How to Deal with a Prolapse in Sheep

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Sheep farming can be a rewarding and profitable business, but it comes with its own set of challenges. One such challenge is dealing with a prolapse in sheep. A prolapse occurs when an organ or tissue protrudes through an opening in the body, and in sheep, it usually affects the rectum or uterus. A prolapse can be a serious condition that requires immediate attention, but with proper management and care, it can be successfully treated.

In this article, we will discuss how to deal with a prolapse in sheep, including the causes, symptoms, and treatment options available. We will also provide some tips for preventing prolapses in your flock.

How to Deal with a Prolapse in Sheep

Causes of Prolapse in Sheep​

A prolapse can occur for a number of reasons, but the most common causes in sheep include:
  • Overweight or obese sheep
  • Poor nutrition or mineral deficiencies
  • Parasite infestations
  • Straining during lambing or birthing
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Weak pelvic muscles
  • Rough handling or trauma

How to Deal with a Prolapse in Sheep

Symptoms of Prolapse​

A prolapse is usually easy to identify, as the protruding tissue or organ is visible outside the sheep's body. Some common symptoms of prolapse in sheep include:
  • A red or pink mass protruding from the sheep's anus or vulva
  • Signs of pain or discomfort, such as restlessness or grinding teeth
  • Loss of appetite or weight loss
  • Reduced milk production
  • Discharge from the prolapsed organ
  • Secondary infections or complications, such as fly strike

Treatment Options​

If you suspect a prolapse in one of your sheep, it is important to seek veterinary care immediately. Depending on the severity of the prolapse, your vet may recommend one or more of the following treatment options:
  • Manual reduction: In some cases, a prolapse can be manually pushed back inside the sheep's body. This is usually only effective for mild cases and must be done carefully to avoid further injury or complications.
  • Prolapse ring: A prolapse ring is a small rubber ring that is placed around the prolapsed organ or tissue to reduce its size and help it retract back inside the body. This method is effective for mild to moderate prolapses and is relatively simple and inexpensive.
  • Surgery: For more severe cases of prolapse, surgery may be necessary to repair the damaged tissue and prevent further complications. This option is usually more expensive and carries a higher risk of complications, but it may be necessary in some cases.
  • Pain relief and antibiotics: Sheep with prolapses are often in pain and at risk of secondary infections, so your vet may prescribe pain relief and antibiotics to help manage these symptoms.

How to Deal with a Prolapse in Sheep

Prevention​

While prolapse is not always preventable, there are several steps you can take to reduce the risk of prolapse in your flock. Some tips for preventing prolapse in sheep include:
  • Maintaining a healthy body condition score: Overweight or obese sheep are more prone to prolapse, so it is important to monitor your flock's weight and nutrition to ensure they are healthy.
  • Providing adequate nutrition and minerals: Sheep require a balanced diet that includes all essential nutrients and minerals. Mineral deficiencies can increase the risk of prolapse, so it is important to provide your flock with high-quality feed and mineral supplements if necessary.
  • Regular parasite control: Parasites can weaken the immune system and increase the risk of prolapse, so it is important to regularly deworm your flock and manage their environment to reduce parasite infestations.
  • Careful handling during lambing or birthing: Sheep are most prone to prolapse during lambing or birthing, so it is important to provide a clean, dry environment and monitor the birthing process closely. If necessary, assist with lambing to reduce the risk of straining and injury.
  • Genetic selection: Some sheep breeds are more prone to prolapse than others, so it is important to select breeding stock with strong pelvic muscles and a low risk of prolapse.
  • Exercise: Exercise can help strengthen pelvic muscles and reduce the risk of prolapse. Providing your flock with ample space to move around and encouraging exercise can be beneficial.

Conclusion​

Dealing with a prolapse in sheep can be a challenging experience, but with proper care and management, it can be successfully treated. Early identification and veterinary care are crucial for the best outcome, and prevention is always better than treatment. By maintaining a healthy flock, providing proper nutrition and mineral supplements, and monitoring the birthing process closely, you can reduce the risk of prolapse and keep your sheep healthy and happy. Remember to consult with your veterinarian if you suspect a prolapse or have any concerns about your flock's health.

Have you come across this problem in your flock? How did you deal with it?
 

Ridgetop

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In 35 years of raising sheep we have dealt with several prolapses. Luckily we have only ever had one full uterine/vaginal prolapse. Full uterine prolapse is very difficult and much harder to deal with than a rectal prolapse. The organ is very heavy, and you need to reduce it in size in order to be able it replace it inside the ewe through the tiny vaginal opening. It you want first hand experience via TV watch Dr. Pol. He is in dairy country and constantly is replacing uteruses or repairing twisted stomachs in cattle. Graphic sometimes, but educational if you have never experienced this.

