Before Snowflake died, we had blood drawn to try and see what was going on, but the sample was sent by our vet to a lab who no longer does camelids and the sample became too old to send to another lab. This was disappointing as it may have given us a more clear picture.
Fecal tests were completed and she had no parasites.
When she died, we had our vet do a necropsy. She concluded that she died of liver failure, but was unsure as to what caused the liver to fail. Here are the results from our vet:
We had tissue samples from her heart and liver sent to Michigan State for further testing. Here are the results from these tests:
The fixed tissues submitted for this case are from a 3.5-year-old camelid.
So many big scientific words! When it came back saying it could have been something she had eaten, possibly in our hay, I freaked out and insured all our animals just in case. It was probably overkill and a waste of money, but brought me a little peace of mind. Although all of our other alpacas have been eating the same thing, and no one has shown any symptoms of being ill.
All our hay and pastures are pretty much pure grasses with some clover in it, so we did not think it could have been a plant alkaloid. Alkaloids are organic basic substances with a bitter taste, examples of which are morphine, atropine, nicotine, quinine and strychnine. The alkaloids generally are irritating to the gastrointestinal tract producing nausea, colic and diarrhea and also act on the central nervous system to produce blindness, muscular weakness, convulsions and death. Toxic alkaloids are found in the following plants; swamp and death camas, lupines, buttercups, marshmarigolds, larkspur, the nightshades, squirrel corn and Dutchman's breeches.
Mycotoxins Interpretation: The sample was negative for the listed mycotoxins down to their respective limits of detection.
A few weeks ago, I noticed Snowflakes 6 month old daughter Jolie foam white at the mouth twice in the morning. I had been hyper-vigilant about watching for signs in our other alpacas and freaked out. Noah took her to the vet where they did an exam and said she seemed completely healthy. They also took blood and ran a CBC blood panel, which came back a week later as completely normal. I have not seen her foam since, except a little bit last weekend when I put her on the halter. I think she may do it when she gets angry.
So now, almost 2 months after Snowflake's death, we still don't have a clear picture of what happened to her. She appeared to be a young and healthy girl one day and the next was sick and at death's door. The one thing that I am certain of after spending all this time and energy into figuring out what happened is that it was not preventable or avoidable. We did all we could for our girl Snowy and it is all a part of living on a farm I suppose. I am happy that we still have Snowflake's little girl Jolie Rouge and her half sister Appalachia to carry on Snowflake's legacy.