How to control scours in baby lambs

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How to control scours in baby lambs
Baby lambs may suffer from diarrhoea. (lamb image by Renata Osinska from

Scours, otherwise known as diarrhoea, is a familiar ailment amongst newborn lambs and is identifiable by watery stool. Though common, scours may lead to dehydration and pneumonia --- and is potentially deadly --- if left untreated. Causes can be parasitic or viral, environmental and/or nutritional, but all result in rapid dehydration of the animal. Timely treatment, rehydration and containment of potentially infectious excrement is critical in the effort to provide the animal the best chance for recovery.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Bottle with nipple
  • Newspaper
  • Latex gloves for soiled paper removal
  • Electrolyte Solution
  • Milk or milk substitute

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  1. 1

    Determine the cause of the scours. Environmental causes may be unsanitary surroundings or possible contact with unclean water or infected faeces. Viral or bacterial causes may be E. coli, rotavirus, cryptosporidium, salmonella, giardia or clostridium perfringens type C.

  2. 2

    Correct the surrounding if it is determined that environmental factors are the cause. Remove the animal from unsanitary surroundings and limit exposure to stresses, such as other animals. Fresh bedding is also ideal to minimise additional exposure to environmental contaminants.

  3. 3

    Contain the contaminated faeces. Line the lamb's quarters with newspaper so that expelled excrement may be removed. Replace soiled newspaper with fresh newspaper. Latex gloves are recommended for soiled paper removal as many viral or bacterial causes of lamb scours may be passed to humans through contact. Soiled papers should be disposed of in an area where other animals will not come into contact with it, thereby preventing additional cases of scours.

  4. 4

    Administer fluid therapy. Mix a bottle with a blend of 50 per cent milk or milk substitute and 50 per cent electrolyte solution. Feed mixture to lamb. Lamb will continue to scour, as scours must run its course and pass through the digestive system. The key is to try to keep the lamb hydrated during this process. As scours pass, stool will be soft due to the liquid intake, but will not be fluid.

  5. 5

    Contact a veterinarian. At the onset of scours, contact a veterinarian as soon as possible. Scours is a serious condition in young lamb and a fecal analysis can pinpoint the cause. Veterinarians may administer fluids intravenously or prescribe or administer medication if necessary.

Tips and warnings

  • Prevention can reduce the risk of scours. Vaccination of the ewe approximately four weeks before giving birth can reduce the risk of scours in newborn lambs. Additionally, a lamb's consumption of colostrum (the first milk from the mother after she gives birth) is critical to lamb health as it provides essential antibodies and nutrients needed to properly enable the lamb's immune system and protect it from infection.
  • Seek counsel from a medical professional before administering any medication.

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