Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The toughest decision


Mike came into the house Monday morning to say that another goat was down.

Another goat? Yes, about ten days earlier we found Timpani, a mini mancha, laying in the snow first thing in the morning. She was hypothermic and couldn't stand. Even when she was warmed up, she still couldn't stand. Her symptoms reminded me of the goat we had about eight years ago that was paralyzed from a spinal cord injury. Goats fight all the time, and it's pretty amazing that they don't wind up with more injuries than they do. Timpani was very happy, and when we put warm water and food in front of her, she ate like there was no tomorrow. Because her only symptom was semi-paralysis, it really appeared that she was injured, rather than ill.

Katy with vet wrap on her neck, holding the IV catheter in place.
Cria Oscar has been staying with her at the clinic.
Then last week, Katy the llama was unable to stand, so we took her to U of I and learned that she had meningeal worm. (See last two posts for the whole story on Katy.) I told the vets about Timpani, but she actually seemed to be doing better by then. She could stand some and take some wobbly steps, so we thought she was on the mend.

And then yesterday, Mike found her sister Windy (short for Woodwind) laying down and unable to get up. Unlike Timpani, Windy seemed very sick. At first glance, I thought she was blind because she didn't look at me, but after flicking my fingers at her head, I realized that she could see. Mentally, however, she was absent. I stood her up in front of a hay feeder, and she refused to eat. I put a bucket of warm water in front of her, and she completely ignored it.

I came into the house and called U of I, explaining all of her symptoms. I told the vet tech on the phone that because we had already spent a fortune on Katy, who was still not well, we needed to be mindful of costs. However, I really wanted to bring the goats to the clinic because I wanted an answer. Knowing that meningeal worm requires snails and deer to reproduce and infect a goat or llama, I was wondering if that was really the culprit. Could I really have two or three animals infected? Because I had said that Windy was so sick, I didn't expect her to survive for 24 hours, she said that I could just bring her in to have her euthanized and necropsied. That was a sobering thought. I felt my eyes start to fill with tears and don't remember what the tech said at that point, but I knew that it was the cheapest, most accurate way to get definitive answers.

Windy at the vet clinic
Ultimately we decided to take the goats to the clinic and have them examined. Initially everyone, including a neurologist, thought that Windy had listeriosis. Her symptoms were classic. She was leaning to one side and had the classic eyeball twitching of a goat with listeriosis. She had to be leaning against someone or something, or she'd fall down.

Timpani in her crate when we arrived at the clinic
When they first examined Timpani, they thought that she seemed to be lame rather than ill, but as they observed her more, they noticed minor neurologic symptoms as well. After a few hours, they decided to start treating both of them for meningeal worm, based upon symptoms and Katy's diagnosis, and to also treat Windy for listeriosis because her symptoms would have indicated listeriosis, if not for the llama's diagnosis already.

Today, they did spinal taps on the goats and confirmed a diagnosis of meningeal worm for both of them. Unfortunately, the vet professor said that goats do not respond to treatment as well as llamas do. Considering the fact that Katy was supposed to be hospitalized for five days of treatment, and she is still hospitalized and can't stand, pee, or poop on her own, that's not terribly promising, and goats don't respond as well as llamas? What does that mean? The vet professor said that goats have about a 20% recovery rate.

Really, considering Windy's condition, I would think her odds are even worse than that. But what about Timpani? She was nibbling at the vet's boot liners and everything else she saw at the vet clinic. Other than her wobbly gait, she acts almost normal. The vet and I talked about euthanizing both goats and doing necropsies to be sure that there isn't anything other than the meningeal worm at work here.

I've posted a couple of status updates on my own Facebook page, as well as the Antiquity Oaks page, and a few people with meningeal worm experience have responded. One said that they had a goat that seemed happy and kept eating for a month before they finally decided to put him down. Several others talked about having goats die in spite of treatment.

I told the vet I wanted to wait until morning before making a decision. I'm afraid it's going to be a long night.

2 comments:

Lori said...

so sorry, deborah. my thoughts are with you. xoxo

Michelle said...

Oh man; what a scary parasite!!!

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