|Timpani's picture in my book, Raising Goats Naturally|
One thing I learned from this is that there is a big difference between survival and recovery. Even if one of the does managed to survive, her odds of recovering would not be good. She might forever be unable to walk and could possibly have other neurological problems for the rest of her life. One could certainly not breed a doe that can't walk, and because the uterus is a muscle, we have no way of knowing if she would even be able to give birth. Even if the kids were born, how would they nurse from a mother who can't stand?
Katy the llama is an experienced mother, and Oscar is almost four months old, so he is smart enough to find her teats even though she's laying down. But one of the things that we've learned with Katy over the past week is that an animal's condition can continue to worsen before the meningeal worms are killed by the treatment. Katy had recently peed and pooped before we took her to the clinic, but she lost the ability to do so within a few hours of her arrival there. She has a catheter in place now, and they've been manually removing feces. Although a little urine leaked out next to the catheter today, they said not to get too excited because it may not mean that she actually urinated, especially because she still does not have any feeling back there, and her tail still has no muscle tone.
I also received messages via email and Facebook from people who have had goats with meningeal worm in the past. Most did not recover, and some hung on for weeks before the decision was finally made to have them put down. Killing the worms and repairing spinal cord or brain damage are two entirely different things. Although modern medicine can certainly kill the worms, repairing the damage to the nervous system is mostly up to the animal's body, although they can be helped by anti-inflammatories and other drugs. And then it also depends on exactly where the worm got into the spinal cord or brain and how much damage it has done. Timpani and Windy had such different conditions because the worms in their bodies had attacked different parts of their nervous systems. There were so many questions and no one who could really answer them.
There are so many reasons why this was a hard decision, and the fact that it was Timpani and Windy seemed to make it worse. Their mother Viola died a couple days after giving birth to them in 2012, which is why they were my bottle babies. Because Viola peaked at two gallons of milk a day, I had such high hopes for them as milkers. But I remind myself that it was only hope because they had not freshened yet, and maybe they would not have lived up to expectations.
Timpani and Windy will be necropsied this afternoon, and we'll learn if there was anything else going on that contributed to their illness. As for what we'll do next on the farm, we'll be giving dewormer to the other goats that spent the summer across the creek being rotated through the woods, which is undoubtedly where they got the meningeal worm. It comes from deer, which I have never seen in our regular pastures, most likely due to the fact that our dogs go nuts if deer ever come within view. But this past summer, we had the dry does and retired goats in a remote wooded area where deer frequent.
Making the decision to euthanize Timpani and Windy is by far the hardest decision I've ever had to make. But looking at Katy's progress, I couldn't help but think that I might only be delaying the inevitable and prolonging their suffering if I chose differently. It's only noon, but I'm yawning as if it's midnight. This has been a mentally exhausting day.
Deciding again ...
I had just finished writing everything above when the phone rang. It was the vet. She said that Timpani had been euthanized, but when they went to euthanize Windy, they noticed that her neurologic symptoms had drastically decreased and she was walking. They felt that I should know that before moving forward with the euthanasia. Last night when we spoke, I had told her that unless the goats made miraculous improvements overnight, I was leaning towards euthanasia. This sure seemed to fit the definition of a miraculous improvement, so as my eyes started to fill up with tears and I got a huge lump in my throat, this time I said, "No! Don't euthanize her. Continue with treatment, and give her everything that we had talked about, including the thiamine and everything."
Then the vet told me that she knew she had to call when Windy looked her in the eyes. Her nystagmus -- quivering eyeballs -- was almost gone. The fact that she was looking the vet in the eyes says volumes because she was previously not even looking at anyone. You might remember I initially thought she had gone blind. I don't remember everything else the vet said. My brain just kept screaming that Windy was fighting, and if she was fighting, I couldn't give up on her. And after hanging up the phone, I cried even more than I did after making the first decision this morning. This time, however, I was jumping up and down crying tears of joy rather than sitting at my desk quietly crying into my hands, feeling defeated. I know that Windy has a long road ahead of her still, but being able to walk will make the journey a lot easier.