What The Other Vet Said… (Copper Toxicity)

If you’ll recall, a few days ago everything seemed to be a non issue with Pistol the lamb and her bloat problem.  As it turns out, it wasn’t a bloat problem exclusively.  That appeared to trigger a case of copper toxicity.  It’s usually triggered by some kind of stressor on the animal, illness, feed change, weather change, bloat, etc… The cause is copper build up in the liver.  The stressor causes the copper to dump into the blood supply which causes the blood to not carry enough oxygen (in layman’s terms).  In Pistols case, the bloat triggered the copper toxicity which is why the symptoms did not add up.  Bloat does not cause red urine.  At first it was really more of a brown but as things progressed, it turned red.  Then we found it…

The previous owner had several buckets of milk replacer left in the feed shed.  They had been opened but we thought nothing of that.  There were some extra bags too that we figured he was putting in the buckets.  Pistol got fed this for about 2 months, basically from birth.  After the buckets ran out, but before the bloat, I went out to refill the buckets with one of the bags.  Turns out that the bags contained calf milk replacer.  At the time I had that kinda “ding” go off in my head that this wasn’t right and shortly after that everything went to crap with the lamb.  Only a week had gone by on the “new” milk replacer.  A look at the bag ingredients showed that it contained copper.  Not good.  A second call to another vet was made.  He agreed that it looked like copper toxicity.  Hadn’t seen that in 12 years apparently.  Most of the meds to treat were not available locally.  We found some dolomite but were afraid to try it since it wasn’t pure powdered and we couldn’t find enough sources on the net recommending it for me to be comfortable with it.  The vet recommended vitamin E and we had seen vitamin C several times so we put her on that by adding it to her new and correct milk replacer.

A sheep exhibiting sever copper toxicity can get jaundiced (but they can skip that step too).  Then they get to where they can’t get up.  If it goes further, death is next.  Pistol obviously felt bad as she was not her normal, perky, ornery self (yes, she’s an ornery troublemaker!).  If she was jaundiced, it was only very slightly.  Eye’s and gums stayed close to normal.  She was a bit lethargic for a little more than a day and had VERY red large quantities of urine.

Then, she just got better!  We knew she was her old self when she started causing trouble again :).  Very markedly different behavior when sick vs. normal times.  All of us were pretty mad and depressed that we had caused her illness.  We know we didn’t know, but that does not fix the emotions.  Pistol has become a full-fledged pet, though we hope to eventually get her living with the herd.  Her and her friend Rebel will live until retirement here at the Double Portion and will never have to fear going on “that long winter vacation” to the freezer.

2013-07-04 12.41.38

Hey, I’m trying to nap here…

2013-07-04 12.41.47

OK, I’ll play your silly little game…

As you can see, she’s fine now.


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