We have had a really hard week on our little farm. Lexus had her baby Tuesday while we were away at work. That evening Randy and I went out in the pasture along with mom and dad to have a closer look and gather her up and relocate mama and baby to a building up near the house.
The baby was having trouble getting to its feet on her own. We would help her stand, but she couldn’t maintain a standing position on her own. Her breathing was labored and her mouth was hanging open gasping for breath.
We got them settled in a pen in the shed and headed inside to start researching what was going on with her. We searched and searched and weren’t really coming up with much. Randy ran out to finish up chores and take another look at her. When he came in I was crying over the laptop. I had found our answer…choanal atresia.
“Choanal atresia is a congenital condition (meaning that the llama is born with it) in which the normal airway (between the nasal and pharyngeal areas) is blocked by bone, membraneous tissue, or a combination of the two. Occasionally, only one passage is blocked (unilateral) or the blockage is not complete. Both of these conditions are referred to as “partial choanal atresia.”
“Normally air is allowed to pass from the nasal passageways to the throat where it proceeds down the trachea to the lungs. With coanal atresia, an embryonic membrane fails to rupture during fetal development creating an obstruction between the nasal cavity and the throat. The obstruction may be only on one side of the nose or on both sides of the nose resulting in either a partial or complete coanal atresia. Since camelids are obligate nasal breathers, many of these crias die soon after birth. Surgical repair may be possible if the abnormality is not severe, but often euthanasia is recommended.”
The following day, Wednesday, Dad took her to our local vet who looked her over and really didn’t know what to think or do for her. He gave her a shot for swelling and us a bill. That evening when we got home we suspected she was also blind in both eyes. Thursday, Dad went down around lunchtime to try and give her some more colostrum. When he got there he saw another baby llama out in the pasture. Celia had also had her baby. The news was bittersweet to Randy and I knowing there was a good possibility we wouldn’t have two little babies chasing each other around the pasture.
That evening after Randy and I got home from work we scooped up Lexus’s baby and headed to another vet in a nearby town 30 minutes away to see if he could help us. This vet had always been so good to examine our livestock in the past and strive to save them if there was any way at all.
Although he was exhausted from working cattle all day, he did a thorough examination including x-rays. The three of us looked at the x-rays and saw the blockage in her nasal passage. Our hearts sunk, the vet included. Our baby was standing on the welcome mat in the lobby while we looked over the x-rays and discussed our options. Her face was inches away from the wall, but she didn’t even know it. She stared straight ahead and gasped for air as we made the hardest decision anyone ever has to make concerning their animals.
The vet asked if we would like to be present. I said I would rather not. I had held up really well the entire time…my excuse to Randy was I truly believed I was cried out from the two previous days…I didn’t want to be in there when she took her last breath. I had gotten up with her every 4 hours and held her while she gasped a big breath before trying to take a bottle as fast as she could and then struggle to catch her breath after she swallowed. I had given her shots, helped her stand, and constantly looked into her eyes praying for some sort of reaction to show she was looking back. Even though I tried not to I was attached to that little scraggly girl and couldn’t bring myself to see her be put to sleep.
The vet was wonderful. He reassured us we were doing the right thing. He praised us for not making her suffer for our own satisfaction. When it was all said and done we paid our bill, chatted with him and his wife for nearly an hour, and drove home to do our chores and bring our newest baby in from the pasture.
It was already getting dark. We laid Lexus’s baby back in the pen with her so she could recognize what had happened and make her healing process easier. Llamas are almost human when it comes to a mamas bond with her newborn baby. We hurried through what remained of our chores because it was already getting dark. There was an opossum in our chicken coop not hurting a thing, but really reaking out the chickens. I pushed it out the door and locked up the coop for the night.
We grabbed a flashlight and hurried out into the pasture to bring the baby and Celia up to the shed for cover and safety. Randy got to the baby first and hollered, “he has the same thing.” I couldn’t believe what I had heard. Surely I heard him wrong, “what!” “He has the same thing.” Before I even got there I could hear him gasping for air. I proved myself wrong on being all cried out as I scooped him up in my arms and started to cry as I led Celia up to the building. We were absolutely exhausted. We got Celia and her baby settled in and went inside for a quick egg sandwich and straight to bed.
I was off the whole next day. I had to sort and de-worm all our ewes for breeding so I was out in the lots a good portion of the day. I kept a close eye on the baby. His eyes were watery like the others, but his
breathing wasn’t quite as labored and he was nursing on his own. Randy called the vet who said he would work us in on Saturday if we decided to have him looked at…I mean this guy is awesome.
Saturday morning Randy noticed a lot of snot and mucous in the baby’s nose, so I got the little sucker like you use for babies and did what I could for him. We started him on excenel to try to move any fluid out and started treating his eyes to see if we could get the watering and possible loss of vision corrected. We called the vet and told him our plans. He encouraged us to try, but that he would see him whenever if we needed him to.
It is now Monday. We have seen him nurse. He follows his mama around and has even kicked up his heels a bit. His eyes are not as watery and it appears his vision, at least to a certain degree, is there. We will continue to monitor him closely to see if we notice any changes good or bad. I intend to schedule a checkup with our vet a week from Friday to see what he thinks and go from there.
It has been an incredibly hard week and weekend. Owning animals is a joy, but it can also be so heart breaking. These two llamas were bred when we bought them and we have no intentions of ever breeding llamas on our farm. We didn’t actually need more llamas on our farm either, but the very thought of having two baby crias, born days apart, running and playing together was an idea we had become fond of the past five months.
I did take pictures of Lexus’s baby afraid of the outcome and not wanting a reminder. However, I did break down and take a picture of Celia’s baby.
Baby with his mama, Celia
He has a little rust colored patch on his back. I wanted a cowboy name since he looks like he has a saddle on his back, so we have named him Duke as in “The Duke.” It is cuter (and easier to call out) than John Wayne and fits him perfectly. Say a little prayer this little guy makes a full recovery and lives out a full and happy life with us on our farm.
Have a blessed day!