Daily interaction with animals can bring huge rewards. To learn to communicate with and develop relationships with our brothers and sisters of the animal kingdom provides countless opportunities for personal growth, and we like to believe that animals are also able to learn and grow from their interaction with us. However, there are moments when that interaction presents really tough decisions for us and there is no doubt that we all have differing opinions and ideas on how to respond to those challenges.
A couple of weeks ago, Coco, one of the long term boarders at The Llama Sanctuary, was in the barn and did not want to stand up, even when a new bale of hay was wheeled in. Something was not right! When we finally managed to encourage her to stand, she hopped around on three legs, holding her front right foot off the ground.
With the weirdest weather we have yet experienced in Canada, rain has been falling on frozen ground, without the usual cover of snow and we two-legged creatures, with studded boots, were having a hard time remaining upright. The cause of Coco’s injury was therefore, no mystery, but the nature of the injury had yet to be determined. The vet arrived complete with mobile x-ray unit, but the injury was so obvious, that x-ray images were not required. A clean lateral break right at the base of the cannon bone was not good news as far as the vet was concerned and he advised immediate euthanasia/execution.
Ending an animal’s life because of a broken bone was not a consideration as far as we were concerned, but for the veterinarian, he saw no other option, other than, he believed, cause the animal to experience pain. He called a colleague for a second opinion, which matched his own. Seeing our own refusal to consider this without exploring all options, he called an animal hospital. They suggested external or internal steelwork at a cost of $5000 to $10,000. He left us with a soft splint and a couple of doses of Banamine, whilst we explored our own ideas and reached out into the network of llama and alpaca owners for their experiences.
In our personal experience, structural repairs are not very successful in large animals, especially with the injury located in such a difficult spot. We also feel that while pain is to avoided, since we don’t kill humans for experiencing pain, if there is a chance of recovery, then pain is an adjunct to healing.
One option that we had explored following the loss of a beautiful llama several years ago, was amputation and a prosthetic. This was far more likely to succeed, since there was no rejection of foreign material to consider and less-invasive surgery.
But, before even that would be considered, we wanted to give Coco a chance to heal. The soft splint was applied, pain-killer given and then we invited another vet, recommended to us by another Camelid keeper, to examine the situation and potentially apply a moulded plastic splint. He came along the next morning and after a brief analysis, expressed his desire to create a conventional glass-fibre and resin cast. He saw no reason why the leg should not heal. Coco is young, strong and full of vital energy.
Coco lay perfectly still during the casting, while Lynne sang to her and very soon after she was scooting around the barn. THAT had to stop! She has since been confined to a pen in the new Clearspan barn, where she is NOT very happy, but where she has the opportunity to heal and not slip on the ice again.
…and little Cocobean, he spends the night with his mother and is allowed to run off and play during the daytime. Between them, they’ve worked out a little routine for daytime feeding through the railings and confinement is only for a few weeks. Healing of bones can be greatly supported through the homoeopathic application of SYMPHYTUM. This is one of the rare instances where I can happily provide the name of a prescribed remedy. SYMPHYTUM OFFICINALE, commonly known as Comfrey and traditionally called Knitbone, has been used since time unmeasured for accelerating the healing of injured bone and cartilage. Even brewing a pot of comfrey tea and adding it to drinking water can be helpful, as well as applying it externally.
The first vet who recommended euthanasia is now interested in following Coco’s progress, in the hope that he can offer better service to llamas in the future. Most people tend to work within the confines of their knowledge and skill-base. Remaining open to new possibilities is a muscle we all need to exercise if we are to be the best we can be and get off this tramline of madness we have assisted in creating in the world.
As for Coco, she appears to be progressing well, but we will definitely let you know when the cast comes off.
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