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HomeFarming NewsCopper toxicosis confirmed in ewes that ‘pined away’ shortly after lambing
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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Copper toxicosis confirmed in ewes that ‘pined away’ shortly after lambing

Kilkenny Regional Veterinary Lab (RVL) confirmed copper toxicosis in two ewes that were presented for examination.

According to the official lab report, they had ‘pined away’ shortly after lambing.

On gross post-mortem examination, the mucous membranes were icteric (impacted by jaundice – causes yellowing), their livers were pale, and the kidneys were dark in colour.

The hepatic and renal copper concentrations were above the reference range, confirming copper toxicosis, according to the report.

On histopathology (involves examining tissues and/or cells under a microscope. Defined as the diagnosis and study of diseases of the tissues), there was a multifocal necrotising hepatopathy.

Accumulations of copper pigment were identified in cells (hepatocytes and phagocytic) by Rubeanic’s stain (showing as green-black granules), with associated hepatocyte degeneration.

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The lab report outlined that “sheep are particularly susceptible to copper toxicity which can occur acutely or over a period of time due to dietary excess of copper or low intakes of molybdenum, sulphur, zinc, or calcium”.

“Stresses, such as inclement weather, environment, poor nutrition, transportation, and handling can also cause the liver cells to die and release the stored copper into the bloodstream causing intravascular haemolysis,” the report added.

Gerard the Vet – Case with Texel ram

Previously, we published an article regarding a case tended to by Gerard McGovern, who shared details on his popular Instagram page.

He encountered a 2-year-old Texel ram showing signs of weakness, anorexia, anaemia, jaundice, and dark-coloured urine.

The vet suspected that the ram was suffering from copper toxicity.

After speaking to the owner to find out more, he discovered that the ram had been seen eating cattle feed on a number of occasions, even “bullying the cows to get the feed”.

In this case, serum copper levels were 250% higher than normal levels and liver enzyme levels were also increased.

Despite treatment, the ram died, and a post-mortem examination was carried out with photos provided.

He explained that Texel, Charollais and Suffolk sheep are most prone to copper poisoning and there is considerable variation in sensitivity to copper levels in the diet.

Ammonium tetrathiomolybdate can be used to treat copper toxicity but can be difficult to source, according to the veterinarian.

Read more on this news article.

Note – This article is for information purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice – always seek the expertise of your vet.

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