Dealing with the dreaded ‘S’ word: Scours

Any seasoned rancher will tell you that scours are a BIG problem. If not taken care of immediately, it will lead to the untimely death of your animal(s). Scours (basically just a different name for ‘diarrhea’ in the animal kingdom) will dehydrate your animal very quickly, as well as keep them from getting any nutrition from the food they are eating. As a general rule, you have three days to get your animal(s) over the scours. If not treated by the third day, the fourth day will be too late and your animal will die.

All animals, big and small, young and old,  can get scours. And it could be caused by any number of things.

I’ve only had a problem with scours in adult sheep after feeding my new ram too much grain. Most likely, he’d never had grain before and the sudden addition of the rich stuff to his diet in too large of quantity was literally poisoning him. I immediately cut the grain out of his diet and started giving him two (2) chewable tablets of an off brand Pepto-Bismol once a day, in the morning. For the rest of the day he was on a strict diet of grass hay and water. He was cleared up by the evening of the third day, though I never offered him grain again.

Now I have had problems with scours in my lambs and goat kids. They were all orphans and I was bottle feeding them. And since I was using a powdered milk replacer (Land’O’Lakes) for the little fellows, they did not have the proper bacteria balance in their tummies as they would have if they were drinking their own mother’s milk. Prompt treatment of scours is detrimental in baby animals as they are far more fragile than adults. For my lambs, they were given one-half (1/2) chewable tablet of Pepto-Bismol (off brand, remember!) a day. Now, for baby animals, you have to grind up the tablets into fine powder and feed it to the baby a little at a time, gently swiping your finger across the tip if it’s tongue to moisten your finger so the powder will stick, and then putting your finger back into the baby’s mouth and rubbing the powder on its tongue. You repeat that process until baby has eaten the entire allotment of powder. Don’t do this longer than three days in a row, or else you may risk the baby becoming constipated, which is also very bad. And if the baby is still being bottle fed, you can start mixing in a few tablespoons of natural, unflavored yogurt into the milk. The probiotics in the yogurt will help your baby keep from getting the scours in the future. After the Pepto-Bismol and the yogurt routine, my lambs were fine.

My baby goats (kids) were more difficult. I tried the Pepto-Bismol and yogurt, but it didn’t seem to be working all that well. So I started feeding about two to four (2 or 4) ounces of electrolytes to the kid once in the morning and once in the afternoon (I was still feeding them milk, as well). You will notice that the electrolytes turn the poo into a disturbing shade of dark green. But after a few days of feeding the electrolytes and still seeing no change, I started using Probios. Probios is another probiotic, but formulated especially for sheep and goats to help cure them of scours. I added the Probios to the milk twice a day (cutting out the yogurt, electrolytes, and Pepto-Bismol.) My kids were immediately better. I used the Probios for two days in a row just to get the babies back on track, and then I went back to feeding the powdered milk replacer as I started off doing. Throughout the whole process of curing the scours, I started putting a few drops of Peppermint Essential Oil on their bedding after eating and before putting them to bed for the night. So it did take more time to cure the goats of their scours, but I did get them fixed and they are just fine now. 🙂


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