You all know by now that we lost our Little. Short story is that she bloated, which can be lethal even if it happens just the one time. Here is the longer story of our beautiful sheep named Little. Mah gave birth to triplets just after we took her in as a Saint. Triplets are rare, and the mothers resources are spread three ways, so perhaps they did not have the same beginning as a single birth would have. Little, Bo and Peep were born indoors, we had them in the shop as they were born in February, still wintertime. Yet 6 days after birth, they got pneumonia. This fact becomes important later on in my story. When a ruminant eats, the food ferments in the rumen (a part of the stomach), bloat happens when the gas from the fermenting hay or grass cannot escape the rumen. Little has been bloating on and off her whole life, but pretty regularly in the past few months. We had the vets come numerous times. We changed her diet. We tried everything we and they could think of, but nothing seemed to make a difference, so we continued to treat the bloat as it happened with anti-gas. It worked, and was safe to use as much as needed. Back in November Janette and I took Little over to Agwest for an ultrasound. There were suspicious areas in and around her lungs. Abscesses? Tumours? Foreign object? We decided to go with the most likely cause and treat her with an extended, heavy dose of antibiotics, then recheck those areas to see if there was a change. The vet came out last week and did a mobile ultrasound, then compared the findings to the last one. Unfortunately the weird areas had not diminished at all, they had in fact gotten slightly larger. At the time we thought this meant that whatever the problem was, it was not due to an infection. Talking it over with the vet we elected to go with the next step, which was to rule out anything super crazy, like a foreign object that she couldnt pass, maybe it kept trying to come back up the pipe like the food does. The area on ultrasound was just this kind of shady blotch...what if it was a piece of a plastic bag? Or a ball of baling twine? We wanted to be sure. I was going to book the next step, a scope for Little, done at Agwest, early this week. But Friday afternoon, Little began to bloat. Janette treated her as normal with the anti-gas, and Little seemed pretty much normal in the morning, ran from the stall to the field like she always does. But as the day wore on, and Little kept eating, she bloated bladly. We treated her again with anti-gas, but it kept coming back up. We called the vet out as an emergency, but he was already at one. Little could not get in enough air, she passed out and died right there. The vet came as soon as he could, and he confirmed her death. He then offered to do a necropsy on Little, to get us some answers. We said yes. I would like to take a moment to explain. Normally, we do not really need to know. Usually our animals are senior, and we have a pretty good idea of why things happen. But Little was only two years old. We only recently lost her brother Bo to a urethra blockage, he too was too young to lose, but it happened, and there was no way we could have prevented it. But if Little HAD eaten say a plastic bag or some baling twine...that is a lesson we need to learn from. The vets were not sure what was causing the on and off bloat over such a long time either, so I am sure there was scientific curiosity as well. Dr, Brent did a necropsy on Little and shared his findings with us. Her one lung was completely destroyed. It had walled off infection pockets the size of eggs. The lung would not have been able to work at all. The nerve that controls the digestive system of a ruminant passes right next to the lungs and heart of the animal. So as the infection got worse, Littles lung would press on the nerve that controls the rumen, causing it to stop and not allow the air inside to escape, in turn causing the bloat. No amount of antibiotics could have fixed this. There was nothing we or the vet or anyone could have done. In hindsight, I suppose we could have euthanized her earlier, but I cannot imagine having to make that decision on a two year old sweet sheep who did so well most every day. There is no way we could have seen the problem with any machine or test, it would have been just a guess. But I wish she hadnt died like that. I wish she hadnt struggled for even a moment. Everyone deserves a peaceful end. Little is missed terribly, by us, by her sister, by her mom, by the other sheep and Deedee too. And we will carry on with very heavy hearts.
Yes...thanks Erin....not an easy post to write for sure...but I also really appreciate you taking the time to explain a very complicated health issue in a way that even I could understand.....so sad
Janette said to me yesterday how extra hard and unexpected it is to lose the young ones, in a senior needs sanctuary. I agree...our focus is usually on the old, frail, and crippled; and it seems even more unfair when one so young has to fight so hard and even with all the tools and expertise we have....loses the gift of life.