A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

August 29, 2017

A Difficult Month at Windrush Alpacas

Filed under: Alpaca Health — Tags: , , , — alpacalady @ 8:30 pm

July 2017 was the most difficult month we had at the farm in 18 years of raising alpacas.

Mid-month our herd was hit with two diseases – West Nile Virus and Polioencephalomalacia (PEM). Sadly, we lost three of our alpacas – Echo, Queen, and Moonie. Each succumbed to one of the diseases.

The course of events was difficult for everyone as several other alpacas had symptoms and we did not know what we were dealing with. We had to wait several days – and longer – for test results to know how to most effectively treat any animal with signs of distress.

The beginning

Early in the week of July 17 Echo, one of our alpaca boys, started with strange and sudden neurological symptoms. He rapidly went downhill. Since Echo did not respond to anything the vet was trying and only got worse, we made the difficult decision to euthanize him.

A few days later, our livestock guardian dog Duke alerted us that something was wrong in our female pasture. On checking the girls, we found eight of them with symptoms similar to Echo’s.

We started treating the girls immediately and contacted our vet. By the time we were loading up to go to the vet, two of our girls, Queen and Moonie, were in bad shape. Sadly, by the time we got to the vets it was apparent that Queen was suffering terribly. The vet said the chances of Queen making a full recovery were very slim. Once again, we had to make the difficult decision to let one of our alpacas go.

Moonie stayed on at the veterinarian’s hospital. She was blind by the time we left her and the vet told us there was a 50/50 chance of Moonie regaining her eyesight. Moonie was on IV fluids, receiving antibiotics, and anti-inflammatory medicines.

Like Queen, Moonie was one of our older girls which is probably why she was more susceptible. Out of the six other girls, Snow, Clarissa, and Carina responded well to treatment at the farm. Betty, Theresa, and Ana Lynne had fewer neurological symptoms but their appetite was very depressed. They were definitely not themselves.

Our vet has worked hard with us to try and determine caused the illness in our herd. The prime suspect was some form of toxin in our feed or hay or West Nile Virus. Blood samples were submitted for testing. It was the weekend, so we knew it would be several days before we had results. In the meantime, we became very observant of our herd and prayed that no-one else would show symptoms.

At the end of the first week, we were emotionally and physically exhausted.

On the morning of Sunday, July 23, we had some good news.

The girls who were affected but remained on the farm were all back to eating and drinking on their own. One had been a little slower to respond than the others so we kept close attention to her, but we were hopeful she would follow the path of recovery of the others, which she did.

Moonie, still at the vet, showed signs of improvement that morning, too. On Saturday, we gave the vet some Oxbow Critical Care we had used to encourage the appetite of the alpacas on the farm. The vet tubed Moonie with the Oxbow and on Sunday morning Moonie was eating and drinking on her own. I took that as a hopeful sign.

Moonie still had very limited vision, she appeared only to be able to differentiate light from dark. We were hoping that her vision would improve with time.

Sadly, by the afternoon, Moonie had taken a turn for the worse. She had four seizures within 15 minutes. The vet sedated her and gave her stronger doses of anti-inflammatories. When we left, she was able to hold her head up. We were still hopeful.

On Monday morning, however, we had to put Moonie to sleep. She rallied a little during the night and then started to crash around 2:30 a.m. I was with her when she passed.

We had a necropsy done on her and samples of all of our hay, feed and water had been submitted for analysis. We were still waiting on the West Nile test results from Echo. We needed an answer soon.

Our vet contacted four clinicians at CSU who all felt that this had to be something in our feed, hay or water. She told us there was also some other blood work she could run that could help us figure out what on earth this was.

We remained on alert for anyone else in the herd showing symptoms. With there being about week between the first incident and the second we realized there was a chance this could happen again.

That same morning, we had two boys possibly showing very early symptoms of whatever this was. At this point, we were so paranoid that we didn’t know if we were being oversensitive or if we were getting more cases. We were ready for this nightmare to be over.

Through this difficult couple of days, we had to acknowledge the brighter moments. Most significant was the recovery of the girls on Sunday. Then the discovery that we have a new vet in town who has good knowledge of working with alpacas (the vets and staff at Clovis Veterinary Hospital were amazing)!

Our new livestock guardian dog who, despite having been here little over a week, alerted us to what was happening with our girls (and this guy is a rescue who we have no background history on, who doesn’t appear to have been around livestock before), and the outpouring of love and support from the alpaca community, family and friends.

On Tuesday, the two boys who we had a concern about seemed to be normal.

Our vet, Dr. Hornig, told us our samples ended up going to Texas A & M rather than CSU partly because she felt that Texas A & M would have a better knowledge of noxious weeds in this area. The samples from Moonie went to Texas A & M too so that there would be consistency and continuity in our case. Dr. Hornig had spoken to the lab at Texas A & M and was working with them to systematically run various tests in an effort to keep our costs down.

She spoke with our other vet Dr. Orton. Together they identified certain things they felt should have priority when it came to testing. When those things are eliminated then they would start working down a list of possible causes. It would be a timely process, but a necessary one to get this right.

I spent some time that evening walking through the herd doing my last check before I lost daylight. Everyone seemed peaceful, content and calm. We hoped, that in time, we would join them in that peaceful, content, calm state too.

Click to read about Test Results


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