although they do
not respond well to treatment and are more likely to die than
Initially, the signs are subtle – ewes are still eating forage but not grain,
quickly become more depressed and if left untreated will progress to a
coma and death.
Pregnant ewes carrying
multiple fetuses require
more than double the
feed energy as those
Because glucose levels are low in the blood and the brain, the ewe may
show neurological signs which are: walking with her head held
abnormally high, stumbling, having a fine head tremor and appearing
blind. She has a severe headache and may grind her teeth and press
her head against the wall. At this point, she is not eating at all.
Normally, the ewe obtains energy mostly from the ration and much
will mobilize fat and process it through her liver. This process produces
by-products called ketones of which the most common is
β-hydroxybutyrate, which can be measured in the blood and urine.
The fat clogs up the liver and causes liver failure – causing more
depression. Brain damage eventually becomes irreversible and she
slips into a coma. The fetuses die, decompose and the ewe also
becomes toxic. All of these factors contribute to her death.
Animals displaying any of these signs should be examined by a
to any treatment as the liver and brain are severely damaged. It is
important to intervene when she still has some appetite and is
Similar signs may occur with other diseases including hypocalcemia,
in late pregnancy and also controlling any diseases or management
issues that will cause a ewe not to be able to eat properly or will
increase her energy needs (e.g. footrot, bad teeth, inclement weather,
shearing, crowded feeders, mixing of ages and sizes).
adequate body condition as they enter late gestation (3 to 4 on a
fetal skeletons are being formed.
If the diet is low in calcium (e.g. cereal hays such as oat hay have
grain diet with very poor quality “first cut” grassy hay), then the ewe
will not have enough calcium in the diet to stay healthy.
tip her over the edge.
The muscles need calcium to contract. Low calcium causes the ewe to
be unsteady on her feet and eventually she cannot rise. She is cold,
bloated, salivating and her hind legs are most often out behind her
rather than tucked up.
contents from bloating.
The disease can look very much like pregnancy toxaemia but the onset
salts into the blood stream to save her life. But a misdiagnosis, or if the
calcium is given to a sheep with another disease, it can stop her heart.
grasses) and digestible.
ability to breed?
Ram epididymitis is the name given to a disease syndrome in which
connects the testicles to the urethra and is responsible for
and Actinobacillus. They are opportunistic bacteria and often called
lamb epididymitis as it is more common in young rams.
reservoir of infection. Both causes result in reduced fertility in both the
ram and ewe and are spread by veneral transmission.
central and eastern Canada.
Chronic infections with B. ovis – not related to brucellosis in cattle and
ejaculated properly. Fertility is reduced or is absent.
Signs within a flock include non-pregnant ewes, a decreased number of
Typical signs of an infected ram include lumps or swellings within the
a blood test must be used to absolutely rule this disease out.
There is no treatment and control is achieved by culling all
What is balanoposthitis (pizzle rot, sheath rot)?
Balanoposthitis is a painful inflammation involving the prepuce and
treatment will lead to scarring and the inability to breed.
The cause is feeding too much protein (> 14%), which leads to
with mild astringents and applying antibiotic salves. If scarring is
severe, surgery is required to correct this – leading to a long
Feeding more grass hay verses high protein legume hay will prevent
than what is expected for a normal breeding age ram.
This can be congenital, i.e. the ram never has normal-sized testicles, or
be capable of producing sperm at all.
Sperm morphology is often abnormal in affected males.
Rams with only one testicle are not desirable for breeding purposes.
toward establishing a fertile flock.
Alberta Lamb Producers and Alberta Goat Breeders Association, 2009
Abortions in Sheep Causes, Control and Prevention
Justin S. Luther, NDSU Extension, 2006
Ontario Sheep Marketing Agency
Susan Schoenian, Western Maryland Research and Education Center, 2000
Sheep Health and Management
Thomas Thedford, Joe Hughes, Bill Crutcher and Gerald Fitch, Oklahoma
Cooperative Extension Service