Sheep lying down a lot

Sheep Lying Down A Lot? (Cause for Worry?)

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Sheep get tired, after which they understandably lie down. However, sheep lying down a lot for extended periods during the day is a cause of concern.

Often, it signals pain and weakness caused by a disease. Sometimes, the animal might be tired because of pregnancy or a dense fleece.

Whatever the reason, it’s important to inspect an animal that lies down a lot. Here are some common reasons for your sheep lying down more than usual and how to solve them.

Sheep lying down a lot


Listeriosis is an infectious disease that affects small ruminants like sheep and goats. It is a bacterial infection that commonly occurs in cooler climates.

These bacteria live in the soil, food sources, and feces of healthy animals. Most sheep contract listeriosis after feeding on spoiled feeds, mainly hay and silage.

The primary symptoms of listeriosis include loss of appetite, fever, and drooling. Over time, affected animals develop a lack of coordination and paralysis, characterized by circling and lying down for extended periods.

When nearing death, the sheep will lie down for hours and might experience convulsions. Although lab tests can diagnose accurately, isolating the causative organism isn’t easy.

Listeriosis has low survival rates. Most animals that get the infection die within days after infection.

However, a few recover if they receive aggressive antibiotic doses and supportive care before the disease progresses.

Large amounts of oxytetracycline can help your animal to die with minimal pain.

Prevention is the best way to deal with listeriosis. It’s advisable to isolate infected animals and quarantine every new addition to your flock.

More importantly, provide fresh feeds and ensure the feeding equipment remain clean and sterilized.

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Overgrown Fleece

Shearing the fleece is a vital aspect of sheep maintenance. Wool covers a lot – it can harbor fleas and other bugs, conceal skin issues, and hide wounds.

Therefore, removing it allows farmers to identify potential problems before they become life-threatening.

Additionally, shearing enables early detection of weight loss. This prompts the farmer to seek a remedy for the underlying cause.

Besides hiding potential health issues, a dense fleece is a problem. First, it interferes with blood circulation by preventing proper flow to the limbs.

Secondly, it can impair an animal’s vision. Lastly, it causes overheating. The compound effect of these three issues is inactivity, displayed through frequent lying down.

When body temperatures rise due to poor circulation and dense fleece, sheep tire quickly.

This prompts them to lie down more often. For this reason, ensure you shear your sheep at least once yearly.

READ ALSO: How Do Wild Sheep Survive in The Wild Without Shearing?

Parturient Paresis

Parturient paresis is a condition that affects pregnant and lactating ewes and interrupts metabolism.

This causes acute calcium deficiency, which progresses to depression, sheep lying down more than usual, coma, and eventually, death.

Unlike cows, sheep develop this problem mainly before giving birth and less often after parturition.

The disease occurs when a ewe consumes less calcium than the body demands (breastmilk formation requires milk).

Its symptoms are especially severe in animals carrying multiple fetuses. Parturient paresis usually occurs between six weeks to birth and ten weeks after birthing, when calcium demand is at its peak.

The most common clinical symptoms of parturient paresis are stiff gait, loss of coordination, drooling, constipation, and depressed rumen motility.

After some days, these progress into abdominal distension due to bloat, sheep lying down a lot (recumbency), loss of anal reflex, and death. When recumbent, ewes lie on their sternum with hindlegs positioned caudally.

Treatment must be immediate to be effective. It involves the administration of calcium orally or subcutaneously. The calcium undergoes heating to 40 degrees Celsius before administration.

To prevent this condition, ensure your ewes get enough calcium-rich feeds. Give them a dose of daily sunlight to promote calcium absorption.

Enterotoxaemia (Overeating Disease)

Enterotoxaemia is a bacterial disease that affects sheep and goats. It is caused by Clostridium bacteria types C and D.

Clostridium bacteria are normally located in the digestive tract of small ruminants, albeit in small numbers. When sheep change their diet to include protein-rich and starchy foods, they trigger these bacteria.

The bacteria reproduce rapidly, releasing harmful toxins. These toxins damage the intestines and other internal organs, resulting in a life-threatening situation.

Clinical symptoms of enterotoxaemia include loss of appetite, lethargy, discomfort, restlessness, diarrhea, and bloody stools.

When the toxins reach the brain, the affected animals lose the ability to stand, lay on their side, and extend their limbs.

Death occurs a few hours after this happens. Since this condition progresses quickly, animals might die without showing early symptoms.

Severe enterotoxaemia is untreatable. Mild cases are manageable using analgesics, antisera, oral electrolyte solutions, and probiotics.

More severe cases might require antibiotic therapy, intravenous injections, and supplemental oxygen.

Preventing enterotoxaemia has higher success rates than trying to treat the condition. Because it’s caused by the same bacteria that causes tetanus, farmers prefer administering a three-way vaccine against Clostridium type C, type D, and Clostridium tetani, tetanus’ causative agent.

