Downed ewe treatment plan

Many ewes go down with Pregnancy Toxemia, particularly in drier areas where feed is limited and rarely supplemented sufficiently. For information on Pregnancy Toxaemia please read:

With this treatment plan you can save ewes who have been down for over a week who have pressure sores and pinched nerves and who vets have suggested euthanasia due to being a lost cause. We have successfully saved many ewes and euthanised only a few who had secondary issues eg flystruck joints which also affected the decision to euthanise. Most vets will only suggest Ketol and 4 in 1 mineral injection which is why most die as this treatment is not usually sufficient.

Downed ewes cannot be treated in a paddock so they must be brought into a protected area. It is strongly recommended that a sling be used to keep the ewes upright for periods during the day in order to keep the circulation going in their legs. Treated correctly, these ewes can be up in a week so deserve all the help they can get.


Supplies to have on hand to treat Pregnancy Toxaemia and common secondary issues

Vet supplied:

  • Oxytetracycline antibiotic: for ewes with elevated temperature. Downed ewes are often stuck flat on their side which causes fluid to pool in their lungs causing pneumonia
  • Opticlox antibiotic eye ointment: treats pink eye or eye ulcers from rubbing on ground while ewe struggles to stand
  • Mastilone intramammary antibiotic: for treating mastitis
  • Metacam anti-inflammatory/pain relief or Buccalgesic which is administered orally. These help with pain and bring down temperature

From stockfeed/online:

  • Ketol: an oral glucose that helps bring up blood sugar and boost energy
  • 4 in 1 fluids: an injection containing glucose, phosphorous, magnesium and calcium
  • Foliphos: injection containing phosphorous, folic acid and b12 vitamin injection. Helps boost appetite)
  • VAM: vitamin and mineral injection
  • B12 injectable vitamin: this can be given every 3 hours if necessary to boost appetite
  • Electrolytes (Oral)
  • Bi carb soda: their stomach can get acidic when they haven’t eaten and they can’t reach food so bicarb neutralises stomach ph and helps their appetite
  • Protexin probiotics (orange label)
  • Terramycin antibiotic spray: for any pressure sores, or treating foot scold
  • 6 in 1 Vaccinations: these can be purchased from stockfeed stores but, depending on how many you have to treat, you may be better to get by dose at the vet
  • Q drench
  • Needles
  • Syringes (1ml-60ml)
  • Catheters and IV lines
  • Hartman’s solution fluids
  • Flystrike treatment: Extinosad is recommended
  • Ewe Sling: purchased from Rich River Rural, Echuca, Victoria. They can be contacted through Facebook and will ship the slings. These are worth their weight in gold.

Treatment plan

  • Put them in a sling (in a shed/shelter/undercover) with a fresh bale of quality hay in front with the top band cut. They’re able to rest their head and sleep, and eat as much as they’re able.
  • Offer electrolytes. If they eat and drink, that’s great, you’re off to a good start! If they won’t drink, hold their chin in the water for a few seconds until they do, poke finger in the side of their mouth while chin is submerged, try syringing some. Try your best to encourage them to drink because the sooner they eat and drink, the sooner their bodies can start healing. Give constant access to fresh water, offer electrolytes twice a day –
  • Nearly all down ewes will have a respiratory infection from being flat on their side by the time they’re found and rescued. We give every down ewe a shot of oxytet antibiotic, and another 48 hours later.
  • Take their temperature. If elevated, give metacam. If low, warm them up and leave on a dog coat.
  • Give them a shot each of VAM and Foliphos for 5 days
  • Syringe orally dissolved protexin and bicarb. Once off bicarb is fine if they eat right away, continue protexin for 5 days
  • 60ml of ketol orally twice per day for 5 days
  • 50ml 4 in 1 fluids twice per day for 5 days sub cut (under the skin)
  • Vaccinate
  • Worm with Q drench 1/2 dose for 5 days and full dose again 2 weeks later to kill worms in stages so the ewes don’t go into shock from the toxins of all of the worms doing at once.
  • Give metacam on Day 1 when you worm. If they are refusing to drink, we put them on IV fluids for a few days and spike the bags with their injectable treatment (vitamins, 4 in 1, as well as bicarb)
  • If they refuse to eat we put a little hay in their mouths right up to their back molars and often they will start eating from there, worst case we hand feed like that a few times a day until their appetite is back.
  • B12 can be given every 3 hours until they eat

Other important points

  • Ewes should be up within a week when given this treatment.
  • Pinched nerves heal 1mm a day so sometimes they can do with an extra few nights in a sling and out during the day, or might need help up in the mornings for a few days.
  • They have often just lambed and haven’t been able to stand up to feed bub who often perishes before ewes are found. Having mastitis treatment handy is a good idea. If mum is doing reasonably well (eating, drinking) and she still has milk we will often pair her up with an orphan which works out well for them both.
  • We feed combo chaff ad lib as well as quality hay to help boost their weight once they’re up.
  • After a month, get a faecal egg count to double check parasite levels
  • If you can’t put in an IV drip, have your vet teach you if you intend to continue helping down ewes.

There are so many downed ewes who need help.

Treatment sounds harder than it is but more often than not it will cost you 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes at night for a week each.

Thank you to Strong Hearts Farm Animal Sanctuary for this invaluable resource on how to save the life of a downed ewe. 

Scroll to Top