Head2 Last night I was strolling through the sheep flock, mostly looking at their grass and thinking about when to move them. I almost didn’t notice this sheep with a little problem: her head was swollen up like a football! She wasn’t in a lot of distress, just lying down calmly, upright and alert. Her eyes were so swollen shut she could barely see. But she still bungled along with the herd enough that I had to get Maggie to help catch the ewe so I could examine her. She seemed more annoyed with her situation than in discomfort.

BrownSheepTo the left is what her face should look like!  I did some quick simultaneous book-flipping and web searching. My guess was either an insect bite/sting or bluetongue virus (BTV). I couldn’t find a lot of references to sheep getting stung by bees in the face or mouth. But it certainly seems plausible, our pasture is full of clover in bloom, so lots of bees are feeding out there . In the past, I’ve had both dogs and cats get this puffhead edema reaction when they’ve played with a bee or a wasp, and gotten stung somewhere on the head. I think all species don’t react well to getting stung in the noggin!

Head3 Bluetongue is spread by the biting midge (an insect), and is cited as commonly occurring in the south and western states. Humans can’t get it from sheep, and it doesn’t spread between sheep, so no special handling or treatment is necessary on the farm (yay). Vaccines for bluetongue are dubious, and there is no treatment other than supportive efforts, morbidity (exhibiting symptoms) is nearly 100%, but mortality (resulting death) rates are fairly low, <30%. So, if you get it, all you can do is shrug and try to help the animal get through it. There aren’t great methods for preventing it anyway.

She had a fever of 105.2 degrees (101-103 is normal)- but that can go along with either allergic reaction or bluetongue. No other symptoms of bluetongue- no lesions, no blue tongue or lips, no salivation or nose discharge, no hoof de-lamination nor coronitis, no swelling elsewhere. And her tongue actually looked normal- for all that swelling of the rest of her head, oddly, the interior of her mouth was spared. Head4

So, fine, either way, the initial treatment is the same. I was annoyed with myself to discover I had no Benadryl on hand, as I have a fairly well-stocked first aid kit. So I started with homeopathic Ledum, which is good for “surgical poking things” as I like to view it- insect stings and scalpel cuts. So this would apply whether it was a bee sting or  insect bite transmitting bluetongue. I made a trip to the store and got a liquid form generic Benadryl for easy administration.

It wasn’t ‘til 8pm that I was able to dose her. I repeated it again at 11pm (didn’t want to stay up the extra hour to make it four hours!). I could see some improvement already, even in the pouring rain in the dark. I have some Banamine on hand, but decided not to waste it on her because she didn’t seem to need it. You know how it is, hoarding leftovers from a prescription (this one leftover from the pneumonia sheep I lost last fall). They’re precious and you only want to use them when they’re really needed!  Head5 This morning she was quite a bit better (the three pictures that follow are this morning’s), though it’ll take a while for all that fluid to re-absorb. Her eyes are emerging again, and the puffiness along the top of her nose and head is much reduced.  After1Now she just looks like she has bottlejaw- of course gravity encourages all that fluid to collect in a pendulous bag at her throat. Her ears are also still very thickened, I imagine their poor circulation means they’ll take a while to “deflate” as well.

after2 I’ll continue with the Benadryl through today and keep an eye on her, but it looks like it’s resolving fine. I think she is still grazing, so hopefully I shouldn’t have to worry about her being off feed for too long. That’s the good part about the inside of her mouth not being inflamed, she can still probably eat without too much discomfort. If ruminants go off their feed for very long, they get all messed up, because their big fermentation system stops working and is hard to kick-start again.

I’m guessing this is not bluetongue, because the recovery for that is supposed to be lengthy. So my best guess is that she just got stung in the nose.