Keep 'em alive 'til seven oh five*
In my case, it was "keep her alive 'til Monday at five," when the owners were due to return. And I am happy to report that we did.
Now that we made it through safely, I need to back up and tell last week's story, when she was really in bad shape. I was afraid of jinxing our efforts if I told it too early.
Last Sunday, I got a call from my friend, telling me about the ewe. I hadn't heard too much about her to that point, but they were at their wits' end with treating the parasitic infection, because their run-a-day wormer (Cydectin) wasn't touching the problem. I advised them to pull out the big gun (for us), levimasole, which they hadn't done at that point because the owner of the sheep (not them) was afraid it would make her sterile. I pointed out that she would definitely be sterile if she were dead, and so they went ahead.
Worm problem, solved.
Eating problem, not so much. Despite the resolution of her worm and maggot problems, the ewe refused to do anything but stand hunched over in a corner, staring out the ground. Grain, hay, pasture: nothing tempted her. She was scary-level skin and bones.
When we went to the farm on Monday night for feeding instructions and witnessed her misery, something stirred in the deep recesses of my brain. The next morning, I called my friend to tell her about a recent article in Sheep! magazine, which talked about the restorative properties of giving ailing sheep beer to stimulate their appetite.
You read that right. Beer.
My friend started doing research of her own, and somehow ended up in an online chat with a British sheep farmer. He confirmed that it is a common practice in Britain, though it must be done carefully. He advised her on method (drench syringe, but watch the foam) and dosing (two full syringes twice per day, until she starts to eat on her own).
She was texting me during the chat. The Backyard Sheep book I recently reviewed also mentioned the practice, which was the first time I had heard of it, and specified a dark lager for best results. The sheep farmer had also mentioned lager.
"Ask him if he means dark lager like Guinness," I texted.
He did indeed, he confirmed.
So that's how my friend found herself feeding Guinness beer to a sheep. As I may have mentioned once or twice, taking on farming as a profession means that you are opening yourself to all sorts of strange possibilities.
The even stranger part: it worked like a charm.
The ewe got her first dose at 10 am, and the second one that night. After the second dose, she was clearly enjoying her medicine, and roused herself enough to pick at the fresh hay in front of her. The last dose was given the next morning, only 24 hours later. She didn't need any after that. She started to eat her grain like a champ, and didn't look back.
All the resources we read cautioned against using beer in the case of a sheep with bloat, because adding carbonation to a rumen already having gas problems is obviously a bad idea. But for a sheep who is off their feed for any other problem, it is a strong consideration. I wouldn't have believed it if I didn't see it with my own eyes. But as of this post, she is still alive, still eating, and no doubt still wondering when she is getting her next dose of Guinness.
*Seven am is the magical hour when an army of more experienced residents and doctors descend upon a teaching hospital.