Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Llama Drama

Sunday evening my son joined me to do the evening chores. He scooped the poop, while I doled out the food. The wind was still howling and the temperature had dropped to below-freezing levels, needless to say we were working quickly.

I had moved on from the barn to the chicken coop when the kid came running to tell me that Louise was foaming at the mouth. When I raced back, I found her choking on her food. She must have been trying to gobble it up too quickly. I tried to find the obstruction along her neck, with no luck. Llamas have long necks. 

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The fact that Louise was allowing me to touch her at all scared the Hell out of me. I figured she must be desperate. She could barely breathe. An emergency call went out to the vet. She arrived quickly, although it sure didn’t seem like it.

We continued to try to massage her neck. Then the vet gave Louise a shot of Rompun, a sedative and muscle relaxant, then a shot of Banamine, a painkiller/anti-inflammatory. Louise was obviously breathing, because by now a half-hour had past, but she was choking and clearly distressed. The vet tried inserting a stomach tube to dislodge the obstruction, but it did not work, the obstruction was too far down the neck. Pulling a longer, sturdier tube from her car, the vet tried again. Still no luck. All this time it was about 2 degrees with 30 mile-an-hour wind, one-and-a-half hours into it the pain in our fingers and toes was so unbearable we had to go in. All we could do was hope the obstruction would pass on its own; surgery clearly wasn’t even an option. So we gave her a shot of a long-term antibiotic to prevent pneumonia if the food somehow had gotten into her lungs and the vet packed her things and went home.

I administered another shot of Rompun a few hours later hoping the muscle relaxant would help keep the muscles in her neck from contracting too much.  We continued to check on her and massage her neck. I tried to rest on the sofa, but never really got any sleep. I was so worried about Louise I made myself physically ill; I was convinced I would find her bloated and gone in the morning. Luckily she was still alive and I administered more Banamine and Rompun. More massage and by this point it seemed I could actually feel the lump in her throat so I focused on that area. This went on all day Monday. I was still terrified she wasn’t going to make it. Watching an animal in distress and not being able to do anything about it is the worst feeling in the world. Having it happen when it is 2 degrees outside made it a special kind of Hell. By evening though, it appeared she had stopped drooling and was starting to maybe swallow a little. Either that or she was completely dehydrated, I wasn’t sure. Another restless night went by.

This morning she was standing up when I first entered the barn, a good sign. I watched her for awhile and noticed she can certainly swallow some, although it is clearly uncomfortable. I was able to give her the Banamine shot but she pulled away from me when I started to massage her neck. This seemed like progress, considering on a normal day she doesn’t want me within 10 feet of her. She seemed tired though, and a little shaky. I opened the doors to let Thelma and the sheep out, hoping they would leave her so she could rest in peace. I went on to do the morning chicken chores and call the vet with an update. Once I was done, I returned to the barn only Lousie wasn’t there. She had decided to join the crowd in the pasture for some sun.

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She has since moved again, back closer to the barn. I tried giving her a small amount of electrolytes through a syringe, she took about 45 cc altogether. She wants it, but it is clearly difficult yet to swallow. I’m hoping this means the obstruction has passed and now we are just dealing with the esophagus damage, but for the first time since Sunday night I’ve allowed myself to breathe out. I see a glimmer of hope that she might be able to pull through this. I think she would appreciate your kind thoughts though. I know I would.

20 comments:

krisgray said...

Oh my goodness - that is drama! Hope Louise mends quickly.

Michelle said...

Let's just pray you and Louise are getting 2012's drama out of the way bright and early, so that the rest of the year has NONE!

Karen Anne said...

Thinking good thoughts for Louise. Golly gee.

Karen Anne said...

When my cats were sick the vet sometimes had me give them Lactated Ringers, using a plastic bag of it that I'd suspend and the liquid would go thru a line into a needle into their body subcutaneously.

The bag probably held 1000 ml(?) Maybe you could get more into Louise that way, if Lactated Ringers is okay for a llama?

Karen Anne said...

p.s. In case anyone thinks about this for a cat, much less than a full bag is used. Typically for my cats it would be 100 ml a day, plus or minus.

Whosyergurl said...

Shew! That is so nerve-wracking! I hope it all works out!
Cheryl

Denise at Autumn Sky said...

Oh what a nightmare. I know about horses but not llamas. Are they like horses in that they often don't drink enough water when it's cold? Maybe heat up a bucket for her so she stays hydrated? You poor thing, and poor Louise. I hope she will be okay.

Karen said...

Christine - sending healing thoughts toward Louise and hope that the Llama Drama Queen has had her fill for this year!! Your story brings back memories of my loosing my QH Mare of 30 years (last year this time). Nothing worse than worrying and fretting over a sick animal when the temps are in the teens and the winds are howling. "Nuisance" was almost 40 years old - it was her time - my best horse friend ever - I sure miss that 'ole girl... Lets see too it that Louise pulls through just fine -- and you too... keep rested !!

Karen

Milah said...

Good thing the kid was around and saw that. No doubt you'd had a different outcome if he hadn't. I'm glad this story has a happy ending.

Diane Cayton-Hakey said...

How frightening! Hope she is doing better by now. Poor thing, :-(

Tree Hugger - Suzan said...

What a way to start off the New Years!! Thoughts and prayers for YOU and Louise :-}}

Michelle said...

Ohhh...how scary! You have such a kind heart and your love for these animals just bursts from the words on the page! I truly enjoy reading your stories. I'll definitely pray for sweet Louise...and you!

YarnKettle said...

Wow that is scary! I hope Louise and you both recover quickly from your ordeal!

thecrazysheeplady said...

You got 'em!

Tombstone Livestock said...

That's no way to start a new year .... I have had sheep choke on pellets, in their hurry to get all they can (pigist attitude) they will get them caught in their throat, since they cannot vomit they will foam at the mouth. I have used my version of the heimlich maneuver ... I pick the sheep (goats) up by the back feet and stand them upside down as high as you can then whatever is blocking their throat usually will dislodge, then try to get them to drink as much water as you can. However, I would never be able to stand my llama on his head. Hope Louise is doing better.

If people are chocking and are alone they can help themselves if they are choking by bending all the way over and coughing to dislodge food. Also you can turn child upside down if they start to choke to disloge items.

The Barn Door said...

Oh poor Louise AND you!!! I know exactly how you felt! Hoping she is back to her old self soon!!

Danni said...

ohmygod. Poor you and poor, poor Louise. I'm so glad that she's hanging in there. It sounds like you're doing absolutely everything you can for her. I had no idea something like this could happen. I'm sending you both all my thoughts, energy and good wishes that she continues to improve.
Hang in there, Christine...

kristi said...

Oh my prayers and thoughts are with you and Louise! I know I have freaked when the sheep have done that to me. It is so hard to remain calm and focused when something happens. Its good that you were there and can be home to take care of her!

Nancy K. said...

I'm saying prayers!

Lama Reserve said...

Christine,
You are such a Good Llama Mama & Caregiver!! A serious choke like that can be Very Scary. Covering her with antibiotics for aspiration pneuomonia was a good choice for her course of treatment. We usually give banimine every other day @ 1/2 the dose for (.5 cc per 100# BW)up to 10 days following the choke. This reduces inflamation in the esophagous. Also, it is critical that she not have any grain for about 2 weeks either. Please keep us posted on her progress and call with any questions 317-490-6735. Lisa