A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

July 28, 2007

Gut Feelings – In More Ways Than One

Filed under: alpaca, Alpaca Care, Alpaca Health, Alpacas, camelids, General — alpacalady @ 7:41 am

Yesterday morning got off to a rough start when I looked out at the girls pasture and noticed one of our young females Cinnamon lying on her side on her own.  Cinnamon is a real herd lover and it just isn’t like her to be away from the rest of the herd.  What also bothered me was that Cinnamon was in the same part of the pasture that she was sitting in when I did my late night check the night before. 

I watched Cinnamon for a while to see what she did; I felt that if she got up after a short while and joined the herd she was probably okay.  As I watched Cinnamon she did not get up, she sat partially up and then lay back down; something was surely not right with her.

I quickly got dressed and went out to check on Cinnamon, as I got close I could see that she was lying in a pool of diarrhea and had diarrhea flowing from her.  I could also see marks in the ground where her feet had been scrabbling during the night.  I knew that I had to give Cinnamon some immediate care and I also needed to assess her condition.  Could she stand? Did she have a temperature?  How were her heart rate and respiration?  Was she even interested in food?

I went back to the house, collected a rectal thermometer, paper towels, rubber gloves, drew up 10cc of MSE drench and made up a dose of Tucoprim, an antibiotic that we commonly use for bad diarrhea.  I thought about bringing out some Biosponge, a product which is an intestinal absorbent and is pretty good at arresting diarrhea in crias, however part of me felt that I needed to let Cinnamon’s body expel whatever was causing the problem and so I decided against the Biosponge. 

Grabbing a halter I went over to Cinnamon and was able to halter her without too much of a problem.  Another indication that she was not feeling well, as usually she is not too keen to put her halter on and certainly would not let me catch her in an open space.  Thankfully Cinnamon was able to stand and so I gently walked her over to a pen so that I could assess her, medicate her and observe her.

Cinnamon’s heart and respiration were normal and her temperature was 101.5, which was pretty close to normal (normal temperature in an adult alpaca is 101.1).  I gave Cinnamon the Tucoprim and MSE (which she promptly tried to spit out) and then cleaned her up as best I could with the paper towels being careful to put them into a plastic sack that I had taken out with me to avoid spreading whatever it was Cinnamon had.

Cinnamon was willing at that stage to walk around the pen and so I left her in there and brought her a bucket of hay and two buckets of water, one of plain water and the other water with electrolytes in it.  The reason behind the two buckets of water was that I wanted her to drink something and if she wasn’t keen on electrolyte water and that was all that I had left her then she would more than likely not drink.  By offering plain water alongside the electrolyte water I had a good chance she would drink something.  After a short while Cinnamon started to nibble on some hay, which was another good sign.  I also saw her drinking the plain water which was encouraging.

I had discovered Cinnamon having trouble at 6:30 a.m. and by 10:30 a.m. she was acting much better, I let her out of the pen and she immediately went to the poop pile.  This time she did not have diarrhea but instead her poop was the texture of mashed potatoes so something was starting to work.

I left Cinnamon out of her pen for the rest of the day.  She moved around a little slower than normal and ate hay; I was encouraged to see her chewing her cud, another good sign. 

As the day progressed I became aware that Cinnamon was becoming less active and when she lay down she either stretched out on her side or lay with her legs kicked out.  Both of those positions can indicate abdominal discomfort in an alpaca and so red flags started to go up for me.  I continued to watch Cinnamon through the afternoon and one thing I did notice was that while she was going to the poop pile only urine was coming out, no poop was to be seen.

By the time evening chores came around I decided to again pen Cinnamon up to observe her.  She again let me catch her without too much fuss and when I put her in her pen she lay down almost immediately.  I had soaked some beet pulp shreds for her as I felt she should not have pellets while her stomach was upset and beet pulp shreds are Cinnamons favorite.  I also put hay and water in the pen.  I sat down near Cinnamon and could hear that she was moaning very quietly, I offered her the beet shreds but she was not at all interested and the same went for the hay.

Pain management in alpacas is, I feel, essential to their recovery, if they get to a stage where the pain is too intense they can easily give up their fight to survive.  With Cinnamon starting to moan I was now pretty certain she was experiencing some pain.  The pain most likely was gas caused by her intestinal upset, that in itself can be problematic as when the gas causes pain the alpaca tenses up and it is harder for the gas to pass through the alpacas system.  So to ease Cinnamon’s pain I gave her 1cc of Banamine.  The Banamine helps reduce pain but also will help Cinnamon to relax. 

Within an hour of having the Banamine Cinnamon was up and eating hay.  She ate hay well and then eat her beet pulp shreds so I let her out to join the herd.  The last thing I want to do is stress her and I know she will be happier with the herd. 

So as I write this (on Friday night) I am encouraged that Cinnamon is eating again, but I know that she is still not out of trouble yet.  I will of course check on her during the night, hopefully she will be relaxed and comfortable and her digestive system can start to function normally.

After several years of raising alpacas, I find that often the best thing is to trust my gut feelings.  Now I certainly would have called our vet if I felt Cinnamon had a condition that was beyond my caring skills, but as of now my gut feeling is that Cinnamon ate something that badly disagreed with her.  Just two days before this happened she and the rest of the girls were out grazing; perhaps it was something she ate that day that caused the problem.  Of course if Cinnamon does not start to show improvement I will consult our vet and see what he recommends, she may need a stronger antibiotic, but from what I have seen she is responding to what I have done so far. 

As with humans it could take her a few days to get back to her normal lively self, but until then you can be certain that she will be watched very closely and given the best care I can.   I might lose some sleep over Cinnamon, but it will be worth every minute if I can get her back to good health – who needs sleep anyway!

Rosemary

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