How to Health Check a Sheep – Sheep owners should see the signs of good health in their sheep. Good health can be indicated by attention, regular movement and no sign of lameness, the absence of wounds or injuries and regular feeding habits.
It is also crucial for sheep owners to know the signs that indicate ill health. These can include listlessness or lack of energy, changes in behaviour or posture, lameness, signs of wounds or illness, coughing or unusual panting, rubbing, loss of weight and wool and sometimes separating from the flock.
The following list give a good basic daily checklist of general guidelines for monitoring the health of sheep:
- A sheeps stance is steady and centred on strong legs. It is long and tall with a straight back.
- Normal movement means that sheep moves freely and easily with no hesitation, jerking, limping or circling.
- Sheep in distress can “baa” very loudly and repeatedly. However, sheep may vocalize when approached, handled or if specific body parts are touched or palpated. They may also vocalize to avoid being handled. This is normal.
- Coughing or Sneezing can indicate pain or respiratory disease.
- A healthy sheep has a good appetite and may eat and drink several times a day.
- A sheeps wool coat and how it is cared for varies with its breed, age and the season. Hair should not shed in patches. The skin is not dry or cracked.
- A sheeps skin is smooth and flexible like elastic. Tight skin can be a sign of dehydration.
- Mucous membranes that line the eye, ear, nose, mouth, anus and vagina are moist and pink. If they are dry or white, your sheep may be abnormal.
- Feces look like pellets and do not show any signs of blood, mucus or have a bad odour.
As well as these indicators of good health, it is imperative that owners know their animals individual vital signs. This is known as monitoring the TPR:
- Temperature – the normal body temperature is 38°C to 40°C and should be measured rectally.
- Pulse – a sheeps pulse rate can range between 70 to 80 beats per minute. Pulse should be taken by placing your hand over the heart at the floor of the chest. Feel the heart beat with your fingers, not your thumb. The heart rate gain when a sheep becomes excited.
- Respiration – the average sheep takes 12 to 20 inhalations a minute and these can be checked by holding your hand or a mirror in front of the sheeps nostrils. Warmer weather can cause panting.
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