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How Do You Know If Your Animal Is Sick?

It’s not always easy to tell if you have a sick animal in your herd. That’s because, as prey animals, they don’t want predators to know that they’re sick, so they’ve become pretty good at masking symptoms. That means that you have to know what normal looks like so you can watch for small differences in behavior.

That’s where this video comes in. In just 8:52, Dr. Lisa Lunn of the University of Alaske – Fairbanks  points out all the little cues that tell you an animal needs help. While she uses a cow to demonstrate, this information works well for all ruminants.

As Dr. Lunn points out, animals that separate themselves from the herd, are dirty from spending more time laying down, have droopy ears and snotty noses are giving you cues that they’re not feeling well. Animals also quit eating when they’re not feeling well. Since you may not see if an animal is eating, Dr. Lunn shows how to look for evidence. If the triangular area that overlays the rumen is sunken, that animal hasn’t been eating enough. If it is swollen, the animal is bloating and you should call your veterinarian immediately. She also shows how to check for dehydration with a skin pinch test or by looking at the eye of the animal.

Other cues Dr. Lunn covers are stretching and difficulty urinating, indicating a potentially fatal urinary tract obstruction, issues with loose or runny manure. How do you know if an animal might have pneumonia? Check out it’s nose and watch it’s chest as it breathes and then compare the result to the chart below.

Table courtesy of Texas A&M Agrilife Extension

When you do need to call the vet, it’s helpful to be able to have the animal’s vitals ready. Dr. Lunn tells you how to take its temperature and get it’s heart rate.

One last pointer – an good relationship with a veterinarian is much more valuable than any advice you can get from your favorite Facebook group. Every time I see someone posting “my animal is doing this…what should I do?” if you listen closely you can hear me screaming, “Get away from the computer and call your vet!”

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