Pregnancy Toxaemia

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Pregnancy toxaemia is a metabolic disorder in late pregnant sheep and goats where the body's energy requirements are not being met,. In the final 2 months of a ewe's pregnancy, 70% of the lambs growth is taking place. It is therefore particularly important at this time to make sure the ewe has enough good feed to keep her and her lamb going.

Ewes carrying twins are more often affected but ewes carry single lambs can also get the disease especially if they are over conditioned (fat). Stressful events like worms, feet problems, mouth problems yarding or severe weather events can bring on pregnancy toxaemia. Late pregnant ewes should not be without feed for more than 4 hours.

We see pregnancy toxaemia commonly in winter when pastures are short and are often poor quality, making it difficult for the ewe to get sufficient energy intake.


What does Pregnancy toxaemia look like?

Separation from the flock

Standing still when approached

Drowsiness, slow to move

Apparent blindness

May stand inw ater all day lapping water

Down, unable to get up

Tremors and spasms of head, face and neck muscles.

There is usually a slow progression to recumbency (down and unable to get up) 2-3 days after the onset of initial signs:

Profound depression or coma then progresses until death 2-6 days after the onset of signs.


How can we treat Pregnancy toxaemia?

For any treatment to be successful it must be given early.

Treatment involves providing energy in the form of a drench, providing calcium (as calcium levels are often low in pregnancy toxaemia) and increasing appetite. In severe cases we may also need to induce labour.

Once ewes start showing signs of pregnancy toxaemia, feed supplements should be provided to the mob as soon as possible

If you suspect you have a sheep with pregnancy toxaemia please contact us at the clinic as soon as possible so we can discuss options with you.

How do we prevent pregnancy toxaemia?

Prevention of pregnancy toxaemia is always better than trying to cure it.

Prevention involves recognising and anticipating the decline in the level of nutrition of the pasture, and providing better pastures or energy and protein supplements for 6 weeks prior to lambing 

Ideally ewes should maintain their bodyweight throughout their pregnancy, ie they should start their pregnancy at a moderate body weight and maintain this throughout. Avoid ewes that are either carrying too much condition or are too light.

Give special attention to all ewes in late pregnancy. Anuy ewe affected by a condition that can interfere with eating is susceptible to Pregnancy Toxaemia. Also take special care when mustering and yarding ewes in late pregnancy so they or not off their feed for too long.

The best time to deal with pregnancy toxaemia is before the ewe is pregnant! Aiming to join ewes is good body condition and then maintaining this condition throughout pregnancy is the best way to manage the risk of pregnancy toxaemia.

If you have any questions about pregnancy toxaemia and how to manage this condition please give us a call at the clinic. We are here to help!