By Chris R.
Three months ago we were contacted regarding a very young lamb with a broken leg, who was destined for euthanasia at a local vet clinic. We were able to rescue this tiny merino baby, who was promptly taken to our sheep specialist vets at Farm Animal Service, The Animal Hospital, Murdoch.
Upon x-ray and examination, it was noted that Fran Lamb, so named after the nurse who had so kindly contacted us, was in fact suffering from a progressed case of ‘joint ill’ or ‘septic arthritis’. This condition is all too common in young lambs who have a poor immune system and/or missed vital colostrum from their mother at birth. This bacterial infection may enter the body through the naval of young lambs or through broken skin, then move throughout the body, commonly presenting in the joint/s of the legs. The infection was well progressed in Fran, causing much pain in her front leg and subsequent lameness.
Due to the significance of Fran’s infection, her little leg was surgically opened and cleaned and cultures of the bacteria in her joint were made. A number of antibiotics were trialled, together with regular flushing of the joint by veterinary staff and dressing with antibiotic powder. Fran was an exceptional patient, never complaining about her constant needles and dressing changes. She worked hard to keep up with her lamb siblings at playtime, using her three legs to ensure she wasn’t left behind. After ten weeks of antibiotic treatment, it was decided that Fran’s joint was recovering. Her legs are still assessed on a regular basis, given the risk that infection may return if any remnant bacteria are dormant in her damaged knee cartilage. Fran’s temperature is taken daily to provide an indication of any pending return of infection and she is rested each night in the warm to ensure her leg is not compromised from overuse.
Fran will always have a unique walk from the infection and arthritis in her joint. We are grateful to the vet staff who assisted her both then and now, giving her the best chance of walking as she grows. Fran will always be a special needs lamb and we feel privileged to have her here with us in the Valley of Hope.