Monday, March 8, 2010

Unsolved Mystery- Snowflake Update

After putting in lots of time and money to figure out why snowflake died, I am sad to say that it is still a mystery. If you haven't read the whole story of how she passed away, scroll back a few blog entries. We've been able to rule out lots of things that did not kill her, but haven't really been able to come to a clear answer as to what did kill her.

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:

Asked to perform necropsy on"Snowflake"- 3 year old female alpaca. Animal died this morning. Has been a waxing and waning course of disease for 2+ weeks. Started with excess salivation, intermittent anorexia, and laying down more. On necropsy there were no external abnormalities. Abdomen revealed excess amount of free fluid in abdomen. The fluid was a dark yellow in color. Bladder was intact and normal in appearance. Uterus contained a male fetus of approx 4 month gestation. Kidneys normal. Intestines contained stool distally- submit for fecal sample. In house fecal evaluation reveals no parasites seen. Normal foodstuff in stomach, no ulceration noted. Liver was yellow with mildly rounded edges and a firmer feel on palpation. Sample did not float in water. Sample taken for submission. C3 gastric compartment lining appears unlike surrounding tissue in color- submit sample. Thoracic evaluation revealed petechial hemorrhage and multifocal hemorrhage around heart as well as exuberant tissue growth at proximal aspect of heart (mediastinum and dorsal heart in area) which included hemorrhage. Pericardial sack was normal- dorsal portion may have contain petechiation as was involved with this exuberant tissue that made it difficult to differentiate. Excess petechial hemorrhage on body wall surrounding large vasculature and descending aorta. Normal valves and chambers in heart. Trachea appeared normal. Esophagus contained foam and small amount of rumenal contents. No oral lesions or abnormalities except rumenal contents in mouth. Samples of exuberant tissue sent.

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

Microscopic Description
Multiple representative sections of liver, "tissue surround the heart", and the third gastric compartment (C3) are examined.

Diffusely in the liver, the portal regions are expanded by mild biliary hyperplasia and fibrosis that extends into the hepatic parenchyma, variably disrupting the normal lobular pattern of the liver. Single hepatocyctes are necrotic, whereas many of the remaining hepatocytes are swollen and have clear distinct cytoplasmic vacuoles (fatty degeneration). Additionally, there are multiple small heterpgeneous leukoctic aggregates (interpreted as mild extramedullary hematopoiesis). The hepatic capsule and the connective tissue surrounding some of the central veins are also mildly expanded by fibrosis.

In the sections of "tissue surrounding the heart" (interpreted as mediastinum based in its composition of abundant adipose tissue interspersed with a nerve fascicle and multiple clusters of lymphocytes and few macrophages laden with grey pigment), there are multifocal areas of acute hemorrhage associated with acutely congested vessels.

No significant alterations are evident in the section of C3 except for moderate autolysis indicated by loss of superficial portion of the mucosa.

Liver: Portal fibrosis, biliary epithelial hyperplasia, and hepatocellular fatty degeneration
"Tissue surrounding the heart" (Mediastinum): Acute congestion and multifocal hemorrhage

The main histologic alterations were in the liver. They were characterized by chronic degenerative changes, most likely due to ingestion of a toxin. Plant alkaloids and aflatoxins have to be considered as a potential cause for the lesions. There was no indication of an infectious disease neither in the liver nor in the other tissues examined.

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.

We have been feeding the alpacas more of our first cut from last year instead of what we bought at auction just to be safe. We decided to have all our hay tested through MSU for aflatoxins as there were a few suspicious "dusty" bales that we bought at the hay auction back in December. We have since thrown the suspicious bales out. Aflatoxins which are Mycotoxins are produced by some fungi that infect corn and cereals. The mycotoxins are produced only if the right environmental conditions are met and these conditions vary depending on the fungus. It is possible for mycotoxin production to take place while the crop is still standing in the field or after it is harvested and in storage. The two most common forms of mycotoxins are vomitoxin and zearalenone. Vomitoxin causes the animal which eats the contaminated feed to vomit. Usually, however, animals refuse to eat the feed. Zearalenone is a female estrogen. Symptoms in livestock are as follows: females show signs of irregular heat, immature gilts develop a marked swelling and inflammation of the external genital organs, reduced litter sizes, and males may lose libido. We had our hay tested for 5 different aflatoxins as well as vomitoxin and zealalenone. We got the results back today with all the numbers and the final evaluation for all our hay samples and it said:

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.

1 comment:

dorsal heart said...

I think her heart are covered by some tissues and the liver couldn't work well.This serious situation cause the failure of her life.