Saturday, April 6, 2013

Hypothermia in Lambs

Note:  Scrappy, the calf, is living outside in the barn and loves all her freedom to run and play.  We kind of spoil this bottle baby as she is let out for bottle time to run and play with the Great Pyr's.

On to the next phase - bottle lambs.  SOME PHOTOS ARE GRAPHIC - DO NOT LOOK IF YOU ARE DISTURBED BY ANIMALS IN THIS MANNER.   I am posting these for reference only as our lambs are doing fine now.  God definitely was helping.  We named the ewe lamb Mary (short for Miracle) and the ram lamb Marty (one of the kids ideas of short for Miracle).

Two orphans - not unusual, not normal, but very do-able.  Just over three pounds each, but now they are a week old and doing well.

Then the storm hit and one of the twin lambs who looked fine at 3, did not by 7 pm.  She came in and I don't have photos of her, but then her brother went down.  The mom has plenty of milk, but had hurt herself after evening chores.  Still not sure how she hurt her front leg in the pen, but she did and so won't get up as often as needed for the one twin we left with her.  Of course it happens at night and we had cold, rain and snow.  Even in the sheltered lambing jug, lambs that are only a few days old need to eat more often than mama was feeding.  He was sleeping by her at 3:30 a.m, we didn't check again until 7:30 and he was in really bad shape.  Looking back - of course we wish we had checked sooner - poor management decision due to feeding babies every three hours the past week.  So, we find him in a hypothermic condition.  Basically - they look dead, but we could feel the heartbeat still going.  After getting his sister to come along, I realized I wanted to take some photos (especially if this all worked out).

The next few pictures are not wonderful, but after dealing with a calf with hypothermia, I hope they are helpful.  I didn't take any until after working with the baby for about an hour or so (didn't think of it sooner - too busy).  We didn't have the means for an IP shot of glucose into the abdomen, but did use corn syrup on the gum lines like we did with his sister the night before.  Ended up using about one once per lamb.  Just dip finger in and rub along gums.  Be sure to have a damp towel handy to wipe off.

While doing this, lamb on pad with heating pad and towel covering - warm VERY SLOWLY.  They need the glucose from the syrup to absorb into their body so they have something to metabolize while being warmed up.

The female lamb started showing minor improvement every 5 minutes with this method.  The male took much longer, but after about an hour, he could start to hold his head without the flopping.  Remember - if the lamb cannot hold its head up at all DO NOT TUBE IT.

At the point below - this is about 45 minutes in with the ram.  I sure didn't think he would survive.  I didn't have his temp at this point - wish I did, but did not as I was dealing with two lambs as his sister was a bit more lively.
He cannot control his head, so I am continuing a finger tip of corn syrup to the mucus membranes (gums) in his mouth every 5-10 minutes.  I also use a warm wash cloth to wipe his mouth every 15 minutes as it does get sticky.  About 15 minutes later (and I changed up the heating pad position as well).  Notice he keeps his head a little better.  Still very little control, but hope is appearing.  I remember reading somewhere - where there is life - keep fighting.  So, we did.

About 2 hours into everything - he can hold his head between his front legs.  This is huge - as I remember his sister - once she did this (20 minutes in) started progressing more rapidly.  She kept coming by to see what was up - then would go back and lie down for another nap.

He still couldn't hold his head up at this point, but it was no longer flailing back and forth if he tried to move it.  So - continued the karo syrup and warming process.  We do have a pellet stove in the basement where we brought them.  Cranked it up (we are in t-shirts now to care for them as the room is really warm until their temperatures return to normal)

Then - almost two hours later - he held his head up!  I waited about 10 minutes to be sure.  

Still looking really good.  Just short bursts of time, but he is 'steady' (shaky, but has control).

At 15 minutes, he is still able to control his head, so we tubed him.  I did add a bit of karo syrup to his first feeding (vet's advice).  He went to sleep within just a few minutes.  Knowing how to place a feeding tube into an animal is an important skill to have in your arsenal.  Just go slow and take your time.  One video (huge thanks to creator - I don't know him, but appreciated this the first time I saw it - about 2 years ago) can be found here:

One hour later, he is looking much better.  I tubed him again.  I only used 2 ounces at a time.  I realize they can eat more, but I know many small meals are better for baby lambs than multiple large meals, so this is just the choice I made.

After his second tubing - he can hold his head much better now.

Our little ICU lambs and Spud.  He is a crossbred from our 'wild flock' type lambs.  The hardiness of these little guys is amazing when compared to the domestic lambs.  However, the domestic lambs are much, much bigger.  He is just checking them out.  The ewe is on the blue cushion the ram is on the brown.  No real reason for the cushion, other than ease of movement for us as there is not a ton of space when working.  A few notes - it takes a while for lambs to return to normal temperature (101).   Even with a warm room, they need some extra warmth until completely recovered.  His sister, doing much better, still seems a bit chilled at times and took a nap on the heating pad.

The ram lamb had started baahing after a nap after the second tubing.  When offered a bottle, he drank 5 ounces on his own.  Then we let him sleep.  Here he is two hours later - he got up to urinate and drank another 5 ounce bottle on his own.  His sister had almost the identical recovery, just much faster to her first bottle.

At this point, both lambs have been taking bottles routinely (every three hours).  They appear to be recovering well.  Their mom is doing a bit better, but still has trouble getting up and down.  These guys may become permanent bottle babies, but we hope to try milking the ewe (as we have) more while she recovers.

Trying to catch four lambs on film in a small area isn't always easy.  The Ram, Sparkle, Spud, and Mary.  This is 12 hours later.  Hopefully all continues.  The white lambs have had 20 ounces so far and the little guys are on track where they belong.  Figure to feed 15-20% of body weight for lambs.  We will weigh the white lambs later tonight.  For now, small meals are how we will keep going.  

Another note regarding recovery.  The ewe lamb got up and was walking and just didn't want to stop moving.  Like when little lambs are tired and won't lie down.  We did take her and put her into a dog kennel we have and she finally took a nap as there was no where to go.  Since then, her brother has recovered enough to get around and they take naps together after each bottle.  Pretty much - if they aren't eating - they are sleeping right now.

PS - I am not an expert in lambs by any means, but just went with our veterinarians advice (long distance away) and what was available.  This is the first year we have had domestic type sheep and the other lambs have not had any issues like this.  I am guessing these are not typical issues, and while I hope to never deal with lambs that have hypothermia again, I did want a record that I can find if needed.  I also hope to learn about how to do inter-parentenial injections.

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