Benefits of Experience

D. E. Larsen, DVM

The phone jarred me awake. It was going to be another late night, and I thought calving season was over. I glanced at the clock as I picked up the receiver, 1:30.

“Doc, this is Jack. I have a llama who gave birth tonight,” Jack said in an excited voice. “They almost always birth during the morning, but this one came tonight, and she has a problem.”

“What’s going on with her, Jack?” I asked.

“I think she has a prolapsed uterus,” Jack said. “And she is not doing well. She hasn’t even looked at the baby.”

“Llamas rarely have birthing problems,” I said. “But when they have problems, it is when they give birth at night.”

“Can you come out and get a look at her, Doc?” Jack asked.

“It won’t take me too long,” I said. “You know I am in bed.”

“I know, Doc,” Jack said. “I’m sorry, but it is like when we used to have to Hoot Owl in the woods. You just got to get up and go.”

“Don’t do anything with her until I get there,” I said. “If she is not feeling well, she might be in shock. We don’t want to add any stress. Where do you have her, Jack?”

“She is in the little barn up here by the house,” Jack said. “I will have all the lights on for you.”

I have seen very few birthing issues with llamas. One with a prolapsed vagina that I ended up delivering the baby, and that was about it. If this is a prolapsed uterus, it will be a first for me. Unlike a cow, this llama is probably worth about $30,000.

Jack was waiting at the barn door when I arrived. He was having trouble standing still.

“I am glad you could come so quick, Doc,” Jack said as I stepped out of the truck. “She doesn’t look good to me at all.”

I gathered my stuff for the first trip into the barn. A stephoscope, bucket of warm water, BeI gathered my stuff for the first trip into the barn: a stethoscope, bucket of warm water, Betadine scrub, and a dose of Oxytocin. Jack had the cria under a heat lamp. Mom was paying no attention to the baby. That in its self was an unfavorable sign.

She did have a prolapsed uterus. The membranes had already passed. This did not look bad, just one horn of the uterus was prolapsed. But Momma did not look good. Her oral membranes were ghost white and she was resting on her sternum and not responsive to my attention.

“Jack, there was a day that I would blame her condition on blood loss but I think she is in shock,” I said. “Let me run back to the truck and I will get a couple of bags of fluid and some medication and we will see if that helps her before we do anything with this prolapse.”

“Is she going to be able to breed after this?” Jack asked.

“We have to worry about her surviving the night before we worry about her breeding again,” I said. “Actually, Jack, I doubt is there is much data on fertility in the llama following a prolapse. Most of the time they breed back in the first month or so following delivery. I would think that is not going to happen, but I have no data or experience on the top of my head to support any opinion.”

I hung a bag of fluids from a nail on a nearby support post for the barn and placed a 14 gauge needle in her jugular vein. I ran the fluids as fast as they would flow and added 20 mg of Dexamethasone Sodium Phosphate to the first liter.

Halfway through the second liter, Mom was looking for her cria and acting like she would live. I slowed the flow and gave 10 mg of Oxytocin IV. Then I turned my attention to the prolapse.

This was a fraction of the size of a bovine prolapse and the oxytocin was already contracting the uterus. I scrubbed it vigorously with Betadine Scrub. Then I lubed it with J-Lube, a powdered lube that, when wet, became as slick as anything I knew.

A couple of pushes and the uterus popped back into its normal position. I ran my hand through the cervix and made sure the uterine horns were completely returned to normal. At the same time I put a couple of grams of Oxytetracycline powder in the uterus. Then I sutured the vulva closed with several sutures.

I have never experienced a prolapse that came out a second time. Especially if Oxytocin was given to contract the uterus. But, be it training, or just making myself and the owner happy, I always sutured the vulva for a 1 – 3 days.

I cleaned up Mom and removed the IV. A gave good dose of long acting antibiotics and she jumped right up, looking for her baby.

“My guess is we are home free, Jack,” I said. “I will run by and recheck her in a couple of days and get those suture out. You just need to check her over real well in the morning. Make sure is eating and taking care of the baby. You call if you have any questions about how she is doing.”

The trip home at 3:00 in the morning gave me time to ponder. Would I have been so quick to give fluids to this gal if had not been able to peek inside of the belly of Ag’s cow a couple of summers before? I am not sure of the answer to that question. I guess once you know the correct answer, it is hard to think of another solution.

Photo Credit: https://www.pexels.com/@belen-rubio-1986517

Published by d.e.larsen.dvm

Country vet for over 40 years in Sweet Home Oregon. I graduated from Colorado State University in 1975. I practiced in Enumclaw Washington for a year and a half before moving to Sweet Home to start a practice.

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