How to Examine For Disease in Sheep and Goat

Disease in Sheep and Goat:

Purpose : Identification of animals in the early stages of sickness can aid the farm manager in restricting the spread of disease in the flock and initiating treatment at the earliest.

  1. Spotting of sick animals Parameter Healthy animal Sick animal
Sheep Goat
1. Look of animal Alert Dull
2. Head Raised Bent downwards
3. Eyes Wide open, bright Dull with white deposition at the corners
4. Conjunctival m.m. Normal Pale or congested
5. Nose No discharge Slimy discharge
6. Movement Active Sluggish, lameness
7. Response Quick Slow
8. Feces Normal Hard / loose, mucus/blood-stained, discolouration, dysentry
9. Pulse (/min) 70-90 70-90 Increased
10. Body temperature (oF) 102.4 103.8 Increased
11. Respiration (/min) 12-30 12-30 Increased, difficult
12. Grazing Normal Abnormal
13. Rumination Regular Irregular
14. Feed and water intake Normal Reduced
15. Udder Normal May be swollen
16. Skin Healthy Infected, external parasites
  1. Sample collection

To examine Disease in Sheep : Samples include blood (microbiology, immunology, hematology, protozoan parasites), feces (endoparasites and enteric pathogens), urine (urinary tract infections), skin scraping (ectoparasites), ruminal fluid (ruminal dysfunction), vaginal discharge (reproductive tract infections)

  1. Administration of medicines

Routes include oral (drenching/feeding bolus), parenteral (intra-muscular, intra-venous, intra-peritoneal, sub-cutaneous) and topical.




When sheep and goats have stomach diseases their droppings usually become soft, watery and smelly. There are many conditions that cause diarrhoea. These include colibacillosis, paratyphoid, Johne’s disease, Rift Valley fever (Slenkdalkoors), coccidiosis, worms and poisonous plants.


This condition is caused by a germ (bacteria). It usually affects lambs/kids under 2 weeks of age. This age group is usually affected because of one or more of the following reasons:

  • Lambs/kids need to drink the first milk from their mothers, which is known as colostrum. This protects them to a certain extent from colibacillosis and a variety of other diseases. If lambs/kids do not drink this milk after they are born they are more likely to get sick.
  • Paddocks or kraals are dirty and wet.
  • Lambs/kids are already sick with another disease, which makes them more vulnerable to become infected with colibacillosis.
  • Lambs/kids are placed under stress by moving them to another location (e.g. another paddock/kraal) or putting too many lambs/kids together.

The germ causing colibacillosis is present in the droppings of sick sheep and goats. When lambs/kids eat food or drink water contaminated with these droppings they get sick.

Signs in live sheep and goats

The animals are depressed and not eating. They have a watery, whitish-yellow or greyish diarrhoea that is known as “white scours”. The umbilical cord is sometimes red and swollen. The back legs are dirty with droppings. Lambs/kids usually die as a result of dehydration.

Signs in dead sheep and goats

There are no exact signs. The gut is usually redder than normal and filled with a greyish to yellowish liquid.


Colibacillosis can be treated with antibiotics. It is important to give sick lambs/kids sufficient water and electrolytes to prevent them from dying of dehydration. Ewes and does can be vaccinated 6 to 8 weeks before birth to protect their lambs/kids.


This disease is caused by a germ (bacteria). It usually affects older lambs and 2- to 4-tooth sheep and goats (1 to 2 years of age). The reasons for this include one or more of the following:

  • Stress caused by moving the sheep and goats, for example to a feedlot or an abattoir or keeping too many sheep and goats together.
  • Sudden change in feed, e.g. they are usually put onto a high concentrate, low roughage feed when moved to a feedlot.
  • High numbers of Salmonella germs present in the environment, e.g. at the abattoir or feedlot.

Signs in live sheep and goats

They have a fever and do not eat. A watery green diarrhoea that is sometimes spotted with blood can be seen. They usually die within 7 days from dehydration or septicaemia. If they do not die within 7 days they become very thin and stand with their backs rounded and stomachs tucked in. Pregnant ewes may abort and these lambs/kids will already be in a decomposed or rotted condition.

Signs in dead sheep and goats

The whole intestine will contain a watery and smelly liquid.


Antibiotics will help to reduce the number of deaths. In this disease it is also important to give sheep and goats enough water and electrolytes.

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