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How CEH Helped Teddy the Lamb Survive the Brink of Death

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Meet Teddy

If you saw Teddy today, you would think he is just another healthy, young lamb who has everything going for him. Sweet eyes, soft fur, and a BIG voice. But it wasn’t always this way. Keep reading to learn how CEH helped bring Teddy back from the brink of death. 

Making the Call

When Teddy and his twin (a doeling) were about a month old, their owners noticed that they were much less active than the other lambs. Shortly thereafter, his twin was found dead. Teddy had loose stool and was not very responsive, so his owners immediately brought him into Carolina Equine Hospital. 

The Big Reveal

When Drs. Mielnicki and Sheppard evaluated him at the hospital, he was listless and “star-gazing” – continually lifting his head to the sky and vacantly looking upward and outward. He also had central blindness. His eyes were functioning and actually seeing light, but his brain was not registering it, indicating that the central nervous system had likely suffered damage. Occasionally, his eyes would involuntarily twitch from side-to-side, a sign of a neurological phenomenon called nystagmus.

Young animals have greater difficulty regulating their blood sugar if they don’t nurse regularly, and low blood sugar can cause abnormal neurologic signs. Teddy’s blood sugar levels, however, were adequate. Taking all of his symptoms (with normal blood sugar) into consideration, the most likely diagnosis of his condition was polioencephalomalacia, more commonly known as “polio”.

Polio is a deficiency of thiamine – vitamin B1 – that can occur in ruminants and pseudo ruminants (e.g., llamas & alpacas) of any age. But most commonly it occurs in young, growing animals near the time of weaning. It is not contagious, nor does it usually occur in large outbreaks. Thiamine is a vitamin that is vital for normal brain function. Without it, the central nervous system experiences “malacia” or softening. The longer the brain goes without this vitamin, the more permanent the damage becomes. Normally, the gastrointestinal system of the goat (more specifically, the rumen) produces the vitamin in sufficient quantities without assistance. When the GI tract experiences some kind of insult, it can cease to produce thiamine, thereby causing damage to the central nervous system.

In Teddy’s case, we suspect that he over-indulged on grain, causing some gastrointestinal upset that resulted in episodes of loose stool and a presumed thiamine deficiency. A potent dose of thiamine was administered intravenously, and within 30 minutes, he was standing, bleating (LOUDLY), and interested in eating! There was still a degree of visual impairment, but over the course of the next several hours, as he began taking milk from a bottle, he started to navigate his new environment with ease, indicating he was regaining some vision!

Leaving the Hospital

Later that same afternoon, Teddy went home to continue his vitamin supplementation and was eventually re-introduced to his dam and the rest of the herd. He was monitored for worsening neurologic disease or diarrhea, but his condition only continued to improve! Very quickly, he was acting (and defecating) like a normal lamb! Animals with polio do not often recover as well as he did, but Teddy’s success can be attributed greatly to his owners’ immediate action in bringing him in for evaluation. We can’t wait to watch Teddy grow up!

Carolina Equine Hospital

Is your large animal behaving unusually? Give us a call at the office to schedule an appointment! We are open for scheduled appointments Monday-Friday from 8-5, and we always have an emergency vet on call for after hours emergencies!