Health problems in new born lambs

Watery Mouth Disease

  • E.coli bacteria within a lamb’s intestinal tract.
  • Dirty wet lambing sheds play a major role in the spread of this


  • Lethargy,
  • lack of suck/teat searching,
  • retained meconium
  • salivation
  • wet lower jaw
  • bloated abdomen


  • Soapy water enemas
  • Oral antibiotics(i.e Spectam).
  • Advanced cases: Injectable antibiotics (e.g.betamox/amoxicillin) are needed as bacteria may now be in the blood stream.
  • All cases should receive oral electrolyte therapy at a rate of 50 mls/kg four times daily.


  • Keep lambing sheds/pens as clean and dry as possible
  • Collect and appropriately dispose of afterbirth.
  • Ensure adequate colostrum intake.
  • Preventative antibiotics can be given to lambs within the first 15 minutes after birth. In most flocks this can be delayed to the later half of the season when lambs will be exposed to a greater level of challenge due to the build up of E.coli in the environment.


Umbilical Infection (Navel ill)


Certain conditions allow bacteria to enter through the navel.

  • Dirty environment
  • Inadequate navel treatment
  • Poor weather conditions

This can lead to

  • Abscesses around the navel
  • Joint ill
  • Liver abscess.
  • Menigitis
  • Infections of the lungs, kidneys, and heart.

Control measures:

Treat the navel by fully immersing it in strong veterinary iodine within the first 15 minutes of life. Repeat this at least 2 to 4 hours later.


Joint ill


  • Bacteria within joint(s) resulting in arthritis and lameness.
  • Bacterial spread through the bloodstream from entry via the gut, upper respiratory tract, tonsils and untreated navels.


  • Swollen, hot, painful joint(s).
  • Muscle wastage.
  • Poor growth rate .


  • Antibiotics (e.g. penicillin.)
  • Lambs with multiple affected joints should be euthanased if they show no improvement after 2 courses of treatment.


  • colostrum
  • clean housing/turn out to pasture late in season.
  • dip navel properly
  • Give preventative antibiotics: e.g penicillin injection at 36-48 hours old.


Cold lambs

Lambs that do not feed well in the first 24 hours of life can quickly become cold and use up their natural energy stores. Treatment depends on both body temperature and age.

In lambs less than 6 hours old, coma only likely to occur with severe weather conditions in outdoor flocks. These lambs should be placed in a warming box (ideally with a thermostat set at 45°C). Check body temperature regularly. Once the lamb is warm and able to sit up, feed colostrum by stomach-tube at a rate of 50 mls/kg

In lambs over 6 hours old, a glucose injection should be given before warming. Good instructions on how to do this can be found on the NADIS website (