Thursday, April 9, 2009

Cinderella's Tummy Ache

I went out to the barn Tuesday night to feed the alpacas their nightly grain and hay. I have been giving them their grain bowls in the barn since it started snowing last year, and it has become habit for them all to run into the barn when I open the door ( I now realize that this was a great "trick" to teach them as it is now very easy to get them into the barn when we need to work with them. Otherwise, they can be very difficult to catch out in the pasture). Anyway, Cinderella would not come into the barn when the grain was put out and the doors were opened. This is not like her. She is normally very excited for food and never one to be alone away from the herd. I thought maybe she got spit on (as she is at the bottom of the totem pole) and refused to come in and eat because she was was clearing the spit from her nostrils. I tried to give her some grain outside, but she did not eat any. When I put hay out, she did not join in the feast either. She just laid down in the doorway with her back legs kicked out to the side. I knew then that something was not right with our girl. We checked Cinderella's temperature and heart rate and both were normal. We checked her vaginal and rectal openings and they looked normal with no discharge. Her bag and teats were normal and did not indicate that she was in labor. We checked her mouth for abscesses, but could not see anything. She also seemed to have control of her extremities so I was not worried about Meningeal Worm. We checked on her several more times that evening and she was not eating and continued to lay with her legs kicked out to the side.

The next morning, she seemed very tired and listless. She kept laying down on her side or with her back legs kicked out. She was not chewing her cud. Her eyes were not bright and alert like normal. She still would not come into the barn for grain and was not touching the hay or water. I noticed her standing over the poo pile several times like she was trying to relieve herself, but nothing came out. I now became worried. These are signs that she is in the early stages of labor. She seemed to be exhibiting these same signs last night and this would be a long time for her to be in stage one of labor though. Also, she is only 7 months pregnant and did not seem to be pushing or straining. We took her vitals again and checked her all over again and everything was normal. I called the vet to see if there was anything we could do if she was in labor. The vet said that there was not really anything we could do this far along if she was in labor and aborting the cria and to monitor her and keep her comfortable. She said that she would need to see our girl if she was straining or pushing and nothing was happening as she could have a uterine torsion (where the uterus twists making it impossible for a cria to pass through the birth canal) or some other form of dystocia (the cria may be in the wrong position for birth and intervention is needed).

Although my initial thought was that Cinderella was in labor, as she was exhibiting many of the signs of labor, my next thought was that she was having some type of intestinal problem. When we check her vitals, there were a lot of loud sounds coming from her gut and we had not seen her poo or pee all day. On Monday, we attended a hay auction (which is really a whole other topic I need to blog about...it was a very interesting experience). We bought 25 bales of high quality hay. It was all green leafy grass unlike our hay that was quickly running out that contained a lot of grass stems. We started mixing this new rich hay in with our old hay. It did not seem to affect any of the other alpacas, but Cinderella may have a more sensitive digestive system than the other alpacas. Despite our mixing the old hay with the new, I think it still gave her indigestion and made her constipated. With this new theory, we decided to treat her with Probios (a probiotic paste that contains micro-organisms that help in digestion) and we mixed Bounce Back (electrolytes) in the water. I called the vet and let her know my new theory and asked her if we could give Cinderella some Banamine for pain. Our vet said that although it did sound like Cinderella could be exhibiting signs of labor, the new hay could have caused colic as well. She suggested we give Cinderella a warm soapy water or mineral oil enema and some Banamine.

We gave Cinderella the Probios, Banamine, and a mineral oil enema as well as mixed the Bounce Back in the water bucket with warm water. We also massaged Cinderella's belly. Although she hated the meds, she seemed to relax when were rubbing her belly. Fifteen minutes after giving her this treatment, she began eating hay and did not stop for almost two hours. She began drinking water about an hour after treatment. We quarantined her near the herd with panels so we could monitor her pooing and peeing to make sure she was going. About 5 hours after we treated her, she pooed. The beans were oily from the enema, but were bean shaped like normal. We scooped some up to take to the vet for a fecal test and noticed that they were much harder than normal.Today, Cinderella is still quarantined to monitor her, but she seems to be doing much better. She has pooed and peed several times since yesterday and is eating and drinking. She is no longer laying with her back legs out and is eating grain. She sits and stands bright and alert like normal. We gave her one more dose of the Probios to help her digestive system get going. We dropped the fecal sample off at the vet, but have not gotten the results back yet. The vet said that we did a great job with our girl and to continue to monitor her. The vet said that she would have thought Cinderella was in labor if she had not known about the new hay and it sounds like she may have had colic. She suggested we palpate the cria by pressing rapidly on her belly several times and wait to see if the cria moves back at us to make sure the cria is doing okay. She said we should try doing this several times during the day as the cria will not move every time.

So after a few days of worrying and closely monitoring the alpacas, Cinderella just had a terrible tummy ache. We will continue to monitor and make sure it does not turn into anything else more serious. I was thinking how strange it is that I know these alpacas so well with out even trying to know them so well. Someone who was not familiar with Cinderella or alpacas would never have picked up on the small signs that she was just not herself. I feel blessed to be able to know my animals behavior so well. Hopefully she will be back jumping and skipping soon!

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