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.