The information on this page is largely from other Icelandic Sheep owners. I would like to
thank Laurie Ball-Gisch and Stefania Sveinbjarnardottir Dignum and members of ISBONA
for the following advice.
The Sick Sheep
Here is a suggestion on how to deal with a sick adult sheep:
separating themselves from other sheep
not getting up when everyone else does
Pen the sheep and provide fresh water with molasses in it and some good quality hay.
Make sure they have access to salt/minerals.
1. check eyelids for pinkness
3. check rumen contractions/chewing cud
4. observe general condition - ears, brightness of eyes, stance,
Check one of Laura Lawson's books (Managing your Ewe, or Lamb Problems) to see if
symptoms match any of the diagrams in the back based on the info you collected so far.
If nothing matches clearly, here are some options:
4: SheepDrench (vitamin mixture for energy)
5. Vitamin B shot
6. A one time shot of Vitamin A/D (1 cc) or 5c of oral Cod Liver Oil
6. 5cc Probiotic paste: Probios. (if there is no interest in food - as per instructions)
7. Electrolytes - as much as the animal will take (administered
orally by drench if the animal is not drinking voluntarily)
8. Access to minerals.
Now, wait and try not to worry overnight.
I recommend avoiding antibiotics as much as possible, especially if temperature is not
elevated. Apple Cider Vinegar and Vitamin C will go a long way towards revitalizing the
animal's immune system. Give the Vitamin B is once a day until appetite and vigor return
The probiotic is once a day until the appetite returns and/or feces is normal. The
electrolytes are several times a day to keep the animal hydrated.
The Thin Sheep
If you notice loss of condition of one of your sheep, check the following and treat
Correctness of teeth
Injury or other illness /symptoms
Adequate minerals available.
If none of these are apparent, and you believe that the loss of condition is due to lack of
food/energy/protein intake, here are a few supplement plans that can help you sheep get
back to their optimum weight:
Beet Pulp can be purchased at most feed stores for under $10 per 50 lb sack. Mix one
cup beet pulp with three cups water and let sit overnight (12 hours). When ready to
feed, mix in 1/4 cup soybean meal and a drizzle of molasses. You can also add a small
amount of COB or Rolled Oats if desired. Please remember that soybean meal can
cause irritation in the sheath when fed to male sheep. You may choose to leave out the
soybean meal when feeding this mix to male sheep. Usually I find that the rams and
wethers are the fattest on my farm, so they do not require feed supplements.
2) Lamb Finisher
Mix 1 cup Lamb finisher pellets ("Creep") or alfalfa pellets, 1/4 cup soybean meal and 1/4
cup powdered lamb replacer milk. Drizzle with molasses.
3) Whole Oats
For a ram who has lost condition, whole oats are safer for the urinary tract than other
feeds. Add some Apple Cider Vinegar to their water, and make sure they have adequate
Vitamin A/D (you can give them 10cc Cod Liver Oil).
You may find other mixes that work for your sheep. The idea is to increase their fat and
protein intake without shoving them into Ketosis. Soybean meal helps the sheep avoid
ketosis by encouraging their natural metabolism.
Remember, when you change a sheep's feed, do so slowly. When you believe your
sheep is finished with the supplement regimen and ready to join the flock on their hay
ration, reduce the supplement slowly so you don't shock their system.
There are two types of small cuts that most Shepherds feel comfortable treating
themselves (without the help of a vet). If you have any concerns, call your vet for help.
Small surface cuts and shallow puncture wounds.
For small surface cuts, flush with hydrogen peroxide and rinse the wound with an iodine
solution (remove any dirt). Coat with your choice of topical medications. Here are a few
to choose from:
Swat (stops bleeding, also repels insects)
Schreiner's Herbal Solution (also an anti-fungal, and repels insets)
You can usually leave the cut open to the air to heal. You may want to repeat the
above-mentioned steps daily, until the wound is healed. During the warmer months, be
sure to take precautions for flies. Either coat the area with Swat, or spray with an equine
For shallow puncture wounds, rinse the area with an iodine/warm water solution. You
may want to flush it with hydrogen peroxide. Coat with a thin layer of Nolvasan/Novasol
and leave open to drain (use gloves when applying medications). You can also begin
sheep on antibiotic to reduce chance of infection. More serious wounds should be
treated by a vet.
If you ever see one of your sheep laying upside down, run as fast as you can to flip them
right again. If sheep are stuck laying on their back, they cannot expel gas from their
rumen, and their lungs will eventually be crushed, leading them to die of suffocation.
This can happen to ANY sheep of ANY age. Rams, ewes, wethers...it doesn't matter.
Here are times when ewes are more likely to be cast: when they have a large fleece that
is wet, when they are pregnant. Once flipped right again, the sheep will begin to burp
and pass gas. It may take them some time to feel right again, so you may want to
separate them from the flock and take extra care for them.
Treatment of bloated sheep consists of measures that will stop the formation of
additional gas and will assist in the removal of the gases already present.
If you see a sheep in the beginning stages of bloat, try the following:
Bloat Remedy #1
Using a syringe, squire 3-4-5 cc of CAST'OR OIL down the throat. After administering
this successfully, you will have to feed the sheep 1/2 cc of Neomycin Sulfate (an
antibiotic) to restart the rumen.
