Merck Manual

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Professional Version

Nutritional Diseases of Sheep


David G. Pugh

, DVM, MS, Auburn University

Reviewed/Revised Aug 2020 | Modified Oct 2022

Nutritional diseases in sheep are for the most part the same as those seen in goats Nutrition: Goats .

Enterotoxemia in Sheep

This feed-related malady causes almost sudden death in sheep due to a toxin produced by Clostridium perfringens type D and sometimes type C. The organism appears to be widespread in nature. Under conditions of high carbohydrate consumption or high intake of immature succulent forage, the causative bacteria multiply rapidly and produce an ε toxin that increases intestinal permeability. Thus, diets with >20% highly fermentable carbohydrate should be fed with caution. Protection of lambs is possible by vaccinating twice at least 10 days apart with C perfringens type D toxoid or by administering antitoxin at birth. ( See also Enterotoxemias in Animals Enterotoxemias in Animals Type A strains of C perfringens are commonly found as part of the normal intestinal microflora of animals and lack some of the powerful toxins produced by strains of other types. C... read more .)

White Muscle Disease in Sheep

White muscle disease is caused by low levels of selenium and possibly vitamin E. Signs include stiffness (especially in the hindquarters), tucked-up rear flanks, arched backs, pneumonia, and acute death. On necropsy, white striations are found in cardiac, diaphragmatic, and skeletal muscles. Levels of AST and lactic dehydrogenase are increased, indicating muscle damage. Blood levels of the selenium-containing glutathione peroxidase are reduced. Although several feedstuffs are fairly rich in selenium and vitamin E, it may be a good management practice in deficient areas to inject lambs shortly after birth with a preparation of vitamin E and selenium designed for parenteral use. The use of a selenium and/or vitamin E supplemented trace mineral mixture (up to 90 ppm) as the only source of salt fed may be useful as a preventive measure. ( See also Nutritional Myopathies in Ruminants and Pigs Nutritional Myopathies in Ruminants and Pigs Young Boer goat kid with white muscle disease. The patient can move its legs normally but is too weak to stand. CK and AST concentrations were elevated on serum biochemical evaluation. The goat... read more Nutritional Myopathies in Ruminants and Pigs .)

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