Friday, July 29, 2011

Treatment - alpaca digestion problems

I know frequently people come across this blog while doing a google search. And since recently I wrote about Cheyenne's terrible situation with a bowel obstruction (impacted cria, sand colic in an alpaca are other keys words that could be searched by someone), I know doing a google search on any of these key phrases could pull up this blog, I want people to know what new information we found. I also hope all my fellow alpaca farmers who read this blog can tuck this information way in case they run into something similar in the future.

First for sand colic, I highly recommend doing a quarterly treatment of psyllium fiber. A popular brand would be Sand Clear (sold for horses). I have used that in the past, but because it seemed like it was getting kind of pricey, I switched to Metamucil (the kind sold for human consumption, I buy the generic walmart brand for an even more economical way to do it). I used to do one serving every month because we live in a very sandy area. But I admit I haven't done it since last summer. Over the winter I stopped because our sand was covered in snow. Then this spring, I sort of forgot about it (I'd think I should do it but never got around to it). After our experience with Cheyenne, I won't forget again. I don't know that it would have saved her, but I don't want to see another alpaca suffer like that. I've since read that it's best to give the fiber everyday for a week each quarter (four times a year). They can't overdose on fiber, so more is better, less won't do the trick. This past week I have given them each a dose with their evening grain. They do kind of sniff the grain and back away, but eventually they ate it (the very first time they didn't even really eat, so the next meal was the same bowls and eventually they ate it). I have heard of alpaca farmers just putting the dry metamucil on the grain. I found that didn't work since they'd eat the grain and the dry powder would fall below the grain and sit all over the bowls. I don't think they actually ate much of it. What I've found works really well for us is to mix 1 serving of metamucil with equal parts water (I smash it in a small bowl with a fork). This makes a sort of paste. I mix the paste with their daily ration of fiber nutrients, and put that as a dressing on top of their grain. Like I said, the first few times I don't know that they eat it all, but after a week of doing this, they get most of it. Because we live in a such a sandy area, I may do this more than quarterly during the summer months. It's a preventative measure, and extra won't hurt them.

From what we've read, it likely was NOT sand colic that was Cheyenne's problem. The more likely issue would be a chunk of hay stuck in her intestines. Cria are just learning to eat hay and it's not uncommon for a bunch to get stuck. I only write about the sand colic because that was something I mentioned in previous posts that could have been her issue.

For the bowel obstruction (impacted cria) we recently found a great thread about this on the forum at Alpaca Nation (I linked directly to that thread for anyone to reference).

Some interesting things we learned was that while we were so anxious to get Cheyenne to make it until Monday when we could get her to the vet, that might not have been the ultimate answer. From what people have written in that thread, the surgery can save them, but an alpaca's digestive system is so complex that within a year from surgery, they usually die due to complications from scar tissue. I would hate to have had Cheyenne suffer again like that. It was freeing to hear that surgery was not necessarily the big answer. In retrospect, listening to what others have said, we would not have opted for surgery anyway.

What we would do in the future is give a higher concentration of mineral oil (we were following the alpaca field manual directions, but from what we've read, a higher dose is necessary for these situations) or even karo syrup (as recommended in that thread on alpaca nation). We also would not have pushed bottles like we did. We thought she needed food to survive, but after reading that thread, it wasn't the necessity that we thought it was (though she wasn't nursing at all by the time we discovered the problem, a bit different than the scenario in the thread). Reading that thread I realize that by the time we discovered Cheyenne's problem, it was already quite severe. The chance of getting it to pass then is grim.

In the future our focus would be tubing mineral oil (in a higher dose) or karo syrup, enemas, and fluids (pedialyte and water with baking soda if bloated).

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