Animal Health & Disease Management

Young animals: Lamb and Kids problems (new)



Local names: Embu: kuvarua / Gabbra:halabata, albahti, albata / Luo: Ambululu, diep / Kipsigis: keburketan / Kikuyu: ruharo,kuharuo / Kamba:wituuo / Maasai: Ankorotik, olodo kurum / Maragoli: kunyalala munda / Samburu: ngorotit, nkiriato, ngiriata, kep-ngochek / Somali: har, har dig, hardik, shutan, daab, adeya / Turkana: eremonu, lomaritenit, anemoriloleo, lolera /

Description: Management disease 



Diarrhoea is a common disease in lambs and kids- , especially in the newborn and suckling young animals. The acute disease in the newborn is characterised by progressive dehydration and rapid death, sometimes in as few as12 hours. In the subacute form, diarrhoea may persist for several days and result in emaciation and stunted growth.



Several pathogens are associated with neonatal diarrhoea. The most common are the bacterium Escherichia coli, the viruses (Rota and Corona) and Cryptosporidia parasites.  Others include Salmonella, Clostridia and Coccidia. The organisms responsible for diarrhoea are commonly found in the faeces of healthy animals and can survive for long time in the pen or in the boma and especially in dirty foul standing water. A few kids or lambs with diarrhoea can severely contaminate the area and infect other animals. Transmission of diarrhoea is by licking up dirt or ingesting it by mouth. Very close contact facilitates transmission of disease. Do not house too many animals of the same age close together.

Diarrhoea mostly occurs because of stress, dirty housing, wet conditions and overcrowding.


Signs of Diarrhoea

  • Bad smelling soft, sometimes watery, faeces which is usually whitish in color and sometimes frothy
  • The affected lambs/kids lack appetite, becomes dull and refuse to drink.
  • Lambs/kids have a very small body, when they have fever and stop drinking they lose water, minerals and energy very fast and cannot stand up any more after 12 hours.
  • Their skin becomes dry and looses elasticity. If you raise a skin fold it remains standing for a while and does not move back. This is a sign of severe dehydration.
  • Also the mouth and nose feels cold and the eyes sink into the socket.
  • Kids and Lambs that are dull, have a cold mouth and a dry skin and may die any moment
  • Some kids and lambs can die suddenly without showing any signs of diarrhoea, they are faeces are full of blood


The major symptoms of diarrhoea are dehydration (lack of water), profound weaknes, and death within hours. Onset is sudden with passing of a lot of liquid faeces. The animals become completely dull and often die within 12-24 hours.


Lamb Dysentery or Clostridial diarrhoea affects calves/lambs/kids of a few days old, which are strong and have good appetite. Onset is very sudden with depression, weakness, bloody diarrhoea, abdominal pain and death within one to a few hours. Clostridia produce a lot of toxin which kills very fast. Most dieLambs/kids often die suddenly without showing any signs of diarrhoea, bloody faeces may be visible on the anus. These lambs/kids that die suddenly cannot be saved by treatment. The only way to protect such lambs and kids is by vaccinating their mothers during pregnancy (read more further below under Enterotoxaemia).


Coccidiosis often causes diarrhoea with blood in kids/lambs up to weaning age. With certain types of coccidia animals are found dead before treatment can be starteddiarrhoea becomes visible.

When lambs/kids start to graze they can also develop diarrhoea due to worm infection (read more under worms).

Usually it is difficult to make a definite diagnosis based purely on the clinical signs. However, a presumptive diagnosis may be made based on the history, age of the calf, and symptoms. FaecalIf many kids/lambs die faecal samples from both sick and healthy calves should be taken for submission to a laboratory, together with, if possible, a living sick animal.


Prevention and Control

The most important protection against diarrhoea for the kids/lambs is the mothers colostrum, which protects them like a vaccine during their first months of life. If newborn kids/lambs are weak it is good to assist them to drink their first milk as early as possible. Colostrum given too late is the main cause of most diarrhoeas (read more about colostrum under 'Assisting with birth').

Re-hydration treatment applies to all different forms of diarrhoea and must be started very early, when the kids/lambs are still able to stand and suckle. Many pathogens of the intestine also produce toxins that can kill the animal fast. Charcoal powder cam be given together with rehydration solution to absorb toxins and remove them from the body.

