Abdominal obstruction scare.

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It was the day before I was to leave for the March Magic show in Southern California. For March, the weather was remarkably nice. The week before we had some rain & a light dusting of snow. The time of year was still too cold to clip the girl I was going to take to the show but it was warm enough to wash her. I was excited because this was my first trip with 'Kissy'. Dave, my husband, and I purchased her 10 months prior at the Jane Sheppard Event in Colorado. She is a massive looking half Argentine girl with a Forrest Gump personality. Many people that have seen her have thought that she was a Herdsire of ours. When we purchased her, we also purchased an imported full Argentine Herdsire, Argentine Corvo. Corvo is an 11 year old guy & unlike 'Kissy', has been a finicky eater ever since we picked him up. He will pick though his food, no matter what type of hay he gets- Orchard Grass, Alfalfa etc. Every few days I have to remove the left-overs. Now my philosophy has been to leave old food & they will eat it when they get hungry enough. Not him. He would rather starve. The only food Corvo will eat with gusto is fresh grass. Not always an option at our place.

This show was going to be a well needed get away. The year had started off bad and there was no signs of it getting better. The last disaster was when one of our best males, Lakota, had his rear extensor tendon severed at the hock. Days at Davis & a bill to show for it. Months of wrapping a leg laid ahead with no guarantee of the outcome. Yep, this was a well needed get away. The mini van was packed (though we did not know if Kissy would actually fit), our neighbor was going to watch the animals and Dave would take Lakota down with him for the next several days & care for his medical needs.

It was mid afternoon on Thursday, Dave and I were finishing up cleaning Kissy before Dave would go back down to work for the next four days. Dave looked over to Corvo's pasture and mentioned that he was laying down. We noticed that he was not in a kushed position. His legs were stretched out to one side. We did not see any fresh poop piles when we checked the pasture. So we cleaned the pasture of all poop & unused food. This would allow us to better keep track of any new piles. We fed Corvo & he picked through his food, as usual. After Dave left, I saw no new poop piles for the rest of the day. I gave Corvo a dose of Banamine to take the edge off his discomfort. I know that this can cause constipation but I was hoping that relieving his discomfort would allow the muscles to 'move things along'.

The next day, Friday, I was to leave early for the 12 hour trip to the llama show. That was not going to happen. Corvo had not pooped overnight. He still did not kush properly & he would occasionally hit his stomach with his nose or foot- signs of discomfort. I took him out to walk him. I remembered doing that years ago when my horse coliced. I took him to grassy areas and he would eat like he had never been fed. I continued this routine several more times over the next several hours. Still no poop. I gave Corvo a Fleets Enema and only clear fluid came back out. Now I started to panic. I left a message for my llama vet (80 miles away) but she was gone. I called the local vet but he had no desire to take care of most llama problems. He referred me to Davis. I called a llama vet (over 100 miles away) that I have much respect for. He answered the phone! We spoke for awhile. He was getting ready for a trip to South America the next day. I gave him the symptoms. By this time Corvo was not drinking water & was not eating hay. Corvo showed abdominal distress. He was still eating grass but with less gusto. Corvo was not as willing to walk. Corvo would urinate but still no poop!

During the call with the vet, I was told that going to U.C. Davis would likely be necessary. The current symptoms were severe but he told me what to look for if things became grim. He said that an untreated abdominal obstruction would likely result in death within two days, It was not a pleasant way to go. He could rupture his intestine and become septic (poisoning of the body) If Corvo started rolling, he could twist his intestines & cause tearing. I called Dave because we would have to make a decision that many owners of llamas (or any animal) have had to make in the past. Taking Corvo to U.C. Davis would be very expensive with a successful outcome having bad odds. Though Davis is excellent in treating animals, severe abdominal obstructions have a high mortality rate. Also, being realistic, our last trip to Davis had left us in debt. If symptoms became worse, we would have Corvo put down. We did not want him in pain.

Corvo must have listened to the symptoms to watch out for while I was on the phone with the vet. Within an hour, Corvo would not eat grass. Corvo would no longer walk while on lead. In the pasture, Corvo would lay down & then would immediately get back up from the pain. His muscles appeared tight & his eyes stressed. By now it was late afternoon. I left him alone for a while to feed the llamas in the other pastures. While I was in the 'girls' pasture, I looked across to keep an eye on Corvo. He was watching the girls moving around, Hmm.

We have never been known for doing things in a conventional manner. We do many things considered 'outside of the box'. Here I was looking at a llama that was in pain. His prognosis was not good, not good at all. There was nothing else I was able to do. But with as grim as things looked & even through the pain Corvo was going through, CORVO WAS WATCHING THE GIRLS! Okay. Why not. At least he would not be thinking about his pain. I put Corvo in with one of my open females. Suddenly there was a happy, proud Herdsire standing before me, with one thing on his mind & it was not pain. She kushed quickly and he bred for over 40 minutes.

I brought Corvo back to his pasture. His step was quick & energetic. But things changed when I took off his halter. I watched as his neck & ears drooped. His eyes became dull. I watched as his lip drooped and he started mouth breathing. He stood there for an hour. not moving anywhere. Oh no, did I make him worse? I spoke to him for a long time. It seemed an eternity until he started to nose breath. The sun was down & it was dark when I left his pasture. When I went through the gate, Corvo was watching me move around & his ears were back up.

The next day, Saturday, I was back to his pasture before the sun was up. Corvo was kushed in the middle of the pasture as I approached . He stood up as I came closer. I was eager to see him but I first wanted to see the poop pile. Wow, I did not have to look hard. At first I did not know what I was looking at. There was nothing that resembled llamas beans. Before me was three segments, totaling nearly three feet in length. Each segment had nearly a 2-3 inch width. Though the first segment resembled a tree branch, I knew what it was, POOP! I took him to the grass and he ate for 20 minutes.

I spoke with the neighbor that watches the llamas when I travel. She said that she would keep a close eye on everything. I gave her all of the important contact numbers. At this time, there was not much I could do. I could worry & watch him or I could go to the show. I went with Kissy to the show. I spoke with my neighbor every two hours. I was driving her nuts. Her two kids picked grass all day & had fun feeding him. The report was that Corvo acted normal & there was nothing out of the ordinary except the huge ribbons of poop. I spoke with show management on the way down & they held Kissy's walking fiber spot. We were in Southern California by late afternoon. I told show management what had happened. They spoke about a couple of other herdsires that had the same problem earlier in the year. Some died, some had successful surgery. My llama vet returned my call at dinner time. She said that she had never heard that approach to an obstruction but said that she saw no reason why it would not work. My vet did remind me of something import that I did NOT do. Give fluids. Lots of fluids. Either I.V. or subQ. She then asked permission to use this approach. By the next day the story had been passed on to others & I was being asked if I knew about the llama with the abdominal obstruction. I left on Sunday after Kissy's class to return home. On Monday, I found Corvo in his pasture. He looked like his normal self though there were huge poop piles laying around. His poop piles would take months to get back to normal 'llama beans'

Is this a recommended cure for an abdominal obstruction? NO, IT IS NOT. First off- if it does work, it would only be on herdsires. What are the reasons it might work? The llama keeps moving. The intestines did not twist as the motion is back & forth, not sideways. Movement can stimulate feces to pass through the intestines (a prime reason to walk out a colicky animal). Hormone levels change, effecting both physical & mental states. Is there a down side? Of course. This has not been done before to our knowledge. It has the possibility of doing more harm then good. In our case, I could not think of any other option. Another problem for us, a cria is now due in February when it is cold, wet & yucky. For us though, it was well worth it.


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08/07/22 01:43 PM -0700