Signs & symptoms of pneumonia in lambs

Written by lishah smith
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Signs & symptoms of pneumonia in lambs
Pneumonia in lambs is extremely serious. (lamb and mother sheep image by Renata Osinska from

Detecting the signs and symptoms of pneumonia in lambs is critical to increased survival rates. According to the University of Minnesota Extension, the leading cause of death in lambs is pneumonia. Treatment for pneumonia is prevention, antibiotics and sulfamethazine. Contaminated milk, cold weather, dampness and drafts are primary causes for pneumonia in lambs. Signs and symptoms of pneumonia in lambs are difficult to detect until the disease is in the advanced stages.

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Nasal Discharge

A small amount of moisture on a lamb's nose is normal. Nasal discharge that is significantly noticeable is a good indicator of pneumonia in lambs. Examine lambs daily. Get used to their individual nasal discharge habits. Immediately dispose of all rags used to clean the sick lambs. Don't allow other lambs to grab the contaminated rags from your hands.

Poor Suckling

Healthy lambs approach the ewe for nursing at regular intervals. Suckling is vigorous as the lamb stimulates the milk glands and withdraws the milk for nourishment. One sign of pneumonia in lambs is poor suckling. No forceful or strong head movement is noticeable.

Loss of Appetite

Another sign of pneumonia in lambs is loss of appetite. Lambs refuse supplemental feedings or fail to go to ewes for nursing. Lambs with pneumonia have a dramatic and significant weight loss in just a few short days. Loss of appetite causes starvation in the lambs and eventual death.


The normal temperature for a lamb is 102F to 104F. The temperature rises if the lamb runs around before you take the reading. Take a rectal temperature of any lamb appearing to have pneumonia. Record temperatures and treat fever according to the farm veterinarian's instructions.


Lambs sleep in short intervals. They play with other lambs in the herd and follow the ewe. A sign of pneumonia in lambs is general weakness. Sick lambs have difficulty standing. Sleep intervals are longer than others in the herd of the same age. Lambs separate from ewes.

Sudden Death

Unfortunately, the most common sign of pneumonia in lambs is sudden death. Autopsies reveal the presence of pneumonia. When there is a severe outbreak, 30 per cent or more of lambs may contract pneumonia and die suddenly, according to the University of Iowa Extension.

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