Health Checks on Sheep or Cattle

• Don’t rush into it. Stand back and just watch the animal carefully for a few minutes. You should look for anything abnormal in the way it behaves or moves. It may limp or move unevenly or walk in circles. It may have difficulty getting to its feet. It may have an abnormal stance when urinating or defecating.
• Note the body condition of the animal and compare with herd or flock mates so that you can tell if its ribs, backbone and hip bones are more prominent or easily palpated.
• Check for symmetry on both sides of the animal, looking out for unusual swellings that could indicate the site of injury or disease.
• Mastitis may cause a swollen or discoloured udder and the milk from it will be abnormal, eg it may be watery and discoloured, it may contain clots or even blood. The ewe or cow may kick at the affected udder with a hind foot. If you can safely handle the animal the udder may feel firmer than normal and unusually hot.
• Check for discharges from the nose, eyes, mouth, vagina, or penis.
• Check for signs of diarrhoea around the anus.
• Check for abnormally noisy or rapid or laboured breathing and note any coughing.
• Check for excess salivation or difficulty eating or dropping food when eating.
• Check for signs of lameness or uneven movement by asking the animal to move forward and circle to either side. There are many possible causes of gait abnormalities such as injury, brain disease, blindness and arthritis. If it seems that just one leg is painful and if the animal can be safely restrained, it may be possible to examine the foot for injuries or foreign bodies.