I have 5 oxford sheep (1 ram and 4 ewes). The ewes come from 2 lines and I've noticed that one of the lines has a

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Customer: I have 5 oxford sheep (1 ram and 4 ewes). The ewes come from 2 lines and I've noticed that one of the lines has a generational defect. They have intermittent lameness in one or both front feet. Sometimes it can be over a year before it happens. They do not get lame at the same time and it doesn't seem to correlate to any particular season or event. They get better with or without treatment in about the same amount of time. This has happened in 3 generations so far. Any ideas on what it could be. They are in a half acre field with grass and ledge.
Answered by Equine Vet in 11 days 11 years ago
Equine Vet
Pet Specialist

174 satisfied customers

Specialities include: Large Animal Veterinary, Horse Veterinary, Livestock Veterinary Medicine

Good evening. If this is related to a genetic issue its very unusual. More common causes are nutritional, infectious and parasitic. If you have ruled out all of those factors I would consider a muscle biopsy. There are some breed predisposition's to certain muscle diseases.
Sorry, I seem to have mislead you by giving you too little information. The problem is in their hoof. I originally thought it was a thrush type fungal infection but the recovery time didn't seem to vary wether I medicated or not. They just graze on their knees till it resolves if both front feet are involved. If only one foot is involved they stand but limp. It has always been one or both of the front feet though. The oldest (and original) one with the problem we think eventually developed arthritis possibly due to repeated episodes over the years but we can't be sure. That was at the age of 8 or 9. All of the sheep that have had it since trace back to her. The other line has never had an issue even though they are kept together on the same pasture and fed the same. If I remember correctly it seems to happen in spring and summer. Can sheep get founder like horses?
Relist: Other.
added further information and never got a return answer
I hope I can add some more information and help to answer your question. I have to disagree with the previous expert answering your question. There is definitely a genetic component to sheep being susceptible to footrot. Although it is not required that sheep developing footrot come from a certain line, it will be more likely for those that are genetically predisposed to contract it. Footrot is also contagious, so control needs to be aimed at all possibly affected animals; the bacteria can spread by contact, bedding, tools, etc. Treatment of footrot involves trimming away and infected/necrotic hoof (sometimes severely enough to cause bleeding or more pain initially), treating topically with either a footbath or preparations applied by hand, and keeping affected animals away from healthy animals. In some difficult cases systemic antibiotics may be necessary, and anti-inflammatories can also be used to reduce the pain of this disease. I am providing you with a link to Purdue's extension website that has a very good comprehensive overview of footrot, its treatments, how it develops, etc. It says it all better than I could.

Yes, sheep with bad footrot commonly stand on their knees, it is very painful when it progresses. Sheep can also develop laminitis as you have mentioned, although it is not as common as in horses. I suspect this is not the primary cause of your problem. Footrot tends to be worse during wet weather, so Spring would make sense. I suppose it is possible for a sheep to have such continual severe bouts of footrot that they erode into the deeper structures of the foot and cause arthritis, although that may be a longshot. If it is indeed arthritis, it may be more likely from the repeated bouts of being on her knees or from standing awkwardly over time and putting uneven pressure on her joints. She could also have permanent damage to the soft tissue/hoof and have chronic pain from that.

I hope that helps a little. Sounds like you need to target treatment for the bacteria that cause footrot (is not a fungus), and keep a close watch on those that will be prone to it during the wetter times of the year. Your veterinarian will be able to help you select the proper treatment based on how your animals present on examination.

Please let me know if there is anything I can clarify or if you have further questions, and I am sorry you had to wait so long for the previous answer.
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Equine Vet
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