Pneumonia in lambs

Numerous cases of pneumonia have been diagnosed in lambs in confinement lots across the central west in the last few weeks and appears to be on the rise.

Pneumonia is a respiratory disease whereby the lungs become infected and inflamed. It is caused by complex interaction between multiple agents (mainly bacteria), the animals’ immune and physical condition and environmental factors.

At the moment, the stress of confinement in addition to risk factors such as warmer temperatures, nutritional deficiencies, overcrowding and exposure to lung irritants (e.g. dust) potentiates the disease. These factors overload the animals defence mechanisms, allowing bacteria (which are often normally present in the respiratory tract) to invade and cause disease.

There are two forms of pneumonia:

  1. An acute form with more obvious clinical signs such as depression, coughing, nasal discharge and increased respiratory noise and effort, which can occur in sheep of all ages.
  2. The chronic form, whereby clinical signs may be less apparent, is more common in lambs and hoggets.

In either form, pneumonia in lambs is costly, with increased mortality, reduced growth rates and reduction in carcass quality. Whilst treatment with antibiotics is an option, it is costly and response to treatment varies. Ultimately prevention and minimising risk factors is key.

Some preventative measures include:

  1. Putting out additional hay and bicarb soda (either in tubs or two percent in the ration) if a heat wave is forecast
  2. Improve shade and cool water supply
  3. Spread animals out - increase pen size or decrease the number in each pen
  4. Reduce dust where possible
  5. Ensure correct diet - enough energy, protein, roughage, lime, salt and Vitamin A

For more information contact your private veterinarian or your LLS office.

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