FAQ:  Blindness and Polioencephalomalacia
Maxine Kinne

Q.  A week ago my Pygmy wether had a 104-degree temperature. He has quit eating or drinking and seems to be blind. He urinates and poops OK. My vet started him on penicillin, and we give him bottles of water with electrolytes. His temperature is normal now, but he still can't see properly. Any ideas? 

Contact your veterinarian immediately to talk about polioencephalomalacia, also called polio or PEM.

PEM involves the brain and often occurs when anything upsets the rumen, the largest part of the 4-chambered stomach. High body temperature, excessive antibiotic use and a few poisonous plants are major causes of indigestion. Vision problem occur because rumen microbes can no longer produce thiamine (vitamin B1) needed by the brain. Thiamine deficiency causes brain to soften and swell. This puts pressure on the optic nerves and results in partial or total blindness and often a staggering gait. Thiamine injections can reverse this process within a few hours if treatment is begun just as soon as vision and locomotion problems are noticed. Treat him NOW!

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