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Editorial Information

Nephrosis in Lambs


Nephrosis occurs sporadically in young lambs between two and four weeks-old, and in growing lambs between two and four months-old; cases in the latter age group often appear after an outbreak of coccidiosis and/or nematodirosis. The cause has not been resolved although a toxic insult is considered the probable aetiology.

  • Occurs sporadically in young lambs
  • Follows an outbreak of coccidiosis and/or nematodirosis
  • A toxic insult is considered the probable cause

Fig1: Nephrosis in a growing lamb.

Fig 2: Nephrosis affecting a growing lamb (left) compared to normal sized lamb (right).

Fig 3: Nephrosis affecting a growing lamb (right) compared to its normal sized twin lamb (left).

Affected lambs are very depressed, do not suck, and appear thirsty as they frequently stand with their heads over a water trough but drink little. The lambs appear gaunt with little abdominal content and rapidly become emaciated. The rectal temperature is normal. There is often evidence of faecal staining of the perineum. The faeces are soft and malodorous.

Symptoms:

  • Very depressed
  • Do not suck
  • Appear thirsty
  • Appear gaunt with little abdominal content
  • Rapidly become emaciated
  • Faeces are soft and malodorous

Fig 4: Affected lambs are very depressed, do not suck, and appear thirsty as they frequently stand with their heads over a water trough.

Fig 5: Lamb with nephrosis drinking from a field drain (see below).

Fig 6: Field drain used as a water source by the lamb above - no other lambs were ever seen drinking in this manner.

Differential diagnoses

The important differential diagnoses your veterinary surgeon will consider include

  • Coccidiosis,
  • Nematodiriasis,
  • Starvation.
  • Liver abscesses (hepatic necrobacillosis)
  • Chronic suppurative pneumonia,
  • Chronic peritonitis

Diagnosis

The diagnosis is based upon the clinical findings and results of tests your veterinary surgeon may undertake. Diligent stockmanship will identify affected lambs which should be euthanased once they have failed to respond to anthelmintic/anticoccidial/antibiotic therapy. Necropsy reveals very pale swollen kidneys.

Fig 7: Necropsy reveals very pale swollen kidneys.

Fig 8: Necropsy reveals very pale swollen kidneys (top set) with a pair of normal kidneys below.

Treatment

There is no treatment and affected lambs are euthanased for welfare reasons.

Control measures

There are no recognised control measures. Control of nematodirosis (clean grazing or appropriately-timed preventive anthelmintic treatment) and coccidiosis (clean environment and possible preventive treatment/in-feed medication) are detailed on the NADIS website.

  • Control nematodirosis
  • Control coccidiosis
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