Uterine/vaginal prolapse
We came down one morning after a ewe had lambed to find her with a ginormous prolapse hanging out. No vet in our area would touch small livestock so we had to take care of this ourselves. I sent one of the children running for the sheep book and proceeded to read the instructions. If you have an emergency, the prolapse is fairly fresh, and no vet assistance, here is what you can do:

We used ice water to try to reduce the swelling (it may not be discovered until several hours later, or the next day so it gets dirty). Sugar added to the water is supposed to reduce swelling too, but we just used ice water (or very cold water from the hose. After spraying off the prolapse - this is also necessary to remove any dirt, straw, or hay bits from it - we used our iodine udder wash to sterilize the organ. Now you need to somehow get it back into the ewe. Old lore says that using a wine bottle is helpful. I don't remember if we used red or white, but the long bottle neck worked very well. It took several times respraying with the cold water and about an hour to work it back into the ewe. Remember the ewe will not cooperate with you so several people will be necessary to help you restrain her. I had DH and 4 children to help and it still took forever. You have to work the vagina back inside the ewe bit by bit. The vagina is huge and it is like trying to force a large beach ball into a small baby food jar. That is where the bottle comes in handy since you use it to hold the parts you have managed to replace inside the ewe while you keep trying to shove the rest back in. Remember to sterilize the bottle too. Just pour iodine or alcohol over it.

Once you have the uterus back inside you need to do something to keep it from coming back out. If you have a prolapse retainer -Great! Use it according to the instructions. If not, you will have to do what we did. Sew her up. You will need either a carpet needle or large crewel needle. I had my grandmother's sewing supplies and had a carpet needle. Drop the carpet needle in alcohol to sterilize it. Then use dental floss as sutures. Drop a long piece of that into the alcohol to sterilize. Now using the needle and dental floss take a stitch from the top left side to the lower right side diagonally, cross to the other side and repeat the action crossing on the opposite side. When you are done the vaginal opening should be sewn shut with a giant X. You need to leave enough room for the ewe to pee so don't get carried away and sew her completely shut.

Full uterine prolapses usually occur after giving birth. This method will allow the ewe to raise the lamb. Then I would cull her since this type of prolapse and replacement may not hold with the next pregnancy.

In the case of threatened vaginal prolapse, the same method of replacement is used. However in this case, the portions of organ to be replaced are much smaller and you want to retain the fetus. Again, rinse with cold water nd disinfect, then carefully push the swollen tissue back in and sew the vagina with X stitch. In this case, you ill have to cut the stitches loose when the ewe approaches kidding so she can give birth. After she has weaned the lambs, I wud cull her.

This is the old way to do it, now there are prolapse retainers and harnesses that you can use at the first sign of a problem. These are supposed to allow the ewe to give birth normally when her time comes. After this prolapse episode I purchased one of the earlier retainers which was designed to be tied to the wool. Since I now have Dorpers, good luck with that. The harnesses though will work on hair sheep as well. Might be time to buy one. LOL

Rectal prolapse
This can occur more frequently and is less life threatening. Often it is brought on by constipation and the animal straining too hard, or in some cases of very heavy bred ewes the pressure of the lambs at term will cause a small prolapse to appear intermittently. Usually, a small one about the size of a 50-cent piece will correct itself. If it is larger (sticking out about 3-4") you can replace the rectal prolapse as described above using the directions for a vaginal prolapse. You can't sew the rectum shut but definitely treat it with a lot of Preparation H to encourage tightening of the rectum and reduction of swelling. Sometimes sheep will show a small rectal prolapse intermittently during the last month of pregnancy. After delivery they no longer have a problem.

About 3 years ago one ewe went through a bad rectal prolapse and this time we had a vet who would treat sheep. She was very special bloodlines and we wanted to save her lambs. He did the whole piece of PVC thing tied off with a castrating ring. The ewe survived to give birth and nurse the surviving lamb. The first lamb was large and could not get out past the swelling of the prolapsed rectum. I had to cut the vaginal opening larger, but it was too late for the first lamb. The second lamb survived. The ewe was on antibiotics and pain killers until we put her down 6 weeks after lambing. This past year we also had two 6–10-month-old ewe lambs with larger rectal prolapses . We did not try to save them, just took them to the butcher.

Hope this helps anyone who needs to deal with this without a vet around. We learned to do a lot of stuff since we did not have a vet who would agree to take care of our sheep. Then we finally got a local guy who would come out for a couple years until he decided he only wanted to work with horses. Now I have found a small livestock vet in the next county. She is very expensive but at least will come out for emergencies. Depending on how many animals you have, and what your feelings toward them are, it is cheaper here to put down a sheep than it is to have a vet come out. If the ewe is special bloodlines and you are devoted to keeping her, then the vet is a good call. However, if price is a major obstacle, a bullet is much cheaper and will spare her as much pain as a $500+ farm call with a syringe of euthanasia. Not cruel, just pragmatic.
 
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