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Pulpy kidney Afrikaans | Xhosa

Stock animals are regarded as the stabilizing factor in mixed farming enterprises. To be able to control stock diseases, a farmer must obviously know what it is he is up against.


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Pulpy kidney is one of the most important diseases the farmer must be familiar with.

Deaths caused by this disease are a general and regular phenomenon. Pulpy kidney occurs worldwide wherever sheep are farmed. It also occurs in goats.

Another name for pulpy kidney is overeating disease! Conditions that can lead to pulpy kidney are often the result of animals overeating.

The germ causing pulpy kidney normally occurs in the intestines. Any disturbance in the intestine of the sheep causes the pulpy kidney germs to increase, and more toxins are excreted. This leads to death.

The following factors cause disturbances in the gastro-intestinal tract:

  • Removal of sheep from a grazed-down camp to another with better pasturage
  • Moving sheep from natural veld to planted pasture, for example lucerne
  • Putting sheep into a feed kraal
  • Feeding sheep during drought without adjusting the feed gradually (for example giving too much maize per sheep per day, right from the start)
  • The use of certain medicines such as de-worming agents, that cause sheep to eat more.

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A sheep suffering from pulpy kidney does not usually display very obvious symptoms. The animal just dies suddenly. As a rule, the fattest sheep is the first to die. Every morning a few sheep are found dead in the camp. A typical phenomenon is many deaths shortly after the animals have experienced a change of feed.

Sheep suffering from the chronic form of pulpy kidney can, however, readily be recognized. The target organ in this case is not the kidney but the brain. The animals display signs of paralysis, the legs are weak and the sheep appear to be in a coma.

What treatment should be applied?

  • The first measure to apply when sheep start to die and pulpy kidney is suspected, is to prevent excessive food intake.

  • If sheep are in the veld, move them to a camp with poor grazing, and reduce the carbohydrate intake of sheep in feeding kraals. Then inject them immediately against pulpy kidney. After treatment, deaths may still occur for a period of up to 11 days.

  • Dose each sheep with a level teaspoonful of flower of sulphur.

  • Sheep that have been injected with long-acting tetracycline are resistant to pulpy kidney for a few days until inoculation can protect the animals.

With regard to prevention, it is a pity that so many cases of pulpy kidney still occur in South Africa despite the good inoculants that are available.

Farmers must realize that each time they change their sheep feed, they actually launch an attack on the animals' resistance against the disease. For this reason, farmers in the extensive sheep-grazing regions can inoculate their mature animals with the alum inoculant only once a year.

In areas of crop cultivation, established pasture and abundant veld grazing, sheep have to be inoculated more regularly. It may even be necessary to inoculate sheep that alternately graze on established pasture and fed in feed kraals, more regularly.

G Brand
ELSENBURG Veterinary Services