Sunday, September 20, 2009

Everyone is Home

For the first time since May, all my alpacas are home. Now, I have alot more work to do. :-)

Let's talk about Hope and Bellafina first. We finished up a new area for Hope that is a small paddock connected to the back barn. We have been remodeling the back barn on and off for a year now. We originally had plans to make a birthing area with a small run so we could move close due females there a few weeks before delivery. We opted this spring not to put it in this year since I couldn't really help Rob do it with being pregnant. Obviously, having a premature cria changed those plans. Hope needs a small area where she can recover and be observed for a month or possibly more. When we found out we needed this when we brought them home we went to work. We created a small pen inside the barn with panels, then Rob cut a hole in the side of the barn and framed it in so they could get in and out to the pasture. We fenced in a small 10x15 area of grass for them. It is larger than Hope should be in, but Bellafina needs to be able to stretch her legs and I can still keep an eye on the cria easily. Some pictures of the area are along with pictures of Hope are above.

When we picked them up on Saturday I couldn't believe how big Hope had gotten and feisty. She was struggling to get out of the vet's arms and onto the ground. It was so great to see her. I haven't seen her since before I gave birth on Sept. 4th. Last time I saw her she still couldn't get up on her own and was still on oxygen and IV's. We put Bellafina in the trailer and the vet put Hope in. Hope immediately got up and it was quite obvious that her leg was still in bad shape. She puts it on the ground, but doesn't bear weight on it. When she walks she holds it up like a dog would with an injured leg. She also walks like a few days old cria and not a 3-wk old cria. Given everything she has been through it is amazing she is still here and able to walk.

When we got home I got the scale ready and we weighed them. Hope was born at 14.9 lbs and she was 17.8 yesterday. She isn't too far behind the weight gain she should be (1-2 lbs). We walked Bellafina over to her new paddock; Rob carried Hope. When we released Bellafina it was like she was in heaven. She went and just started to roll in the grass. It was funny. Every few feet Bellafina would lay down and roll. It has been over 3 wks since she has been outside since they were housed in an A/C building and stalled with straw/hay. This was Hope's first time in grass EVER. She tried pronking around in it. She fell once, but overall could run around on 3-legs pretty well. We now know why her front knees are missing fiber and calloused. She falls forward on them and puts alot of weight on them to get up. Hopefully, that will get better as she starts to use all 4-legs. We watched her for awhile and it was cute to see her trying to eat mouth fulls of grass. I forgot to check if her teeth erupted, yet. We gave Hope her shot of antibiotics and Bellafina her Dectomax and left them alone. I also decided to start Hope on AD&E vitamin paste to see if it will help with her bone healing. We typically give it to cria's for the first year of their life anyway.

Later that evening, I decided to coat Hope since it was going down to the mid-40's last night and this being her first night outside. Her fleece is dense, but she is patchy in places where they had to shave her fiber. Also, from the stress of everything she is shedding her fiber like crazy. Rob's shirt was covered in fiber and I could see tufts of it blowing off her. At 1AM, we went out to check her temp to make sure she wasn't too cold and her temp was 100.2. I will have to remove it today so she doesn't get too hot.

The other big event yesterday was the arrival of Tiptoes Lightly or Tipsy (as I call her). We sent her to Oregon in May to be bred. When we bought her she came with a breeding. We decided we would ship her out to get some west coast genetics into our herd. The transport guy showed up at 12:30AM this morning with her. I wish he had shown up earlier so I could talk to him since he is really a great guy. He and his wife dealt with a cria similar to Hope on their farm this year (one of their boarders animals). I know that their cria is fine now and they say you can't tell she had a problem with her front leg. He said she was "lame" on it for awhile. Their cria lost all her fiber so I wonder if Hope will do the same.

