Sheep or goats are the new pets

pet advice

Sheep or goats are the new pets

words by
catherine harper // Barossa Veterinary clinic

Pet ownership in Australia is common, and while we generally think of a gorgeous tabby cat or a bouncing Labrador, here in the Barossa and Mid North we are seeing a new kind of pet.   

Increasingly, clients are having pet sheep or goats. 

These are not your average orphaned ‘poddy’ lamb, raised by the kids because its mum abandoned it and is destined for the freezer. 

These animals are genuine members of the family, just like your typical dog or cat; they sleep on the veranda (or sometimes in the house!), go for walks, go to work and are an integral part of their owner’s lives. 

As mixed practice vets, we think this is wonderful and it is lovely to see the bond people develop with these animals. 

However, their care needs are slightly different to our dogs and cats. 

Here are some things to remember if you are thinking about having a goat or sheep as a pet or have one already munching away on your roses:

• Vaccination is an essential part of their preventative care and needs to be done annually.  This can be arranged through a vet or if you have a local friendly farmer, they can often help out.

• Worming is sometimes required, but given that they often live solitary lifestyles or in very small groups, rather than just drenching them, a better approach is to collect a small sample of faeces and drop them at a clinic where they can perform a faecal egg count and determine if a drench is necessary.

• A health check similar to a dog or cat is a good idea. This checks their dental health, determines if their feet require trimming, assess their diet and overall health.  It is especially helpful as they age, because they can get arthritis and age-related illness too. 

• Nutrition is important, especially for males.  Goats and sheep are efficient animals and if are not reproducing or rapidly growing do not need large amounts of energy, calcium and protein.  Too much calcium causes small bladder stones that can block the urethra and prevent them from urinating, making them sick and leading to death if not treated quickly.  Too much protein and energy can cause obesity as well as inflammatory issues in the urinary tract. 

It is also important, especially if they are around your backyard to ensure you don’t have any toxic plants in the garden.

Common garden plants like oleander, foxglove or lantana are all toxic if ingested so please check what is around and make sure the fences are sound to avoid upset tummies.

This can be avoided by having adequate pasture and if necessary, feeding good quality meadow or oaten hay and avoiding large amounts of lucerne or commercial pellets. 

A vet will be happy to discuss their nutritional needs with you. 

These animals make wonderful pets and can be extremely affectionate.

If you are thinking about taking one on or have some already grazing in your back yard and have any questions, be sure to get in touch. 

We love dealing with large mobs, but we also love the ones with names like Smarty, Bob and Hank! 

Catherine Harper


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