Respiratory Disease in Sheep

Dr. G.F. Kennedy, Pipestone Veterinary Services
(Previously published online with Ask a Vet – Sheep: January 13, 2018)

I posted a short article about Raspy Lambs and added a tag, pneumonia, and that tag has been constantly viewed so we decided we should broaden the scope. Respiratory disease is probably the most important disease in sheep and it can range from the insignificant such as OPP or the widely used term “barn cough”. It affects all ages and breeds and all differently. The OPP zealots would say its all OPP and guys like me would say its all Pasteurella. The Pasteurella, that doesn’t exist anymore, its now Mannheimia. Basically with respiratory disease in sheep we are working with gram negative bacteria that respond to drugs like Nuflor, Oxytetracycline, Draxxin and others. Penicillin doesn’t help. My method of administration is always subcutaneous and I would not recommend the neck area. Early diagnosis and prompt and extended treatment are essential for successful treatment of individual animals. In valuable animals, I am inclined to use Nuflor and Draxxin simultaneously. The Nuflor causes an immediate effect and the Draxxin causes a prolonged effect.

Unnamed and unknown viruses may be involved and I certainly wonder about them when I encounter “barn cough”. A lot of these lambs don’t develop clinical signs of pneumonia, but the growth rate may be slowed and rectal prolapses may become a constant problem. The use of sulfas in the water are are a consideration for treatment and results vary. Elimination of manure pact to reduce ammonia gas is important. Dust can be irritating as well. Injecting the entire group with antibiotics may reduce cough but it may come back.

Another recommended practice is a dosage of Sulfadimethoxine or Sulfamethazine in the drinking water for five days at the rate of one pint to 20-25 gallons of drinking water.

There are certainly breed differences when it comes to incidence and susceptibility. It’s difficult to find an old style Rambouillet with pneumonia and in days past it was easy to find a Finn sheep with respiratory signs.

The key is to select the right drugs, early detection, prompt and prolonged treatment to avoid relapses that do not respond well to treatment.