Now, we have our work cut-out for us the next few weeks. Hope will need an injection every 3 days for atleast 2 wks (possibly more). We have 4 areas set-up to care for - boys field, Hope/Bellafina's area, Tipsy and Mischievous are in the front girls pasture, and the rest of the girls are in the back pasture. We have to keep an eye on Tipsy for disease/worms from the transport, Mischievous needs some treatment for mites, Hope's injections, and I have to work on halter training for the show in 2 weeks. Cassie is pretty good on a halter, but not good enough to take into a show ring. Marauder is good on a halter, but also needs to be walked around to make sure he will stand properly and show teeth. I am not working on having his testicles looked at/touched. The judge can figure that one out on his own. We decided not to take Patriotic Star since he is still so thin. His fiber is awesome, but right now I don't think he is ready for a show. Maybe in the spring. I am going to try to substitute Armani for Patriotic Star if they let me.

I will let you know how Hope does over the next few weeks. I am just glad everyone is home. Hope seems happy to be outside and gets around well on the stone dust and grass. I just wish it was alittle warmer for her.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Getting Ready for Hope

We got confirmation that Hope and Bellafina can come home tomorrow afternoon. Now, we are rushing around to get a space ready for them. Hope will need to be confined to a small area for a month or more. We do not have "stalls" just shelters opened to 1/4 to 3/4 acre plots. We are working on the back barn, which was slated to be the girls winter barn since it is larger. This past fall we tore off the siding and gutted the barn and put up new siding. In the spring we finished running fencing and stopped since I was pregnant. About a month ago, we put in stone dust to make up the floor of the barn and installed a gate onto the shelter to make a herd health area and an area where we can put hay, grain, etc.

Now, we are sectioning off a small area for Hope. It will be the sick/birthing area in the future. There will be small section inside the shelter and then an opening into a small run so they can get some pasture and sunlight time. It is a small area, but that is what Hope needs right now. Right now, we have posts in and will start running the fencing. We need to cut the hole in the wall and finish off the A at the top of the barn. Alot of work to do, but we have today and tomorrow to work on it. They also suggested using straw to help her footing so we need to buy some. We typically don't use straw in the barns.

I have not seen Hope since before our son was born so I am looking forward to seeing her again. It looks like her care is to keep her confined for a month or more (depending on how the leg heals). Antibiotics injected under the skin every 3 days for 2-4 wks. New Bolton said 2 wks and my vet said 4 wks. New Bolton wants x-rays redone in 4 wks to check on the leg.

Apparently, the surgeon didn't want to do surgery on the leg since she was getting around well and trying to use the leg. He felt it would be better to wait to see if she could fully recover the use of the leg. His theory was that they could always do surgery later, if needed. We will see how she does when she is home. I will need to keep an eye on the leg to make sure the swelling doesn't get worse, but I think we can handle it.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Surgery was scheduled and Cancelled by the Surgeons

Sorry for not blogging about Hope, but my new son is keeping me busy. Anyway, on Thursday (last week) I was told Hope would be the clinical round focus on Friday for the surgical unit. She was not responding as well to the treatment so they were looking at other options to help her leg. On Friday afternoon, I got a call with my "options" for Hope. These were tough options when you consider the financial and time involved with each option. I was assured with each option that she could still be a breedable alpaca. However, due to the antibiotics she has been on and her premature status she may end up being a small alpaca. The leg will be non-functional and would be used as a peg leg for her entire life. I was told she would still be able to cush and get around well no matter what option we did.

Option #1- Long term antibiotics. Hope would come home in a week or so, but would be on antibiotics for up to one year. I was told that the joint is so far gone that eventually it would fuse together and she would use it as a peg leg. She may still need surgery later.

Option #2 - Surgery. They would go in and scrape the joint to get most of the infection out. They would put in a bone graft from her hip and help the joint to fuse quicker. They would also put in antibiotics directly there while they were in there. This would speed up the joint fusion and she would spend less time on the antibiotics. She would need about 2-3 wks of antibiotics and confinement for 2-3 months.