Another preventative measure against overeating disease is to introduce new foods slowly.

If you plan to give grains or protein-rich feeds to your herd, do so in increments over several weeks. Also, ensure their diet consists of bulky roughages.


Coccidiosis is an infection caused by host-specific parasitic protozoa. This means that the pathogens that affect sheep won’t affect other livestock on your farm, and vice versa.

Coccidia has a complex life cycle, but they spend most of their life reproducing in the intestines.

Extreme weather changes, dirty housing, malnutrition, weaning, and food changes increase an animal’s susceptibility to the disease.

Symptoms observed depend on the parasite’s species and population, animal’s age, environmental, and stress levels.

Sheep acquire immunity against coccidia with age, meaning lambs are more vulnerable to infections than adults.

The primary symptom of coccidiosis in sheep is foul-smelling, loose stool with specks of blood and mucus. After some time, the animal loses its appetite, resulting in weakness and fatigue.

You might notice your sheep is lying down more than usual. The animals might die without showing severe symptoms if exposed to many coccidias.

It’s essential to follow a vet’s directions to treat coccidiosis. This is because the disease often occurs as an outbreak that can affect multiple animals in your herd.

Administering coccidiostats is an effective way of preventing coccidiosis. These drugs help to reduce the fecal shedding of the parasitic protozoa.

However, you must use these drugs at least 30 days before lambing to prevent ewes from infecting their young ones.

It’s worth noting that these drugs don’t prevent infection resulting from poor hygiene and improper flock management.

The best way to prevent coccidiosis is to provide a clean, dry, and stress-free living environment for your flock.

Ensure that the bedding is dry to reduce transmission risk during breastfeeding. Also, keep the pastures clean by removing feces to prevent accumulation.

Sheep lying down more than usual

Urolithiasis (Kidney Stones)

Urolithiasis is among the most prevalent urogenital complications in sheep and goats.

It mainly affects male animals due to the narrowness of their urethras and the presence of sigmoid flexure.

Other risk factors include location, diet composition, and early castration. Kidney stones cause discomfort, pain, and death.

The most common sign of urolithiasis is hematuria (blood in urine). Over time, affected animals might experience hindlimb ataxia (loss of coordination) and an inability to support body weight.

As a result, they lay down for a lot. However, such sheep can walk if supported.

Urolithiasis obstructs the bladder, causing fluid accumulation in the kidneys and renal cavity.

The uroliths inflame the blood vessels, resulting in wounds that later cause hematuria. Other clinical signs of the condition include depression, weakness, teeth grinding, edema, and abdominal distension.

Treatment primarily aims to remove urethral obstructions caused by kidney stones. It also restores lost electrolytes and fluids, reduces urethral inflammation, and prevents future infections.

The main treatment methods are catheterization and retropulsion. If these don’t work, the vet will recommend surgery.

Delaying castration reduces the risk of urolithiasis by preserving the anatomy of the urinary tract.

The longer you wait, the larger the urethra becomes, allowing kidney stones to pass out with urine if they form.

You can also prevent kidney stones by increasing urine volume and dilution. This is achievable by providing clean water and adding table salt to their diet.

Encouraging open-field grazing and limiting grain intake also promotes more water drinking.

READ ALSO: Will Sheep Drink from Running Water? (Is It Safe?)


Blowfly strike, also called flystrike, results from opportunistic attacks on living organisms by flystrike larvae.

The flies attack in two phases. First, the larvae target animals with open wounds or dirty, overgrown fleeces. The second wave strikes areas already attacked during the first phase.

Under the right temperature and humidity, it takes three days for the larvae to mature into maggots.

As they grow, maggots secrete smelly fluids that attract the second wave of mature blowflies. The animal absorbs the waste secreted by the blowflies, resulting in secondary infection.

Clinical signs of flystrike include discolored wool, agitation and restlessness, tissue decay, toxemia, and recumbency. Later, the animal dies.

You can easily detect flystrike by inspecting your flock while grazing. Please leave dogs when checking your animals because they scare them into flocking. You’ll notice many files and an unpleasant smell if your animal is sick.

Flystrike treatment involves the physical removal of maggots, cleaning, and disinfecting the wounds.

Your vet will also prescribe antibiotics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. You must shear the fleece before dipping the sheep in an organophosphate solution for severe cases.

The most effective prevention against flystrike is destroying potential blowfly habitats. This involves proper carcass disposal and prompt treatment of wounds and lesions.

Wrapping Up

Sheep should only lay down for a few minutes. If they extend their stay, you might want to examine them for possible underlying conditions. In most cases, sheep lying down a lot results from conditions avoidable by providing proper feed, maintaining hygiene, and vaccinating your animals.


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