Getting my Vet Feet Wet

 When you own animals, especially large farm animals, the cost of running to the vet every time a problem arises can be quite high. Luckily we have never really needed the help of a vet. Living on 1.5 acres in a subdivision where no animals had been pastured in decades, the parasite load was small and predators beyond the neighborhood dogs were a non-issue.  

But then we moved. To 10 acres. In and near the woods, with animals around and a pasture previously used by a horse. 2 goats fell ill, but not extremely so. We used our herbal dewormer which eventually kicked the parasites from Scout, our nubian wether. But, Thor, was another story. His case was more persistant. Herbal didn't help. Safeguard didn't help. He was losing weight and less energetic. After some research we went with orally dosing injectable Ivomec. And then, he was fine. Better than fine. He was a new goat. He played with the wethers. He called louder than he ever had before. We weren't sure what the problem was, but it seemed to be resolved. 

But the damage had been done. Thor shared his yard with the Alpacas for a few months before we moved them to their new pasture.  And looking back, it could have been the reason we lost Two Socks. But we are green. We don't know alpacas well. And they are stoic creatures who don't necessarily show a problem until it's too late.

Friday evening I found Midnight on the ground. I thought he was dying right then and there. But we got him up and he walked away. We gave him a shot of Ivomec and some probiotics. I was up half the night checking on him, but he made it through the night. I contacted a local alpaca farm for help. She gave me a list of alpaca-knowledgeable veterinarians- and I started calling down the list. I found an amazing one who talked to me on the phone for at least 10 min. He told me about the worm that is accountable for 90% of goat deaths, that alpacas are also susceptible to getting- the barber pole worm. This worm is a blood sucker and causes severe anemia. The females lay an amazing amount of eggs. And they are resistant to most of the commercially available wormers. It is  He thought the Ivomec would help since it helped Thor. Told me to keep him eating. That I could give him RedCell for iron and to check all the other animals. Midnight was weak, but he was eating. He was getting up some, his eyelids were getting pinker. All good signs.

He improved most of Sunday too- though he didn't get up on Sunday at all. Then last night I checked on him at 8pm and I could tell he was going down hill. His neck was weak, his eyes were back to white- meaning severe anemia. Within 5 min he couldn't hold his neck up. I started doing some last resort stuff- Safeguard, electrolytes, LA200 (which is the treatment for another anemia causing problem in alpacas). Paul called the vet back who gave us the number to the closest Vet Hospital who could do a transfusion. Unfortunately it was UT Knoxville, 2 hrs away. We didn't have much hope, but Paul took him anyway. He didn't make it out of North Carolina. 

Things turned fast. They were improving and then BAM he was going down and it couldn't be stopped. We've given all of the others their shots. We are dosing with a second wormer as well that is supposed to be the best for barberpole worms. We will keep a close eye on the remaining 4 in hopes that this won't wipe out our entire herd. We will send out fecal samples to the State Lab in hopes of definite answers, but in the meantime we will treat as the barberpole. 

So we start our journey to learning how to care for unhealthy animals. We learn to give injections and to check eyes and gums for signs of anemia. And we try our hardest to get them back strong and healthy. 

It's been a hard week. With a sick kid. A sick cat. And a sick alpaca. The alpaca didn't make it. The cat will follow soon, most likely today. At least the kid is okay. And the hard part of farm life continues.

linked the Homestead Barn Hop


  1. So sorry about your loss. Barberpole worm is a horrible parasite. I have read on line of how you can do your own fecal checks, with a small microscope. It might be a very good idea for you to do, as you have already had exposure. It's better not to worm unless you know which parasites you are worming for, and if the load is heavy enough to require it, as it can cause resistance to the wormers. I hope things go more smoothly for you soon!!

  2. Oh, I am so sorry to hear that things did not turn out well. We live in NC as well, on 2.5 acres with a bunch of chickens and goats. We've had some close calls with animals going down fast. I have a friend who is a few years ahead of us on the raising goat journey. When ever something comes up I give her a call. LIke today...a goat ate part of a plastic garbage bag! OY! We've had a few chickens get seriously ill, most pulled through but a few didn't. Then this past year it was bumble foot (chickens). Learning as we go! :-) I will pray that things calm down around the homestead.


  3. I'm so sorry about the alpaca! I really feel for you (us being green as well!). It is amazing what you learn being on a farm and how quickly you have to learn it. You jump in with both feet and its sink or swim. Thankfully you meet people along the way who help you. I'm sorry you've had to deal with loss and I hope that things calm down for you. It's a great life to have a farm but its also hard. Hang in there, and know we are thinking of you. We can teach each other!

  4. So sorry to hear--this is definitely the worst part about farming with livestock.

    We got beat down pretty bad with brown liver fluke in our sheep last year. It was discouraging as well as expensive. The vet said that he'd never even seen an outbreak of them in our area before, and we'd never had them before in the 6 years we've been here. But we just had the "perfect storm" of factors in one of our fields for them to crop up and now we have to manage around the situation to try and control it.

  5. So sorry to hear about your loss. :( I don't pretend to know much about worms but I have our dog and goats (and ferrets!) on diatomaceous earth year round. It isn't only great for worms and parasites but my dog's joint problems have all but disappeared. As sad as losing a pet is, life really is a journey of 'learn as you go', isn't it?