We observed clinical signs, compared adrenal responses, and performed diagnostic tests on 12 captive Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis canadensis) during a spontaneous outbreak of pasteurellosis. Cortisol in urine and feces was measured for bighorns sampled three times between 20 October and 1 November 1986. By 6 November, four of these had developed pneumonia, four showed only mild rhinitis, and four remained clinically normal. Bighorns that ultimately developed pneumonia showed elevated mean urinary (P = 0.003) and fecal (P = 0.046) cortisol excretion over the 12-day sampling period. Twenty-four hour mean urine cortisol: creatinine ratios ranged from 10 to 57 ng/mg dry matter for affected and 5 to 22 ng/mg for healthy individuals; 24 hr mean fecal cortisol concentrations ranged from 7.2 to 20 ng/g dry matter for affected and 3.6 to 9.1 ng/g dry matter for healthy individuals. Elevated cortisol excretion preceded clinical pneumonia in affected bighorns by ≤ 16 days. Beta-hemolytic Pasteurella haemolytica biotype T, serotype 3 or 4, was isolated from nasal and pharyngeal swabs from all eight bighorns with pneumonia or mild rhinitis. We detected no evidence of parainfluenza 3, bovine respiratory syncytial virus, or Chlamydia psittaci using fluorescent antibody and/or serologic tests. Although elevated cortisol excretion was associated with pneumonia, we also believe age, reproductive physiology, and/or prior recovery from clinical pasteurellosis may have influenced individual susceptibility to pneumonia during this epizootic.
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Vol. 27 • No. 4