Treating A Case of Sheep Mastitis, Part II


The mastitic half of my ewe Lily’s udder has ballooned again with infection and I have been back to massaging it for an hour morning and evening. Because it is painful, she does not like this. I have to tie her up short and she lunges to the end of the six-inch slack in the lead and stands choking and breathing hoarsely.

Last night I was finally rewarded with gushes of cloudy pus. I could actually hear it sloshing and breaking like waves in the top of the udder under my kneading fingers before I could strip it out the teat canal. It seems to me that whatever abscesses she has are refilling. The discharge is no longer viscous like toothpaste, but slimy and stinky. (It’s hard to judge stink factor when you’re acclimated to barn smells, but that I notice any stench at all tells me it must be bad.)

When the pressure is down, Lily stands quietly. I reward her with a pan of sweet feed.

I am back to using Today teat infusions twice a day.  Once the teat is reasonably clear again — if I can get the teat reasonably clear again — I have decided to “kill” the bad half of the udder.

This is a procedure often performed on mastitic dairy cows. It involves flushing the teat with a corrosive agent that simultaneously cleans, disinfects, and causes scarring, preventing further breeding of bacteria. Iodine, chlorhexidine, or formeldahyde is used. The teat loses any possibility of function but also no longer poses as a source of infection. This seems Lily’s only chance to rejoin the rest of the flock. She has been separated and I have been laboring over her for almost three weeks now. This can’t go on indefinitely.

The problem with killing a quarter (as it is known in dairy circles, because cows have four teats) is that flushing internal mucous membranes with a caustic fluid is very painful. Typically cows are given banamine, a powerful pain reliever. It is a last resort.

I asked about the procedure on my sheep list. Of course most shepherds would simply cull a ewe with an infectious health problem. However one whose husband is a vet told me she had once performed it on a valuable mastitic ewe. Instead of one dose of straight corrosive, she had used three days of the corrosive mixed 1:4 with sterile water, and then every other day for three more days. It appeared to her to be painless at this diluted strength, and still effective.

I have bought chlorhexidine (Nolvasan veterinary disinfectant) and sterile water. I’m hoping I can get Lily’s teat cleared up enough to try it.

If I can’t, I am faced with a hard decision.

4 Responses to Treating A Case of Sheep Mastitis, Part II

  1. Len says:

    Caesar: Who is it in the press that calls on me?
    I hear a tongue shriller than all the music
    Cry “Caesar!” Speak, Caesar is turn’d to hear.

    Soothsayer: Beware the ides of March.

    Caesar: What man is that?

    Brutus: A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.

    • adkmilkmaid says:

      Hello, Len! Yesterday was a tough day and it was somehow reassuring to be reminded that Caesar had it much worse. And we think life in the current Senate is brutal! Thanks for the Shakespeare.

  2. Lee Anne says:

    Selden, I had read in a few places that Nolvasan had limited effectiveness – ie a fairly high rate of lactation returning in subsequent freshenings. (do sheep freshen?) Might do some research first.

    So sorry this is happening. There is no hope of killing the infection?

    • adkmilkmaid says:

      Yes, I have read the same. If you google killing a teat, you will find six years of discussion, much involving our own Milkmaid from KFC. It seems Nolvasan is the least effective option. I am not feeling as if I have a lot of options, though perhaps I am just worn out with trying to problem-solve. I am writing about this today.

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