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.
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.
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.