Georgie – The story of a very lucky lamb!
t was a miserable winters day when we were called to an Ewe (Annie) who was not making any progress with her lambing. She had been straining the whole previous day and passed her water bag the night before, but she seemed to have no energy left to push. Some of her placenta had already detached, so we weren’t sure if the lamb could still be alive. After an epidural was given we were able to assist Annie to lamb. Fortunately we got the lamb out soon enough and she was still alive!
Annie was unfortunately not letting down milk, even after being given oxytocin. This meant that her lamb (Georgie) needed to be bottle-fed powdered colostrum. All lambs need colostrum within the first six hours of life, and if their mother can’t supply it they have to be bottle-fed as Georgie was.
The night after Georgie was born was one of the coldest so far this winter. Even with her little woollen coat she became very cold. Lambs are very susceptible to hypothermia – you can tell when they have it as their gums feel freezing and they are unwilling (and sometimes unable) to suckle. Georgie was so weak in the morning that she couldn’t even hold her head up. Her family brought her in to our clinic to try and save her.
The first step was to get her warm again. We used a combination of heat pads, blankets, and a heater, taking care not to leave anything against her for too long – it is very easy to burn a neonate on heat pads, especially as she couldn’t move away from them. We also used a stomach tube to get warm milk into her stomach to heat her from the inside. Usually lambs will regain energy quickly once they have been fed, but Georgie didn’t respond as expected and we were all very worried about her. That night she went home with Dr Finch, who fed her every 4 hours through the night by stomach tube. At 5:30am she finally showed interest in bottle-feeding, and was able to stand with assistance.
It was night-time, two days after she became hypothermic, that she took her first steps. She stayed with Dr Finch for two more days, by which time she was running around and baa-ing when she wanted feeding or was going to the toilet (just like a human baby!).
Georgie went back to her real family when she was five days old. Since then she has continued to be spoilt rotten – getting to sleep in front of the fire! Thanks to the loving care of her family she is continuing to thrive. She is one very lucky lamb.