Monday, August 17, 2009

heat stress, aqua-cows and the downer alpaca

Heat is something that is always on our minds in this area. Unfortunately, this year has been a bad one for the camilids and I know of four animals that have gone down to heat stress. Two of those did not survive. The other two are hanging in there, but recovery has traditionally been a very slow process.
On Friday, I got a call from my vet, who is treating one of the heat victims. She asked if we could build her an “aqua-cow”. To which I replied, of course we can; what the hell is an aqua-cow?
Basically, she needed a tank with the front open so the alpaca could be easily placed in, then water can slowly be added to the tank until the alpaca is being supported by the water. With heat stress, the animals will go down and not rise again for some times weeks. During this period the leg muscles will weaken considerable and this starts a whole host of other problems for the animals. The tank allows for hydro therapy of the leg muscles.
It took us a day, but we had an emergency test tank by Saturday evening. We brought it to Linda without knowing if it would hold water. It didn’t, but the water seeped out slower than it filled, so it works for the time being. Mean while, plans are being drawn up for the next version, when we have more time to build and find parts.
We’ve used it twice. The first time the alpaca seemed a little concerned that we were trying to drown him, but never got panicky. The second time, he was quite accepting and actually managed to maneuver his legs quite a bit. He wouldn’t support himself at all when we placed him in the tank. On the way back to his pen, he actually tried to brace his legs some. Hopefully, continued therapy will reduce healing time, and our little patient can soon rejoin his herd.