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Yes, deworming can kill animal if not done well

Post dipping inhalation is common with small stock (sheep and goats) when they are tired or thirsty.

Dear Daktari

I keep sheep in a semi-intensive free-range system. I do routine farm management like deworming and dipping of my sheep. I had never known a simple act of giving my sheep a dewormer orally can cause death. This was until last month when I lost one of my very healthy sheep due to improper oral deworming. I am now worried that even the dipping can cause death. Kindly advise me on how to undertake these routine practices. [Kathure Immaculate, Isiolo County]

Dear Immaculate, sorry for the loss of your dear animal. Yes, most farmers do routine herd activities like deworming, dipping, and hoof cutting totally oblivious of the dangers that lie in such simple acts. When dealing with life caution should always be a common denominator.

What is inhalation pneumonia?

Inhalation pneumonia is also known as aspiration pneumonia is a fatal disease of the lungs that results in damage of lung tissues by foreign inhaled materials. It mostly results from poor animal husbandry practices emanating from improper drenching, insertion of the stomach tube, recumbency, or injury of diseases of the brain. It can also result from inhalation of rumen content as commonly happens when a cow has milk fever and lies on its side or during anesthesia if the airway is not protected from rumen content. Faulty administration of drenches during deworming or other medical procedures is a very common cause of inhalation pneumonia.

The severity of inhalation pneumonia depends on the volume and type of foreign material involved. When volumes are very high they will interfere with the oxygen absorption and the animal can die almost immediately. Inhalation pneumonia is fatal in animals recovering from milk fever. Calves and lambs can develop this condition when in stressful conditions. During difficult birth, calves can also absorb fluids in the birth orally and develop inhalation pneumonia.

 Clinical signs of inhalation pneumonia

Animals affected by inhalation pneumonia will in most cases have a history of dipping and drenching for whatever reasons. Diseases and injury to the brain are common causes in dogs and cats. Other signs are fever, pain in the thoracic area upon palpation, excess mucus discharge and foul-smelling breath. Auscultation of the chest will produce crackling noise. Animals with inhalation pneumonia will lack appetite and will be dehydrated. Post dipping inhalation is common with small stock (sheep and goats) when they are tired or thirsty or when they are retained in the dip for a long time.

Prevention and management 

Prevention aims at minimising possible risk factors that predispose an animal to inhalation. The first step is minimising stressful conditions within the animal environment. For example, thirsty and unthrifty animals should not be dipped, maintain good nutrition plain and adhere to good husbandry practices. Treatment should be timely and depends on the cause of inhalation pneumonia. In case of trouble, call in a veterinary doctor immediately. New workers on the farm should be trained how to drench animals properly. When giving animals oral fluids, do it slowly to match the swallowing rate. In ruminants, the oral esophageal tube should directly deliver the fluids into the rumen to avoid aspiration. Treatment with antibiotics is normally used when secondary bacterial infections follow the inhalation pneumonia. Note that pneumonia is a complex disease that requires urgent and appropriate intervention by a veterinary doctor.


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