Dog ate chocolate?

ask a vet

Do sheep die on their backs?

Species: Other
Breed: sheep
Age: 1-2 years
Hi, there.

We have been having a debate about a sheep we saw in the field behind our house the other day, it was stuck at the bottom of a bankside on it's back and I have heard that they can die if they do not get back up within a couple of hours?? So I went and helped it get back on it's feet.
Now everyone is laughing at my theory and I have no more information than "they die". Can you please confirm if this is infact true or an old wives tale and if so what actually causes their demise.


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

I normally don't answer questions about sheep as I really don't know much about sheep, but this one had me intrigued!

If you do a google search about this type of thing you will see many posts of people claiming that sheep will die very quickly if left on their backs. It didn't make sense to me though as I remember in school that we did surgeries on sheep and they were on their back and we didn't have concerns about them dying.

So, I spoke to a few vets I know who actually do treat sheep. Their answer to this question is that this is not true. Of the four of them I talked to, none of them had ever heard of a case where a sheep died because it had been stuck on its back for too long.

One vet who has been treating sheep for 30 years says that in theory it's possible that if a sheep was in exactly the wrong position it would be unable to "eructate" (release gases from the rumen) and could die but he's never seen it happen. Another vet said that Suffolk sheep have a higher chance of randomly ending up stuck on their backs. She's seen it happen that when one sheep ended up on its back, the rest of the flock would rush over and flip the sheep back up the right way. But, she's never seen one die because of being on its back.

Another vet said he's seen sheep who died because they got stuck in a feed bunker or fell down into a hole, but never in an open field.

So, despite all of the information you read online I would say that this is an old wive's tale!

---This question was asked in our Ask A Vet For Free section.---



Check out our dog age calculator and cat age calculator.

Want to receive pet coupons, vet advice and info on new pet products in your inbox?

* indicates required

We'll only send you great stuff, never spam. Unsubscribe any time.

Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. AskAVetQuestion.com and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

Search for similar questions:

ask a vet

Popular questions...

Dasuquin causing allergies. About 5 months ago, my dog injured his leg during a walk. I took him to the vet &... (8645 views)

My dog twisted her back. Dear Dr. Marie, Hope you are well. I was contacting you in hopes that you could... (29709 views)

Heart disease or cancer? Lazarus is still fighting. I appreciated that you understood my humor on the last... (3369 views)

Black spot on Hamster's skin. my hamster has a black spot under his hair.should he have this?????????????. he is a... (15608 views)

Increased thirst and urination. Hi Dr. Marie, This question concerns crystals in urine. Starting about 1 week... (3658 views)

In heat and shaking her head. My dog has been vomiting and had diarrhea for the last 2-3 days. She has been in... (3776 views)

Euthanize biting dog? My name is Meghan and I am going through a super tough situation and thought maybe... (4627 views)

Shelter cats with infection. Hello My friend told me I should talk to you about what is going on at the animal... (3359 views)

Overdose of Xanax. Can forty .5 mg pills of Alprazolam Kill a 6 pound chihuahua? came home and found my... (67769 views)

Lump on dog's chin. My dachshund has a bump on his lower lip that looks like a blood blister? Could it... (26182 views)

See all questions...

Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.