20% Dextrose Intra-peritoneal Injection Technique
Lambs aged 5 hours or more that are suffering from exposure have a greater chance of recovery if they receive an injection of dextrose BEFORE they are warmed because they have already used up the store of energy they were born with trying to stay warm and warming them when energy stores are exhausted can hasten their death. The dextrose can be given by one of two ways:
a)           An intra-peritoneal (intra-abdominal) injection of 10mls/kg of (preferably warmed but cold is okay) sterile 20% Dextrose.  Hold the lamb by its front legs or sit it on its backside between your legs or it can simply be lying on its side on the ground.  The 20% Dextrose comes in a 500ml flexi pack with a draw-off tube attached.  The easiest way is to connect a vaccinating gun (10ml plastic guns are available from Shoof – order code ISVV10) or you can use a 60ml syringe.   Using a short 18G needle (no longer than ½“ – a 3/8” one used for vaccinating is ideal) inject into the lambs abdomen just in front of the navel at a slight angle towards the chest with as much hygiene as possible – perhaps spray the area with iodine.  Make sure the Dextrose goes right into the abdomen not just under the skin.  Note – the Dextrose must be 20% strength.
b)            Or a subcutaneous injection of 30mls/kg of preferably warmed Dextrose Saline (not 20%    Dextrose.) Inject over the ribs on both sides & massage in well.
Note:  The intra-peritoneal route (a) gives the better results as it works quicker and it is also so quicker to administer.  Both techniques are superior to stomach tubing as well as quicker to perform.  The 20% Dextrose solution, syringe & needle should be carried as part of the lambing shepherds gear as the procedure is best done by the shepherd immediately out in the paddock rather than delay the procedure until back at the lamb warmer as some lambs will succumb during the delay.
Alternative Use For The Technique
As well as being used to revive totally collapsed lambs as described above, some farmers have been using it more as a preventative.  If on the daily rounds they see a ewe with a set of twins & one of the twins is “looking dodgy” but not yet actually collapsed, they inject the suspect looking twin with dextrose as described above but leave it there.  This avoids the work of having to catch the ewe & lambs to bring them all in (& the resultant mismothering that can occur) & results in reduced losses of the weaker lamb in a set of multiples.
John A. Smart BVSc