Bringing a lamb back from a hypothermic state requires timely intervention to avoid mortality, as highlighted during a recent webinar on preparing for lambing broadcast by Teagasc Mayo.
During his presentation, Ballina, Co Mayo-based business and technology advisor – drystock, James Fitzgerald, outlined that some older lambs (a few days old), particuarly in inclement (cold and wet) weather conditions, may enter into a state of shock or coma.
In this case, lambs can lose body heat at a rapid rate and, unless they are well fed, can develop hypothermia, which will see their temperature fall below the desired 39-40 ℃.
The lamb may appear humped up, lethargic, isolated, may not follow their dam, and in severe cases, may be unable to hold their head up.
He advised that hypothermic lambs will require an intraperitoneal injection before being placed in a warming box.
He recommends 10ml per kg of a 20% dextrose solution or a suitable alternative, as follows:
“It comes in a package of a sugar-type substance called dextrose, which you can dilute down maybe to a 20% solution.”
“So, for each 100ml of each you make, you will use 80ml of cool, boiled water and 20g of dextrose.”
“You inject it into the lamb’s abdomen, basically 1 inch to the side and 1 inch down from the navel, and aim the needle back towards the top of the tail head of the lamb.”
“If you inject it in there, you can put that lamb under a red lamp, and within 30 minutes, they should be more or less back to themselves and in a state where you can feed them some milk to get them going again.”
“What has happened is that the lamb has gone over hungry, where the ewe had not enough milk to keep the lamb going, and it has gone into a coma from that.”
If you are not confident in injecting the lamb as outlined above, Fitzgerald advised that you can give the same solution carefully by stomach tube and wait one hour for absorption into the lamb’s system first of all, before heating.
“If you are using a stomach tube, you are better off not putting the lamb under a red lamp for about one hour,” he stressed.
“You may not be just as successful, but if you are not comfortable injecting, it is still better off to try it because, by the time the lamb has gotten to this stage, you are just trying to save them,” he concluded.
Approaching a hypothermic lamb
According to Teagasc’s Glen Corbett, how you approach a hypothermic lamb depends on three things:
- Ability to swallow.
In an article on Teagasc’s website, he advises:
- If hypothermia is mild, dry the lamb, feed and then warm it;
- If hypothermia is severe and the lamb is more than five hours old and able to swallow, feed with stomach tube, dry and warm it;
- If hypothermia is severe and the lamb is more than five hours old and unable to swallow, give an intraperitoneal injection of glucose (outlined above), dry and then warm;
- If the hypothermia is severe and the lamb is less than five hours old, dry and warm them, then feed with a stomach tube.
As always, please consult your veterinary practitioner for animal health advice.
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