A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

June 30, 2009

Meconium Matters


Meconium or rather the passing of meconium from a cria really does matter, a point that was reinforced at the farm recently.

Following the birth of Shiimsa’s cria Rio all seemed well.  We found a good sized meconium plug in the pasture the following day, Rio was lively and alert and gaining about a pound a day.

The following day though Rio had a large weight gain, Shiimsa was producing lots of milk so the large weight gain was not too out of keeping with our expectations.  Rio was still looking good, running around the pasture with the other crias despite the high temperatures.  I kept and eye on the crias throughout the day for signs of overheating and was pleased to see them taking frequent breaks in the shade, napping and nursing from their dams.

At evening chores though it was apparent something was not right with Rio.  He was squatting funnily with his rear end.  I watched him, he did not appear to be straining to poop, but Rio was obviously uncomfortable.  In addition to the squatting, Rio would also hang his head down and then eventually cush – he was not a happy cria.

Having seen the meconium plug in the pasture we were dubious that a blockage from meconium was the problem, but whatever the problem was it was bothering Rio’s hindquarters.

We took Rio’s temperature and it was slightly elevated, but in a young cria even a slight elevation can be a red flag. 

Of course Rio’s problem appeared outside of the hours of the veterinary clinic, while his condition did not appear life threatening it was concerning.

Our first suspicion was that Rio perhaps despite us having found a meconium plug in the pasture Rio had retained a piece of meconium.  This would prevent him from being able to poop properly and could cause him discomfort, it might also explain the larger than normal weight gain.  We gave a shot of banamine to help keep his temperature down and to help him relax, we then gave him an enema to see if he would pass anything.  The banamine seemed to provide Rio with some relief and a little while after the enema was administered he stood up and started to strain.  First Rio passed a black thin sticky stream that did look like meconium, and then he passed a much harder lump.  This harder lump was about the size of a large peanut, but it was definitely hard and large enough to have caused a blockage.  Once that hard lump had passed Rio continued to pass what appeared to be normal fecal matter.

It took a couple of hours before Rio was looking truly at ease again, but by the morning he was back to his usual self, chasing around the pasture and nursing up a storm.

Our thoughts are that a small piece of Rio’s meconium did not pass when he passed his meconium plug.  That small piece was enough to prevent Rio from being able to pass poop and as he ran around in the heat he became a little dehydrated making that piece of meconium hard and not easy to pass. 

It is always important to monitor young crias to make sure that they pass the meconium plug; sometimes it is hard to find the plug in the pasture especially if you have long grass.  Often once the cria has passed the plug you will see some evidence of fecal matter on the crias rear, but not always.  A crias behavior can let you know a lot about how he or she is feeling which is why it is important to get to know your crias.  If a lively happy cria starts to become lethargic or uncomfortable that cria is trying to tell you that all is not well. 

We were fortunate that Rio’s problem was easily fixed, if he had not shown improvement as quickly as he did we would have called out the vet, even after hours.  Crias can deteriorate quickly when they are not well and often time is of the essence when it comes to treating sick crias.  In Rio’s case meconium certainly mattered – even if it was just a little piece causing the problem.


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