Shaun the sheep – trouble with digestion.

Shaun enjoying the sunlight

Shaun has been going really well; feeding and sleeping, learning to use his legs and such and of course peeing at unexpected moments. Then a few days ago he began to show signs of discomfort after each feed. He is on Divetelact milk replacer, we always have it in the cupboard for emergency feeding of mammalian babies. We keep this brand because it can be used for multiple species and we usually only have to care for a baby for a short time before they are handed on to an animal care group, so it makes sense to have a generic milk available.

He began to show signs of distress after I increased the strength of his formula (as per the label instructions) so I reduced the strength of the milk straight away (back to the original formula A), he also stopped pooping, which was a real worry. He wasn’t showing any sign of straining or constipation and my vet tech’ daughter (so useful having someone trained in the family) believed that he simply wasn’t getting enough milk solids to make poop. After a couple of feeds (and still no poop) I decided to call a vet for advice; the vet I eventually got on the phone after calling three emergency numbers for two different vet surgeries (it was, after all, Saturday) I got an old vet from a sheep breeding area who sounded like he had seen it all and may in fact have been doing some of it as we speak. He suggested that Shaun may have a small blockage in his gut which was causing a bit of bloat and that if I gave him oil of some kind in his bottle (at a rate of half a teaspoon per feed) and reduced the amount per feed while increasing the number of feeds, he may move the blockage out himself. So I dug out the fish oil capsules, squeezed two into Shaun’s next bottle and waited…

Shaun had been having 100 ml per feed at six feeds per day, so we cut back to 50 ml per bottle and twelve feeds per day. as you can imagine this took up a lot of time and energy. Shaun stopped having discomfort after every feed though, so it was worth it. After five feeds with fish oil in them he still had not produced any poop, but was happy and bright. After the sixth feed of oil I was thinking that an actual visit to the vet was in order (on a Sunday of course) when there was a surprised little bleat from the basket beside me and an all pervading smell of fish. I looked down to discover that Shaun had produced a LOT of poop in the dog bed he has claimed for himself. We cleaned him up and gathered washing (every old towel I own is in a nappy soaker as I type) only to discover that he had more to give. This continued for several hours and he refused two bottles during that time, but when things calmed down he was back to his old self and feeding well again.

This morning he is back to 100 ml feeds and no reaction so far. I don’t know if he had a blockage or if the milk was too strong, too fast for him, but that was a frightening reminder of how delicate babies are. I will be treating his digestion much more carefully in future.

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