  • A new-born kid/lamb must drink at least 5% of its bodyweight of colostrum during the first 2 hours after birth, delayed suckling of colostrums gives none or of inferior protection against diarrhoea and many other diseases.
  • Always Provide clean water to young calves/lambs/kids for drinking
  • Pregnant ewes and goats should be vaccinated against enterotoxaemia 4-6 weeks before lambing (Insert link to vaccine) to protect the newborn via colcostrum.
  • Clean pens regularly. Do not allow faeces to accumulate. 



The most important treatment measure regardless of the cause of diarrhoea is rehydration. Kids and lambs require minimum 0.1litre per kg body weight per day (give 0.3 –0.4litre per day in 5-6 small portions).

  • Rehydration fluid should be given for three to five days.
  • In addition finely crushed charcoal (like powder) can be added to the rehydration fluid (2 handful of charcoal powder per litre, then passed through a sieve).

How to prepare rehydration fluid for young animals with diarrhoea
How to prepare rehydration fluid for young animals with diarrhoea

(c) Dr Mario Younan for Biovision



Antibiotics are not required to treat diarrhoea caused by viruses, or protozoa such as cryptosporidia or coccidia.

In cases of septicaemia due to E.coli use injectable antibiotics.

Coccidiosis is easy to confirm in the laboratory and msut be treated with specific anti-Coccidia drugs (Amprolium, also some sulphonamides given orally). For  coccidiosis treat all lambs/kids in the same age group, because some may die before showing diarrhoea.

Review Process:

1 Draft By William Ayako, Animal scientist, KARI Naivasha Aug 2009
2 Review workshop team. Nov 2 - 5, 2010

  • For Infonet: Anne Bruntse, Dr Hugh Cran , Dr Mario Younan
  • For KARI: , William Ayako - Animal scientist, KARI Naivasha
  • For DVS: Dr Josphat Muema - Dvo Isiolo, Dr Charity Nguyo - Kabete Extension Division, Mr Patrick Muthui - Senior Livestock Health Assistant Isiolo, Ms Emmah Njeri Njoroge - Senior Livestock Health Assistant Machakos
  • Pastoralists: Dr Ezra Saitoti Kotonto - Private practitioner, Abdi Gollo H.O.D. Segera Ranch
  • Farmers: Benson Chege Kuria and Francis Maina Gilgil and John Mutisya Machakos
  • Language and format: Carol Gachiengo

3.  June 2013: Review and insertion of Salmonella, Naval ill and Lamb and kid problems by: Dr Mario Younan (DVM, PhD), Regional Technical Advisor for VSF-Germany. working in East Africa since 1995

Information Source Links

  • Barber, J., Wood, D.J. (1976) Livestock management for East Africa: Edwar Arnold (Publishers) Ltd 25 Hill Street London WIX 8LL. ISBN: 071310063X
  • Blood, D.C., Radostits, O.M. and Henderson, J.A. (1983) Veterinary Medicine - A textbook of the Diseases of Cattle, Sheep, Goats and Horses. Sixth Edition - Bailliere Tindall London. ISBN: 0702012866
  • Blowey, R.W. (1986). A Veterinary book for dairy farmers: Farming press limited Wharfedale road, Ipswich, Suffolk IPI 4LG
  • Force, B. (1999). Where there is no Vet. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands. ISBN 978-0333-58899-4.
  • Hall, H.T.B. (1985). Diseases and parasites of Livestock in the tropics. Second Edition. Longman Group UK. ISBN 0582775140
  • Hunter, A. (1996). Animal health: General principles. Volume 1 (Tropical Agriculturalist) - Macmillan Education Press. ISBN: 0333612027
  • Hunter, A. (1996). Animal health: Specific Diseases. Volume 2 (Tropical Agriculturalist) - Macmillan Education Press. ISBN:0-333-57360-9
  • ITDG and IIRR (1996). Ethnoveterinary medicine in Kenya: A field manual of traditional animal health care practices. Intermediate Technology Development Group and International Institute of Rural Reconstruction, Nairobi, Kenya. ISBN 9966-9606-2-7.
  • Pagot, J. (1992). Animal Production in the Tropics and Subtropics. MacMillan Education Limited London. ISBN 0-333-53818-8
  • The Organic Farmer magazine No. 50 July 2009

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