We decided to talk to our vet about the options. We asked her to talk to the vets there and the surgeons. After talking to her, she assured us either option is do-able and we could even look into herbal remedies if we choose option #1. It was up to us. She said the surgeon is very good and she has confidence in him. On Monday, we talked to the surgeon ourselves and then debated some more. After alot of discussion, we figured we came this far we might as well go all the way and do the surgery. Why spend all this money and stop here. Plus, a year's worth of antibiotics seemed excessive to me. I talked to the vet and gave permission to do the surgery.

I got a call on Monday afternoon saying she would be operated on Tuesday morning and they would call Tuesday afternoon with updates. Tuesday mid-morning comes and the phone rings. I figured something went wrong with the surgery. No. They evaluated her that morning and decided it was NOT in her best interest to help the joint fuse at this time. They said she has full range of motion in the joint and is comfortable with it. She is getting around well on 3-legs. So, they recommended waiting 2-3 days and see how she does and they would do some physical therapy on the leg. Okay... now I am confused.

Today, I get a call and am told she is doing well. She tip-toes around on the leg, but gets around well. She is gaining weight, nursing well, everything looks good. They said today they would move her off the IV antibiotics onto a sub-Q injectable and if she looks well tomorrow then she would be able to come home Friday afternoon.

Needless to say, I am happy that she is doing well and doesn't need surgery. However, I am confused about what changed between Mon and Tues. Also, today they said they think they are on top of the infection, which is contrary to what they have said on Friday. When I asked about her care when she came home, I was told 2 wks of antibiotics (every 3 days for the injection) and then to come back or have our vet do x-rays in 4 weeks for them to see how the leg looks.

As you can see, we have been busy with decisions and then trying to figure out why opinions changed there. I guess new vets came on or clinically something got better. I am not sure, but happy to hopefully have them home soon. Tomorrow, I need to get a stall space ready since she will need to be confined for a few weeks to a month.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Hope is on the way to recovery Finally!!!

It looks like Hope will be at New Bolton atleast this week and maybe most of next week, but she is finally responding to treatment. I talked to the vet shortly on Friday, but I was in the hospital in Labor so it was a short conversation. Today, I talked to her in more depth. The cria is doing well. On Friday, they were worried because she was starting to refuse the bottle. Apparently, Hope has decided she doesn't want a bottle she wants to nurse off the dam. They left her in with the dam Sunday night and she nursed on her own and gained weight. They are going to wean her off the IV nutrition and fluids so she can be in with Bellafina full time.

Hope is also getting up and down on her own finally. She is putting her inflamed leg down, but not bearing full weight on it. However, the infection has went from a white cell count in the joint of 250K to 75K so we are finally going in the right direction. Hopefully, it continues to go down quickly. They will redo x-rays in a few days. They are flushing the joint and injecting antibiotics directly into it every few days. They give a break to limit the inflammation from them manipulating the joint.

The lung x-rays on Friday showed that they are recovering and the damage is not as severe as it was. They took her completely off oxygen supplementation last Thursday evening.

Hope will continue to stay at New Bolton until the infection in the joint is gone and she is bearing full weight on her leg. She will be there atleast for this week and probably part of or all of next week. Atleast, she is going to make it and it looks like she will be able to keep her leg.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Leg Infection Not Responding to Treatment

The news this morning was not good. They have been flushing the joint every day and directly injecting antibiotics into the joint. Last night, they pulled fluid from the joint again to see if the white blood cell count in that area was going down. No such luck. It actually went up. The x-rays showed that the area next to it, which is the growth plate, had more inflammation that the last set of x-rays. Thus, it is actually spreading. Not good news. Her prognosis went from good back to guarded again.

