Izzy and Huntington’s Disease

Izzy alone in the pole barn this morning.

When Izzy first started spending time alone away from the other sheep, I wanted to believe she was just being independent.

But as time passed, I began to see that something else was happening.

She began calling out for the other sheep not seeming to know where they were.  And they didn’t answer her or join her as sheep usually do.  She became more easily startled and confused.

Izzy was very friendly when we first got her, but in the past six months or so, she wouldn’t let me get close to her.

And since we started feeding the animals hay a few days ago, I saw that she wasn’t eating it.  When all the sheep ran to the feeder, Izzy would go out to the pasture and graze alone.

With the recent snow, there is little to eat.  She would never survive the winter not eating hay.

I didn’t think much of the strange way she was walking till I read the symptoms of Huntington’s Disease this evening as I was researching dementia in sheep.

That’s what both Jon and I thought might be going on with Izzy.   Her behavior was just too unusual for there not to be something wrong with her and dementia seemed probable.

But then I found out that sheep do get Huntington’s Disease. Actually some of the research into the disease is being done on sheep.

The symptoms that I see in Izzy are a lack of coordination, and a jerky “unsteady gait”,  problems with mental ability and an inability to eat and dementia.  It is mostly a hereditary disease.

This morning Izzy stayed in the pole barn while the other sheep ate their hay.  Later Izzy wandered out alone to the far pasture to graze.  She was out by herself all day, sometimes calling to the other sheep but never with them.

This morning Jon and I talked about euthanizing Izzy.  I wasn’t quite ready to do it, I needed a little more time to get used to the idea.  But this evening, after reading about Huntington’s Disease, I have no doubt that it’s best to euthanize Izzy as soon as we can.

Now that I understand what is happening to her, I can only imagine her confusion and fear.

Since she is so skittish now, it won’t be easy to get Izzy into the barn.  Maybe because of the cold weather, she’ll stay there again tomorrow morning, as she did today, while the other sheep eat.  Then I can close the gates and give her some grain to help keep her calm.

Jon and I decided that it’s best for him to shoot her.

I can’t help but think how Asher and Issachar, our two new wethers, came to us this fall and we are about to lose another sheep.   It’s hard for me not to believe that those twins came to take their places.

One thought on “Izzy and Huntington’s Disease

  1. Poor Izzy`. I’m sorry she’s gone but she was lucky to be with people who would notice and understand her needs.
    God speed, Izzy.

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