Polioencephalomalacia (PEM) is a neuropathologic condition of ruminants that can be induced by a variety of factors including excessive sulfur intake. This study aimed to investigate the relationship between diets rich in sulfur, high levels of ruminal hydrogen sulfide and the occurrence of polioencephalomalacia in sheep. Eighteen sheep were divided into three groups (G1, G2, and G3) and supplemented with 0.2%, 0.9% and 1.2% sulfur in the diet respectively. Clinical evaluation (i.e. heart rate, respiratory rate, rectal temperature and rumen motility) and laboratory exams (i.e. ruminal hydrogen sulfide concentration, venous gas analysis, ruminal pH, serum and liver copper concentration, computed axial tomography, necropsy, and histopathological examination) were performed. Rectal temperature, venous gas and ruminal pH were within normal limits. Tachycardia and tachypnea were observed in sheep of the three groups. Rumen motility was decreased in animals of group G2 and G3 when compared with G1. The higher the sulfur intake, the lower was the serum and liver levels of copper. Increased ruminal hydrogen sulfide concentration was detected in G2 and G3 sheep. None of the animals had clinical signs of PEM. Computed axial tomography, macroscopic and histopathological examination of the central nervous system showed no evidence of PEM. It is suggested that other factors are associated with excessive sulfur consumption for a PEM outbreak to occur in sheep.
Cerebrocortical necrosis; polioencephalomalacia; sulfur; ruminal hydrogen sulfide; sheep