Vaccinate for Abscesses or not?


Overrun with beasties
Dec 17, 2019
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I don't vaccinate for CL. You should figure out if your flock actually has CL before decided to vaccinate or not (or to cull). Testing will be pointless if you vaccinate because they will all show up as positive. Where are the abscesses and have any of them drained? What comes out?

I have a few sheep that get lumps, but they aren't CL, they are sebaceous glands that get clogged with dirt and lanolin.

CL is definitely seen as a bigger issue to the goat world than the sheep one. Not sure why. We tested years ago for CL when we first got into sheep and bought some ewes that had lumps. They tested negative. While I'm not going to go nuts and test every single sheep, I would not buy an animal that I thought might have it. We actually refused to sell a breeding ram to someone once because she had a CL-positive flock. We were concerned that she would use him for a few years and then sell him to someone else. Since our name was on this sheep it would be our farm that would be blamed if he spread CL around.
For all sheep age groups, the most commonly used vaccines were clostridial C and D, and tetanus.


Herd Master
Mar 13, 2015
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Shadow Hills, CA
Oh No! I see that I never replied to this posting again after determining what was causing the lumps and abcesses! I did post on my Ridgetop site

My vet came out but instead of blood testing the entire herd (beaucoup$$$$!) she suggested we just culture the abscess to see if it was CL.

She sent in the culture and it came back negative for Caseous Lymphadenitis. Instead the abscess was caused by another abscess causing bacteria - Actinobacillus. This is very common and easily treated. Sheep that are shorn often develop abscesses from sharp thorns or slivers penetrating the fleece or from shearing nicks. Hair sheep can also get this from slight skin abrasions. Actinobacillus is a bacteria that lives on the sheep's skin and inside the mouth. Infection can occur when eating thorny shrubbery, sticky, sharp hay stalks, etc. the infection presents as a lump that ripens into an abscess. When it "ripens" it is ready to burst and the exudate is very infectious.

Once the abscess lump gets large, remove the animal from the herd and isolate it. Once the abscess is ready to lance and drain you can do it your self easily. Wear rubber gloves, put the animal in a constraint of some sort, and provide yourself with plenty of paper towels, a scalpel or razor blade, iodine (we use a diluted iodine udder wash), a syringe with no needle, and 10-12 cc of Pennicilin if you have it. Gently palpate the area of the abscess to make sure it is soft and ready to burst. You want to lance it just before it can burst on it's own since you want to disinfect it and remove all the infectious material properly. Once you find the soft center - this is the eye - where it is ready to burst, carefully make a small cut in the lower portion of the soft spot. You want the pus to drain out so opening the bottom of the cavity is better than opening the top. Usually the pus will gush out so have your paper towels ready to catch it. Sometimes you have to push gently to get all of the pus out, Then fill the small syringe with iodine and flush the cavity. This will often loosen more pus so you can squeeze around the abscess to make sure that all the stuff is out. Continue flushing with iodine till the cavity is empty. If this is a very large infection, the cavity will often fill up again and need to be drained a second time. or another site will localize and need draining. Usually draining is necessary only once. You can give Pennicilin if yu choose. it is not necessary unless you are worried about further infection from theopenwound. Also, keep the animal isolated until the open abscess closes. Don't worry about the lump remaining. In a month or so, the swelling will be completely gone and the most you might see might be a small scar from the incision.

You can tell the difference easily between Caseous exudate and Actinobacillus exudate. Caseous pus is lumpy and whiteish like very solid small curd cottage cheese and often needs to be almost scooped out. In contrast, Actinobacillus is more runny, greenish-yellowish, and sticky. No lumpy curd in it, and it will almost gush out. As soon as we lanced the first abscess on my ewe's jaw and saw the pus, I relaxed since I knew it was not Caseous. The test results confirmed it and gave me a name for the bacteria.

Abscesses are all around nasty and gross, but I can live with Actinobacillus occasionally. CL would have meant the possible destruction of my entire herd of beautiful well-bred White Dorpers. I did order the CL vaccine but did not have to use it. Now I am just annoyed that I got so worried that I spent the money on the unnecessary vaccine before the testing.

In the case of this particular ewe, she had suddenly developed a large sausage like swelling along her lower front left jaw. About a week later, an abscess swelling appeared on her left cheek. The cheek swelling was the actual abscess site which was drained, The vet was not sure what the lower jaw swelling was. She checked for infected teeth but the ewe's jaw and teeth were fine. The cheek abscess was very large with a lot of stuff in it. After draining it, the sausage swelling began to subside a little but another lump developed near the first one. We got the test results back, and the lump that had formed near the first one began to ripen This time I did not bother to have the vet out, I drained it myself. It had the same type of Actinobacillus pus. After the second abscess had healed I noticed that the sausage swelling was also completely gone. Apparently the infection was very large and started in the lower front jaw and then proceeded to drain through 2 different sites. Since then I have drained another Actinobacillus abscess on one of my bucks. Apparently this bacteria is naturally prevalent on my property and on my sheep. Since it is treatable I am not going to worry.

Sorry I took so long to notice that I did not end this posting with the results.