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Dr. B.
Dr. B., Veterinarian
Category: Large Animal Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 17586
Experience:  As a veterinarian, I have been educated to treat all animals, big and small.
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I have an American Barbados ram (bighorn), age 4, with an

Customer Question

I have an American Barbados ram (bighorn), age 4, with an inconsistent cough(has a coughing fit about every 4 days)...I treated him with Ivermectin but his occasional (but impressive) coughing attacks continue. He is otherwise very healthy, robust, shiny and alert. The other 30 sheep in my herd are currently separated for non-breeding concerns and look fine except for one 12 week ram lamb, who is behaving the same. Again, he is otherwise very hearty. Any ideas?
JA: I'm sorry to hear that. Coughing can be worrying. The Veterinarian will know what you should do. Is there anything else important you think the Veterinarian should know about the sheep?
Customer: Regarding his environment, he is currently on a
JA: OK. Got it. I'm sending you to a secure page on JustAnswer so you can place the $5 fully-refundable deposit now. While you're filling out that form, I'll tell the Veterinarian about your situation and then connect you two.
Submitted: 8 months ago.
Category: Large Animal Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 8 months ago.

Hello & welcome, I am Dr. B, a licensed veterinarian and I would like to help you with your wee one today.

Are these two related? Is he in contact with the lamb (ie shared airspace)?

Is it quite a harsh cough?

Any nasal discharge or breathing changes?

Can you let me know what he is currently on, as you appear to have been cut off?

Customer: replied 8 months ago.
This has been going on for 5 weeks, I drenched the ram(age 4 years) with the appropriate weight dose of Ivermectin 3 weeks ago. He has been separate (no shared air space) from the ewes/lambs for 3 weeks. I have a fairly large farm with several non-adjacent pastures and have rotated them all every couple of days to insure they are on clean pasture. Everyone else LOOKS healthy, including the ram lam (12 weeks) who started the same coughing pattern, with no other sign of illness (clear eyes, nose, robust weight gain, normal stools, etc) about the time I separated them. Previous to that time they shared "air space" but my barn is a large open shed with more than adequate airflow, they were never confined in a tight space. So frustrating! and yes, it is a very effortful cough; no nasal discharge or breathing changes...he is very robust otherwise.
Customer: replied 8 months ago.
they are related, the ram is the father of the lamb.
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 8 months ago.

Thank you,

Just since this has been chronic for him, how long ago did the lamb start with signs?

Customer: replied 8 months ago.
3 or 4 weeks. The same very forceful cough/ The lamb is with the others, no others have coughed.
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 8 months ago.

Thank you again,

Now I have a wee bit to type in reply, so I will post in full shortly. Please disregard the automatic phone call request.

Speak to you shortly,

Dr. B.

Expert:  Dr. B. replied 8 months ago.

Hi again,

First, we have a tricky situation here. When we have one animal affected in a group, we tend to be most suspicious of conditions that would affect the individual. Though if we have a second affected individual, then we have to consider whether the two are linked. Though with the elder being otherwise appearing healthy and the junior being in with the others and not causing spread, I would suspect that they are not (unless it is a genetic trait) since the majority of our infectious agents that could appear in multiple animals wouldn’t target their age range.

Now in regards ***** ***** causes for an otherwise seemingly normal ram, we could see this secondary to trauma to the chest or lungs if he could have suffered a blunt force trauma (ie being rammed) and had secondary contusions. Otherwise, upper airway collapse (which is a genetic predisposition and could be passed to his son), foreign bodies, abscess, tumors, or general damage (from the outside but also anything he has eaten) would also be a concern. As well, similar compromise in the esophagus, nose, and nasopharynx (where the nose and throat meet) and to a lesser extent, we can see skull, oral and tongue damage manifest this way. And all could cause intermittent lingering signs as we are seeing here.

Otherwise, I would note that there are a number of infectious agents that could cause this but again most of our bacterial and viral ones are less likely to just cause disease in a non-immune compromised ram. Still, we’d need to keep in mind fungal airway infections, infectious adenocarcinoma (a viral agent that does target few and causes airway or lung tumors), and those that could cause internal abscesses (ie caseous lymphadenitis, TB, etc) here. And while I am very glad you did treat with Ivermectin, I’d note that we do see resistance in some cases of lungworm, so while it’d not cause the young ones signs it could be triggering your elder ram’s signs. Finally, of course, underlying heart issues could affect both, but unlikely.

With this all in mind, we do need to approach this situation in a step-by-step fashion. Further to the worming, it would be advisable to have a stool sample checked for your elder lad. That way we can determine if he is clear of lungworm and treat with an alternative wormer if it is found to still be an issue (or if anything else is, since immune compromise can allow agents like mycoplasma to cause respiratory signs in a single animal). Otherwise, we’d want to consider a trial on anti-inflammatories (ie Flunixin, Meloxicam, Ketoprfen) from his vet for the majority of those individual issues and see if we can reduce any possible genetic tracheal collapse. As well, to try to rule out those last few bacteria agents, you can consider a broad spectrum antibiotic (and that would be ideal for the young one since aspiration and bacterial agents are most likely in his case). Otherwise, if we find that he doesn’t settle with the above, that would be when we’d need to consider if we want to have his chest and upper airway xrayed to see what is present in those sites and check his heart. Depending on the findings of that, his vet can start additional treatment to get him settled.

Please take care,

Dr. B.


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Expert:  Dr. B. replied 8 months ago.


How if everything with your lad?

Dr. B.