Sunday, April 18, 2010

Pseudomodus, Thiamine, My Dad and Alpacas

Yesterday I had the opportunity to listen to Dr. Cheryl DeWitt, DVM speak about Reproductive Challenges and Management in Alpacas.  This class is a great expansion lecture on her full day Neo-Natal Seminar.  Our friends, Mike and Shelley Sullivan at Schoolpond Alpacas in Delton, Michigan were our hosts.  I learned more than just Reproductive Challenges from Dr. DeWitt...a whole lot more.

I had already been in contact with Dr. DeWitt about one of my fiber boys, My Pedro, on Friday because my Friday had started with Sister Bear going out to the barn about 7am to feed the herd and finding a sick boy.  She came in and said that Pedro hadn't eaten and just stood their coughing and looking weird.  I went out to the barn and their he was just standing their drooling then hacking.  I gave the boys some hay and thought he would get happy about the hay like he always does but he just stood there.  I quickly moved him into an area by himself and dialed my cell phone.  Of course I kept getting voice mail, no one was available and I was freaking out.  I ran into the house and checked my Dr. Norm Evans Alpaca Field Manual.  I couldn't find what I was looking for and I was so frustrated.  I wanted to be able to take care of herd health on my own without needing help but I did need it so I called Don and Cheri Parks at Wind Walker Ranch.  They asked me about symptoms then sent me back out to the barn to check a few things.  The first thing I did was take his temperature.  This was the first time I had ever taken a rectal temperature without help.  I did so without difficulty and Pedro's temp was 100.3 which was within normal.  They had me check the inside of Pedro's mouth to make sure something wasn't affecting his eating/hacking because of his gums.  They were fine.  Then Don instructed me to pretend to punch Pedro to see if Pedro would flinch.  He didn't.  My boy was going blind.
I need to preface that Pedro has been sick since I got him over a year ago.  He was one of the first boys I had ever bought.  He has always been underweight no matter what I feed him and he always has parasite issues when the rest of the herd is fine.  He is a beautiful boy with an unhealthy immune system but is playful and active with the rest of the herd.  I barely had him a week and we were dealing with Rickets. That was the start of our time with this boy. The last fecal exam that I had checked showed no signs of problems and that was a few weeks ago.  Yesterday was different.  As soon as I called the Don and Cheri back they immediately thought Thiamine Deficiency.  Of course I didn't have any Thiamine at the farm.  It was time to see if the local vet had it since my vet is 45 minutes away.  During this time Dave Bates, from 4 Musketeers Alpaca, who co-own Midnight Magic's Mystery with me called to let me know that he had Thiamine but suggested that I head to the local vet with Pedro in case he needed I.V. treatment.  My vet was out of the office.  I got my boy there and they were concerned with his stomach and thought possibly M-Worm because of his long term weight issues but definitely agreed that a Thiamine Deficiency was the culprit so they gave him an amazing antibiotic.  It was a shot in the ear that lasts four days.  They sent me home to treat with Thiamine since I already had Panacur and Ivermectin.  I gave Pedro the big doses and waited.

Later that evening I got to talk with Dr. DeWitt on the phone since some of the farms were having dinner with her.  She is one amazing lady.  She dug deeper with questions and found out that I had recently treated with Corrid and said that it supresses the Vitamin B in the body which can cause the Thiamine Deficiency.  She had me increase the dosage but not use the ivermectin since M-Worm was not the current issue.  The next morning I woke up to find a boy who could see and was alert.  Both the local vet and Dr. DeWitt agree that he has some neurological problems and there is definitely something wrong with his gut.  He has a weird walk that I don't remember him having before.  For over a year I have battled his weight and something is keeping him from being healthy. I have had the docs check him every time they come for herd health and I am always turning in fecals to be examined.  Ultimately we have to decide how much treatment do you give to a fiber boy.  That is a tough problem to figure out.  The local vet wants to ultrasound his belly and Dr. DeWitt wants blood samples drawn and sent to Oregon which cost a lot of money and both procedures don't help his problem, they only educate us on something that has been wrong with him since he was a cria back on his home farm.  What to do?  I hope my explanation helps anyone else who might run into a similar problem.  I didn't do anything wrong and that's the hard part.  All treatments and herd maintainable have been done correctly but this boy has still managed to be sick.

Well, somehow I digressed from my original topic of the Reproductive Seminar but I'm all about educating and until it happened to me I didn't understand when other farms talked about their Thiamine Deficiency problems.  During the class I learned a lot of amazing information regarding breeding, birthing patterns, the reproductive cycle of alpacas and what vets see when they ultrasound females.  One thing that triggered me into to tears...yes, tears, was the infection called pseudomonas.  Now why would an infection that affects alpacas bother me so much?  Well, it's the same infection that made my Dad sick a good deal of the time.  Do you want to know how many times I heard that word yesterday?  Well, it was enough times to poke stabs of pain in my heart.  I went to the class to learn about reproductive issues in alpacas not relive painful memories of the diagnosis that would put Dad into the hospital.  If she had said that Alpacas are infected with Aspergillus I would have lost it.  Of all the topics and issues that could be discussed yesterday why that infection?

This weekend was full of medical education for yours truly.  I now have a better understanding of issues that can affect my herd both reproductively and neurologically.  I have a boy that I know will definitely have to be handled with extra care and know that one medication that might help him in one way might cause problems another way.  Whew!  That was a lot to take in, wasn't it?

My Pedro with Sister Bear 2009
I LOVE this picture



  1. Thank you for sharing your experience, we can all learn from each other. For me, I don't think I really learn something until I experience it. I am all for sharing our experiences especially if it can help someone else.

  2. I was cringing every time that P word came up yesterday. Which was very often. I knew how it was affecting you. About Pedro. Have you ever checked with Dr Bob Pollard? He is helping me out with my boy that is down in the pasturns. He seems very knowledgable about things that might help nutritionally challenged alpacas. Some don't absorb things properly and need some supplements. Just a thought.

  3. Wow, that's a lot to handle! It's obvious you care very much for your whole herd, and Pedro is lucky to have you as his mama. What a cutie he is, too!


  4. Lynn, where is Dr. Pollard from? Can you email his contact info?

  5. Thank you so much for sharing and good luck with your decisions. Life has a way of always working out. Hugs.