Bloat Remedy #2
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable or mineral oil
2 tbsp baking soda. Mix well and put into a soda bottle. Use one cup for a full grown
Bloat Remedy #3 Frothy Bloat (lambs on bottles)
1/2 tsp. ground ginger in 2 tbsp. water and shoot it down the throat with a syringe.
Be sure to consult your sheep books or your veterinarian. They will recommend other
methods that may include more difficult remedies to administer such as forcing a hose
down the gullet and in extreme emergency situations, a hole can be made in the rumen
to let gases escape.
by Stefania Sveinbjarnardottir Dignum
"More often than I care to remember, I have gotten calls from frantic breeders that either
think themselves, or have been told by their vets, that the sheep have CL, only to be
reassured by me, rightly, that it is cruels."
That concern is very understandable since this is a rather unpleasant condition and
many believe that this is Caseous Lymphadenitis or CL. Fortunately these abscesses
usually are not CL, but what is called "Cruels" by Dr. David Henderson's book. The
causative agent is a bacterium called "Actinobacillus lignieresii" which is an organism that
lives on the skin and in the gut of a normally healthy animal. The abscesses are usually
round, the size varying from a marble size up to a golf ball. Sometimes two or more are
located very close, almost in a cluster. They are usually located on the head, the lower
jaw and lips, occasionally on the neck close to the head. The puss is greenish and thick,
but not like in CL where the puss is like a cream cheese and whitish in color.
The bacterium lives on usually healthy animals, but can gain access to the tissue
through cuts or wounds. I find this most common when thistles are plentiful in pastures. I
have also read that cruels is very common in cactus country.
Fortunately this is a condition that can be treated. Treatment consists of draining the
abscess when ripe. The sign of ripeness is when a bald spot forms on top of the "ball."
After draining, the hollow can be cleaned out with hydrogen peroxide and a shot of long
acting penicillin should be given. I have had good results in curing cruels. Cruels can
occur several times in the same animal as no immunity is built up.
Chances are that you will find cruels in your sheep sooner or later. Don't panic, but don't
ignore it. You might want your vet to make a sample of the puss to make sure that it is
not CL. Many vets are unfamiliar with cruels in sheep and automatically assume this is to
be CL. Mine did. It was not until after I had read about "boil pest" (kylapest in Icelandic)
and creuls, and finding that both were caused by the same bacterium (i.e. it is the same
disease) and we had taken THREE samples of puss to try to culture CL, that we realized
what this was.
After talking with other shepherds, I would like to share some more information about
1) Sheep are more susceptible to getting cruels when the hay they are eating is "pokey"
- i.e. stemmy or the type of hay that has sharp seed heads in it. The lips and mouths and
snouts of sheep are extremely tender and the skin is easily pierced. Since the bacterium
lives on their skin, it gains entrance thru these pokes (or cuts) and enters the
bloodstream of the sheep. It attacks the lymp system, and quite often the abscesses or
boils will appear in places, especially at the jaw/neck line, that mimic where CL is found.
This is why most veterinarians immediately assume the problem is CL and don't look
further. The problem with this assumption is that if CL is misdiagnosed, sheep are usually
put down for no reason; cruels can be cured quite easily.
2) The site of entrance is often the lip area, and if you notice a sheep with a swollen lip,
looking like it got "punched" you can suspect a case of Cruels waiting to happen. Get in
the habit of watching your sheep chewing; if their mouth or lips are swollen or they look
"funny",hold the animal and run your finger on the inside of the lip to see if there are any
small abscesses or sores there. Sometimes thorns, and hay can get caught in this area
and you should use your finger to clean it out if you see a swollen lip. Flush the area with
iodine or hydrogen peroxide. Preventative measures include making sure your sheep
have good quality hay that is not full of sharp seed heads or stemmy; Cheat grass is a
common culprit in causing this problem. Also, be sure that there is not rough cut lumber
around your sheep which can cause slivers.
3) The abscess needs to be drained and flushed out. One can use iodine or hydrogen
4) The animal must receive a course of long lasting antibiotics (like LA200)
5) One flockmaster said that it was only after getting the selenium intake of their flock
under control, that they were able to eliminate almost all cases of cruels. The
recommendation was that if you find a sheep with cruels, to also give them a Bo-SE shot
and extra Vitamin E to prevent reoccurence. Be sure that your sheep are getting enough
selenium in their mineral mix and hopefully you will never see an abscess on your sheep.
6) Many times cruels are not observed if the sheep is in full fleece. Oftentimes the
abscess or boil is not discovered until the day of shearing. If you discover a boil or
abscess at shearing, separate the animal and treat it. But do use latex gloves and be
sure to dispose of the puss so that it does not spread on surrounding surfaces or other
animals. If your flock has never had CL and you've not seen abscesses before, and if
you have not brought new animals onto your farm, chances are very good that it is cruels
and not CL, so do not panic. If the animal is new to your farm, it is a good idea to have
the drainage cultured for CL just to be safe. During this waiting time, keep the animal
isolated from other sheep just to be safe until cruels is confirmed.
7) The main thing to remember is DO NOT PANIC if you see an abscess - especially if
you raise Icelandic hseep - cruels seems to be quite common with this breed and it is
important not to be too rash in decision making, no matter what the veterinarian says,
until you know for sure.