Rick and Terry Simpson
HC 79 Box 52-E
Romney, WV 26757
(304) 822-3494

December 11, 2004

We've had a real scare this weekend. Camella, the true-black female alpaca we got to replace Kirby, seems to have the symptoms of meningeal worm. Rick noticed on Thursday that she seemed to have a hitch in her git-along, but didn't think to mention it to me. On Friday, when I went out to feed the critters, I noticed that she was having trouble keeping her hind legs under her. They kept giving way, causing her to almost stumble. I immediately told Rick that she had meningeal worm, and that first thing this morning, we had to get hold of a vet.

Well, that was an excercise in near futility! Dr. Hott was unavailable. Dr. Adams was unavailable. Dr. Matthews was unavailable. The Valley Emergency Medical Hospital in Winchester - an hour away - doesn't treat large animals. Dr. Gail Campbell was unavailable. We finally called Dr. Karen Baum, down in Luray, VA (5 hours away), and she told us we'd have to bring Camella in to see her; she couldn't tell us much over the phone except that yes, it sounds like Meningeal worm. Rick didn't want to make that 5 hour trip if he could avoid it, so he called the Ciszewskis. They advised him to call the University of Pennsylvania, which he did. They're only 4 hours away! So they told him to give her Banamine and Fenbendazole once a day for 5 days, and to give her an ivermectin shot immediately. Rick asked how much of each, and was told they'd call him back.

I called Dr. Baum back and told her we weren't going to bring Camella down to see her; that we were going to take her to the University of Pennsylvania, and Dr. Baum said not to do that, that the university doesn't have qualified camelid vets and that only two alpacas of all those they have seen have survived. Not good news.

So I went to the phone book and started calling all the veterinary doctors and hospitals listed in the book. Finally Kingdom Emergency Veterinary Hospital in Clear Brook, VA ( a bit more than an hour away) agreed that it sounded like Meningeal worm, and said they'd give us the Banamine and Fenbendazole we need for the next 5 days. We had the ivermectin (well, actually, it was doramectin, which is the same thing, but doesn't sting as much). They also told us to separate her from the other alpacas. So we gave Camella a shot of doramectin at about 12:30, we gave her half a tube of Safeguard (a brand of fenbenzadole), we isolated her in the barn, and then Rick went to Kingdom Hospital to get the medications.

He got back about 4:00, and I convinced him to take the dogs for a walk before we fed the other animals, and so he did that while I took grain out to the goats and started picking up 'paca poop in the barn. When he got back, he brought out a syringe full of Banamine, and we caught Camella and I injected her. My first IM injection! The people at University of Pennsylvania had told Rick to inject it into the muscle right beside the spine, so that's where I "shot" her. Kingdom hospital sent a 5 day supply of Banamine and a 5 day supply of fenbendazole, but told us we wouldn't have to give her any more ivermectin for 30 days.

This is all our own fault, really. We have not been giving the alpacas their monthly doramectin shots - they haven't had the shots since last June - because they are so difficult to handle. The only reason we were able to handle Camella today is because she is too weak to really fight us very hard. She ended up having to kush, and Rick could easily hold her down. I'm not sure what we're going to do in the future. Now that we know our alpacas are susceptible to the M. worm, we have to inject them every month and give them paste fenbendazole every month as well. We may have to hire some strong young person to come and hold her while we do the necessary injections and force feeding of the paste and maybe even clip their nails.

Rick says that if there's no improvement by Monday, we'll try again to get her in to see Dr. Matthews... the closest camelid vet.

Frankly, I'm rather surprised that the vet at Kingdom Hospital would give us the Banamine (a prescription medication to relieve pain and inflammation) without seeing the animal. We could be wrong about what is wrong with her, although everything we've read verifies our diagnosis. Still, I'm not a veterinarian, nor do I play one on TV. I guess the fenbendazole and banamine won't hurt her if I'm wrong, but I'm not sure they'll help. Guess all we can do is wait and see.

December 13, 2004

Got hold of Dr. Donna Matthews today, and she said we did all the right things by giving her doramectin (Dectomax), banamine, and fenbendazole. Today, we went to Dr. Hott here in town and picked up enough panacur (fenbendazole) to last til we can get a shipment in. We also got butamase (anti-inflammatory, like banamine), an antibiotic, and thiamine. We're to give her half a tube of panacur, 3 tablets of anti-biotic, and 5 ml of thiamine once a day, and 1 tablet of butamase every other day. Poor baby fights something fierce when we try to give her the shots - they are apparently very painful. I try to inject slowly so it will hurt less, but she fights so hard it's difficult to do that consistently.

December 21, 2004

Every time I give Camella a shot, I'm bending the needle. I called Dr. Matthews, and she said that if Camella is strong enough to fight that hard, I can stop giving her the injections. Thank goodness! I'm sure Camella will appreciate that! Only two more tubes of panacur left - hope my order gets here soon! I also ordered some 12 cc syringes and 18 gauge by x1" needles. Hope they all get here before I run out of the supplies given to me by Dr. Hott.

December 25, 2004

Merry Christmas! Such an adventure we had yesterday! The goats broke through their fence again and were merrily eating hay in the alpaca pasture when we got up this morning. So Rick went out in the freezing weather (about 21 degrees Fahrenheit), and fixed the fence, then lured the goat back into his own pasture. The alpacas were rather wary of this strange creature, but didn't get all alarmed. Rick gave everyone an extra ration of sweet feed for a Christmas treat.

I finally figured out how to get Camella to take her antibiotics and anti-inflammatory pills. I had been crushing them and sprinkling them on her food while we kept her separated from the rest of the alpacas, but she wouldn't eat it. So we tried powdering it and mixing it with a bit of karo syrup and mixing that into her food. She wouldn't eat that, either. So yesterday I powdered the pills and disolved the powder in a little water, mixed it with a little karo syrup, then drew it up into a 12cc syringe without a needle. It was relatively easy to get it into her when I gave it orally like I give her the panacur paste. Oh... our order of Safeguard (also fenbendazole) arrived yesterday, so now I have another 12 tubes... 24 days worth. That will get us through this crisis and let me give all the other alpacas a once-a-day for 3 days dose to help protect them from worms, too.

Also yesterday, Rick noticed that Earl had finished the hay barn. Rick finally managed to get hold of our hay supplier, and they've agreed to meet on Sunday so that Rick can get hay. I think Earl is the person we're going to have to hire to help us catch and hold the alpacas until (and IF) the animals stop being so skittish. They all hate to be handled, even the baby, First Lady. We handled her a lot during her first day, but by the second day, she wouldn't let us near her without a fuss, and she fought when Rick tried to pick her up to weigh her. He can't pick her up now... she's too heavy. With luck, he and Earl will be able to get her to stand on the scale on her own two feet.

Well, time to go do something about Christmas dinner! Merry Christmas and happy New Year to all!

More later...

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