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Ketosis, pregnancy toxaemia, twin lamb disease in sheep

What causes ketosis (pregnancy toxaemia) in ewes?

Ketosis is a metabolic disease that can affect ewes during late pregnancy. In the final 6-8 weeks of pregnancy, the foetus(es) increases in size by approximately 60%. This growth demands large amounts of energy and unfortunately coincides at a time when the ewe’s daily dry matter intake is reduced due to reduced space. When ewes are not fed according to their energy requirements, they start to mobilise body fat to try and compensate for the lack of energy. However, excessive fat breakdown produces ketone bodies which when produced in large quantities can become toxic, causing the ewe to be off her feed which further increases the low energy supply.

What are the symptoms in affected ewes?

Ewes showing early signs of pregnancy toxaemia will often be dull, may separate themselves from the main flock and may appear twitchy or nervous. Ewes that have been suffering from pregnancy toxaemia for a few days will be thin, unable to stand, may appear blind and will unlikely want to eat.

How can it be prevented?

By ensuring ewes are in the correct body condition score in the pre-lambing period, ewes will be able to maximise their dry matter intake (fat ewes are likely to eat less) in the run up to lambing. Scanning ewes during mid pregnancy and feeding them according to litter size will also help prevent pregnancy toxaemia. Avoid stressful situations (gathering with dogs and unnecessary handling) in late pregnancy and if there is a heavy snowfall and forage availability is reduced, supplementary feeds should be provided.

Management of pregnancy toxaemia:

Prompt treatment when ewes show signs of energy deficiency will increase the chance of a successful recovery. It is important that affected ewes have access to fresh, palatable feeds and water to reduce dehydration and to promote feed intake.

At the first signs of energy deficiency, ewes should be given a good quality energy drench containing:

  • Propylene Glycol and Glycerol which are rapidly available sources of energy.
  • Vitamins, trace elements and amino acids to support energy metabolism, liver function and the immune system.

A repeat dose may be necessary, if the ewe shows no signs of improvement after 24 hours consult your vet for further advice.


Keto Pro

Keto Pro is an orally administered solution for use as an aid in the reduction of the risk of ketosis.

  • Unique fermentation-based product
  • Trace elements and vitamins
  • Dual energy power pack
  • Liver support pack

✓ Provides cows and ewes with an immediately available source of energy

✓ Packed with vitamins, amino acids and trace elements

✓ Give to lethargic, off their feed and performance compromised cows and ewes, especially at calving and lambing

✓ Can be given to any calving cow or lambing ewe as a precautionary measure.



When to use Keto Pro:

  • Ketosis occurs when energy supply has been exhausted and body fat reserves are mobilised to combat the energy deficit.
  • In cows this is typically after calving as milk production increases and DMI is not yet adequate to sustain the increase.
  • In ewes this is typically pre lambing when glucose requirement is high but DMI is restricted by the lambs the ewe is carrying.
  • Fat enters the blood stream where it is transported to the liver for processing. This method of energy production produces ketones as a by-product, resulting in ketosis and the classic ‘pear drops smell’.
  • Fast acting Keto Pro provides support for performance compromised cows by providing vital sources of energy.

18th February 2021

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