They need to more aggressively treat this. They are going to put a tourniquet onto her leg today and inject antibiotics directly into the vein and leave the tourniquet on for 10-15 min and then remove. They are also going to put two different antibiotics into her blood stream via the IV to get it through the entire body and not just the joint. She was getting Naxcel only to treat the lungs/septicemia. They think the septicemia in the blood is gone, but that it settled into this particular joint. We will have to wait for 2-3 days to see if this new treatment is working. If not, the option is probably to put her down. The vet wasn't too optimistic about her life if this new treatment doesn't work.

There is some good news, but it really means nothing if the leg infection doesn't clear up. They have been slowly decreasing her oxygen supplementation. As I mentioned yesterday, her breathing sounded better to me. They took her completely off the oxygen last night and she is breathing fine on her own. Dr. Norton said she is much happier without the nose tube in her. She is also putting her leg down and trying to use it. However, I think that is due to the pain meds she is on.

She didn't gain any weight the last day. They are going to increase her milk again. She thinks that she is using all her reserves to fight the infection.

Today was not the turn for the better I was hoping to get. Will the outlook for Hope ever turn? Is her body strong enough to fight the infection and beat it? I wonder if everything is just too much for her. She is officially 1 week old today and still struggling.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Progess Forward

Once again today I drove up to New Bolton to see my little Hope and her dam. The vet was all smiles when she saw me. I was alittle annoyed with her since she doesn't update me as much as her predecessor did. Anyway, she said overall she saw an improvement in Hope. She tried to put her rear leg down instead of holding it up. She also is gulping down the milk they are bottle feeding her so they are increasing the amount she gets each time.

I spent some time in the stall with them and I have to say even drugged out she seemed better. Her breathing could be heard, but it didn't seem raspy to me like it did just 2 days ago. When she held her head up it was steadier and her ears are starting to be erect instead of floppy. The ends are curling slightly, but atleast they are not flopped back on her head like they have been since birth. She was pretty out of it when I was there since she had just had a dose of pain meds about an hour before. However, I was petting her (I know I shouldn't be, but she is so sick) and she leaned into my hand. She seemed to know I was there and talking to her.

They are helping her stand every 2 hrs when they feed her. The vet was hoping that they could pull more fluid and run today to see if the infection is getting better. She had to talk to the surgon who flushes the joint tonight when he shows up to the procedure.

I am hoping today is a turning point and from here on out we see that she is getting better each day. Hopefully, the infection doesn't spread again. We shall see what tomorrow and the next few days brings. I think tomorrow they are going to do x-rays of the lungs and leg to see what changes, if any, have occurred.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Infected Hock - rear leg joint

As I mentioned in the post yesterday, Hope had started to stop bearing weight on one of her rear legs. They took x-rays yesterday and did a nerve test and things looked normal. They wanted to pull fluid from her joint and test for infection since in horses the septic conditions can go into their joints. Not really normal for alpacas. This morning, I was told that the joint is infected with a white blood cell count of 150K in the fluid joint. *sigh* One step forward and a huge step back. The concern now is to get it treated and hope it doesn't spread to other joints or the bone. They flushed the joint with saline and injected it with antibiotics. They will do this every day. She said Hope is sore and they are giving some pain meds to her. At noon, they are increasing the pain med dose because she seems uncomfortable right now. She said they don't want to increase this med too much because it is also a sedative along with a pain med. If this evening she still seems to be in pain then they will use banamine or another pain med. They don't like to use these in neonates since it has effects on the kidney's - a more serious problem.

In a day or two, they will take x-rays again of both the leg and lungs. Hopefully, we will see improvement in the lungs and leg. They will pull fluid from the joint in a day or two, too, to check the levels and make sure they are on top of it.

Poor little Hope. I hope she has enough fight in her to fight this next infection. Unfortunately, it also means that there is no time frame on when she can come home. Keep this little one in your thoughts and prayers.

The good news is that she is really taking off on the bottle so they will increase her milk consumption. Her weight isn't going up, yet. Hopefully with getting milk it will put some weight onto her.