Tizona had to be euthanized today.
She had been doing well, but early this week had a “relapse.” Tuesday morning it was clear she was not feeling well. Off to the vet for checkup and antibiotics. By Wednesday afternoon she was clearly getting much worse. The neurological symptoms were returning. I think her vision was starting fade, too. When I tried to bottle feed her Wednesday afternoon she had a choking fit afterwards, probably not an aspiration into the lungs, rather it might have been a neurological megaesophogus (dysphagia).Â By yesterday evening she was in bad shape. Overnight she seemed to improve a bit (at least she could get back into kush on her own- that’s how bad she had gotten). But this morning she starting fading very fast. By 8 AM she couldn’t hold kush, her head was bending back along her body, and she was trembling.
Phone tag between our vet (Julia), Stuart (the Massey vet) and myself commenced. It was decided at 9AM that the best thing to do was euthanize her, as she probably had a brain abcess, which was essentially untreatable. (There has been one case of experimental brain surgery on an alpaca in te US to treat such an abcess, and endeavor and expense none of us were willing to undertake.)
Stuart, the Massey vet, made a very kind offer to Post-Mortem her. He has a research budget for such “interesting” cases. A basic PM (cut open and check organs) is only $50-75. When you starting adding in some tissue histology a few hundred $ is added to the bill. Once we start getting into brain biopsies and lots of post mortem tests, the expense quickly rises. We were just going to bury her, as we knew a basic PM would be uninformative. Now she gets to help educate some vet students, and she may add to the body of knowledge of camelid diseases.
I took her to Massey to be euthanized, so they could do the PM immediately (to get the best info, the fresher the better). Just in the 2 hour drive she declined significantly, by the time I arrived she was stiff-legged, and starting to twitch/convulse. I think Tizona had checked out some time previous, as the brain damage got too great.
Next week we should have the PM results, and know what killed her.
While I am sad at this turn of events, I am not wracked with guilt or second guesses. We did everything “right.” We caught conditions early, we treated appropriately, we provided lots of care and attention. But of course even with the best care and treatment, not every case can have a happy ending.
**Edit** The very fact that TIzona had a life at all does give me smile, even if it is currently tinged with sadness. The mating that got Persil pregnant in November 2007 was pure happenstance. It was a week after Ferrari had died, and our friend Kate was passing through with her fabulous sire Khandahar. She gave us the opportunity for sympathy sex- well, for the alpacas at least- and Tizona was the product.
Furthermore, Tizona would have died the day she was born without my efforts. She hit the ground, cold and wet, just as a very cold southerly storm arrived. After a few hours of struggle- while Persil was screaming and biting my head to defend her baby- Tizona was warm, dry, and had a belly full of colostrum.
And even after she fell ill, my efforts more than doubled her lifespan. She would have died back in the middle January otherwise. While I can wish that her short life had not been so expensive, she had a life, and that is a value that is hard to measure. She is also a testment to the strength of camelids and children. The initial PM results came in yesterday, and it was in fact a very large abcess in the left hemisphere of her brain. Yes she had managed to regain vision, coordination, and much of her youthful vigour before relapse finally killed her. Her short life was, on the whole, pretty good. I may have wanted 15+ years and lots of lovely babies from her, but things don’t always work out that way.
Plus, we take some comfort that really we could have done nothing else.Â With an abcess like that different drugs, or treating her earlier, or noticing sooner, would have made no difference to the final outcome.
I will be happier when Persil stops staring at me and following me around with the “where’s my baby!” humming. She knows that I would take Tiz away and bring her back. I think she also understands that I was helping, as she was very rarely aggro at me, even as I did rather extreme things to keep her baby alive. In a few days she will resign herself that Tizona is not coming back, and move on. It will be easier for both of us that way.