A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

October 6, 2013

An Update on Pearl

Filed under: Uncategorized — alpacalady @ 7:49 pm




Five days have passed since our alpaca Pearl became unable to stand as a result of contracting West Nile Virus.  Last Tuesday we knew she was in trouble, the virus was progressing despite efforts to stop it.  Tuesday morning she was wobbly, by Tuesday afternoon she could not get up.

Our earlier efforts to stop the virus and also boost Pearl’s immune system were obviously not enough.  In doing some research about West Nile Virus I had come across an article that had outlined a homeopathic treatment protocol for West Nile VIrus in horses, the article is by Nancy Stephens an Equine Wellness Consultant.    We had already implemented some of the treatment that Nancy Stephens recommended but in view of the progression of the virus we knew we had to rethink what we were doing and either change or add something to get a better result.  Nancy mentions the use of Oregano oil in her article and we previously had great success using Oregano Oil on one of our horses, but it didn’t seem to be as effective as with Pearl.  Part of the problem I decided was Pearl’s beautiful fleece.  While I could try my best to drop the Oregano oil onto Pearl’s back in areas were the fleece was parted it was not as effective as dropping the oil onto the slick hair of a horse.  To try and get a better result I started applying the oil to Pearl’s foot pads.  In humans the pores in the skin of the feet are larger and lead to better absorption of essential oils so my hope was that the same would apply to alpacas.  

I also contacted Dr. Gerald Wessner, one of the holistic veterinarians mentioned in Nancy Stephens article.  During the consultation with Dr. Wessner he first established the reasons that we felt we were indeed dealing with West Nile and then went on to prescribe a combination of homeopathic medicines that he has had success with when treating horses for West Nile Virus.  Dr. Wessner also gave me advice on where to change the treatments that Pearl was already receiving to help ensure her recovery.

Unfortunately we could not get overnight delivery for the medicines from Florida (where Dr. Wessner has his practice) to Clovis, New Mexico, so it would be Thursday before the medicines would arrive.

Thankfully on Thursday the medicines arrived safe and sound, along with instructions from Dr. Wessner and I was able to begin treatment on Pearl.

So how is Pearl doing?  Well we have seem some improvement.  Pearl still cannot stand on her own, but as of this morning both Ric and I felt that when we tried to help her stand (something we do 2 – 3 times a day) that she had more strength in her legs.  Not a lot more strength but at the moment we will take any small positive improvement that we can get.  I had noticed this morning when I first checked on Pearl that she had moved quite a distance from where she had been when I did my last late night check on her.  As I worked on chores this morning I did see Pearl attempt to stand on her own, something that she has continued to do since she went down last Tuesday.  Today though she was making more progress with her attempt.  Instead of just being able to push either her front legs or her back legs up I watched as she pushed up on both front and back legs at the same time.  I am cautious not to get my hopes up too soon, but hopefully she is headed in the right direction.

Pearl was also a little more feisty today!  When I went to put the Oregano oil on her feet she grumbled a little.  When Ric and I went to try and stand her up she grumbled a lot and told us in her own way she was not impressed.  When we laid her on her side to massage and work with her legs Pearl tried to spit at Ric!  Not from pain but more from “stop messing with me”.

Pearl is drinking more from the water bucket on her own too.  Initially she would not drink from the bucket, but would accept water from a dosing syringe.  Today she has had a couple of good drinks from the bucket on her own, although at times she still reaches out to me asking me to syringe water into her mouth.  We all like to be pampered when we are ill and Pearl is not exception.

Pearl is eating well, enjoying a daily feast of hay, grain, soaked beet pulp shreds and a bowlful of apples, carrots and celery every day.  Peeing and pooping are still happening which is another good sign.

Pearl has been such a fighter through this whole ordeal, something that gives me hope for her survival.  Having dealt with seriously ill alpacas in the past I know that the desire to fight is a major factor in an alpaca’s recovery.  Some give up, others like Pearl fight and fight hard.

Taking care of Pearl is time consuming and at times tiring, but so very rewarding.  Whether it is a nudge from her muzzle as I give her her medications (something which she accepts and handles well), or a long gaze she gives me as I sit with her, there are signs that she knows I am trying to help her.  I talk to her as I work with her, I encourage her to keep fighting, I praise her for trying to stand, for eating, for drinking, at times I sing to her and watch her close her eyes and start to relax.  Can she understand what I am saying?  Who knows, how wonderful if she does and if she doesn’t I haven’t really lost anything by what I am doing.  I still remember when one of our other alpacas Tequeely was down with tick paralysis that I would sing to her until she went to sleep.  As I left the barn Tequeely was fine if I carried on singing until I got to the house, but if I stopped before then she would wake up and start to thrash around her stall until I went back to her and started signing to her again.  I prefer to give animals the benefit of the doubt on their ability to understand our efforts to communicate with them.

I realize that Pearl’s recovery is most likely not going to be a rapid one, but that’s okay, I have patience and tenacity and I believe that Pearl does too.  Together hopefully we will make a good team.  I will try and post again in a few days to give a further update on Pearl.  In the meantime I ask that all those who are monitoring Pearl’s progress keep up the healing thoughts, good wishes and prayers – our Pearl is still with us and I am sure those thoughts and prayers have something to do with it.






  1. Best of luck with Pearl. I am praying that she makes it. It sounds as if she is on the road to recovery. My father lost is favorite horse to West Nile and now he vaccinates for it. Is there a vaccine for alpacas specifically or for similar animals?

    Comment by Ginger Doege Metcalf — October 6, 2013 @ 8:37 pm

    • Hi Ginger, Sorry to hear that your father lost his favorite horse to West Nile. It is a very unpleasant virus. There is a vaccine available for alpacas but it is given as a series and takes a while to be truly effective. When West Nile first appeared in alpacas we asked our vet about vaccination. He felt that given that we live in such an arid climate our risk of infection is low, he also said that many alpacas will contract it without showing any symptoms. Given those facts and the cost of vaccinating our whole herd (over 80 alpacas) we decided against vaccination. For the last few years we have been in such a drought it has been difficult for mosquitoes to breed but this year we did have some rain and the little devils were back. The homeopathic vet who helped us with Pearl also gave us a preventative treatment to put in the alpacas drinking water. We are now out of mosquito season in this area but you can bet we will be using that preventative treatment next year.

      Comment by alpacalady — November 11, 2013 @ 9:21 pm

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