Examine  the Head

 The physical exam typically begins with the head.  Mucous membrane color is assessed by looking at the conjunctiva, gums, or vulva.  The gums of most small ruminants are variably pigmented making an accurate assessment of membrane color difficult.  The bulbar and palpebral conjunctiva is a more accurate place to look.  Holding the eyelids open and applying pressure at the lateral canthus of the globe causes the third eyelid to appear and allow good visualization of the conjunctiva.  Pale to white is suggestive of haemonchosis, yellow to light brown is suggestive of hemolysis secondary to copper toxicosis, and large prominent vessels in the bulbar conjunctiva is indicative of toxemia.

Pale mucous membranes.

The face should be assessed for asymmetry.  Unilateral cranial nerve damage resulting in flaccid paralysis of the ear, eyelid, muzzle, cheek, and/or nostril combined with excessive drooling and/or tongue protrusion indicating an inability to swallow is highly suggestive of listeriosis.  Examine the eyes noting eye position, pupillary light reflex, and menace response.  No menace response with an intact pupillary light reflex is common with polioencephalomalacia.  A bilateral, clear to serous nasal discharge is normal.  Mucopurulent discharges are commonly associated with respiratory disease.  Crusting of the nose occurs in sick animals that fail to clean their nose.  The presence of ulcerative or proliferative lesions on the lips, muzzle, and nostril may indicate ORF or bluetongue.  An accumulation of fluid in the submandibular space (bottle jaw) is often secondary to gastrointestinal parasitism particularly if the animal also has pale mucous membranes.  An acetone odor to the breath indicates ketosis typically associated with pregnancy toxemia in the sheep.  A foul odor from the mouth suggests necrotic stomatitis, pharyngitis, or even pneumonia.  Vomiting in the small ruminant is almost always associated with a toxic plant ingestion, rhododendron and azalea commonly recognized in the Eastern US.

Various focal swellings may occur on the face.  Large, firm, round swellings located behind the ramus of the mandible or between the mandibles are suggestive of caseous lymphadenitis affecting the parotid or submandibular lymph nodes respectively.  Swellings located along the cheek may be associated with abscesses, salivary gland mucoceles, or impacted cud.  Firm, nodular swellings along the lower jaw often indicate actinobacillosis in the sheep.



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Copyright 1999-2001
New Bolton Center Field Service Department
Students:  Keith Javic - Class of 2003, C. Nikki Conroy - Class of 2003