Diseases - Sheep

Skin Swellings




A range of diseases and conditions can cause skin swellings in a range of anatomical locations. The table below lists the main swellings occurring in the live export process.

Table 1.3: Causes of skin swellings in export livestock

Type of swellingAnatomical location and cause


abdomen and chest from various types of skin tumours; regional lymph nodes and body skin from lymphosarcoma


mandible and maxilla from lumpy jaw; lower legs following trauma


side of neck from vaccination


pelvic prominences from trauma; penis and prepuce from ruptured penis,


ventral abdomen from trauma


Submandibular oedema from: woody tongue, blocked salivary duct and heart failure; brisket oedema from heart failure due to traumatic reticulopericarditis, valvular endocarditis, ionophore (i.e. monensin) poisoning


ventral abdomen and prepuce from urine leakage following urethral obstruction then rupture


over rump, back and shoulder from blackleg; over shoulder and back from sucking wounds of armpit

Clinical Signs and Diagnosis

Swellings may be difficult to detect unless seen in profile in good lighting. The cause of most swellings may be differentiated by the location and extent, size, shape, surface, smell, contour and content. Inserting a needle or cutting into a swelling to determine its contents should be avoided in the live export process because of the risk of iatrogenic infection.


Choice of treatment will depend on accurate diagnosis.


A good screening system will detect problems during selection thereby preventing entry into the export process. Vaccination hygiene, low stress animal handling and vaccination against blackleg, which are routine in the live export process, should contribute to lowering of prevalence. Awareness of the types of problems that may arise and having systems for early detection, accurate diagnosis and effective treatment are important particularly at sea.