Acute renal failure was diagnosed by clinical, necropsy and histological criteria in 39 flocks (20 low ground, 13 hill and six marginal upland) in areas served by six veterinary investigation centres. Forty-eight lambs of 12 different breeds or crosses were investigated. The mean age of affected lambs was 38 days (range seven to 84 days); 21 lambs (44 per cent) were aged seven to 28 days, while only eight (17 per cent) were older than two months. Mortality in clinically affected lambs was almost 100 per cent, with no response to various treatments. Histological examination showed that 40 lambs (83 per cent) had nephrosis, while the rest had toxic tubular necrosis, interstitial nephritis or tubular damage associated with oxalate crystal deposits. Only about half of the lambs had any evidence of enteric infections or enteropathy. Acutely ill lambs had azotaemia, haemoconcentration and proteinuria; some lambs had glycosuria or haematuria. Samples of plasma from 22 lambs with nephrosis were compared with similar samples from 82 incontact but asymptomatic lambs. The clinically affected group had significantly elevated plasma urea, creatinine, total protein, globulin, phosphorus and chloride concentrations and significantly reduced plasma calcium concentrations compared with healthy lambs. Affected lambs had a significant reduction also in the calcium:phosphorus ratio. No significant differences between groups was found in plasma concentrations of albumin, glucose, lactate, glycerol, creatine kinase, alkaline phosphatase, sodium, potassium or magnesium.
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