If we choose to keep an animal, we take on a considerable amount of responsibility to care for that animal to the best of our ability and it is a sad reflection of our fast-paced society that animals often aren’t given the same degree of care and consideration as humans. Looking after animals requires a lot of time, especially when they become sick and for Lynne and I, the last few days have been challenging to say the least.
Animals acquire illness and injuries, just like humans, however, diagnosis presents considerably greater difficulties, since they often won’t tell you where it hurts.
Rumination and wrestling take a huge toll on even the strongest jaw and all camelids
(llamas, alpacas, camels etc.) are highly prone to mouth and jaw problems. Stuffing your mouth full of tough grass, twigs and thorny shrubs is bound to be a hazardous occupation for any creature and a llama’s mouth is surprisingly soft, relative to the operations it’s asked to perform. Glands become blocked, and vegetation can be forced under a tooth, creating abscesses. Broken or lost teeth from fighting with another animal, can result in defective chewing and even inability to crop grass. This results in loss of nutrition and further consequential health problems.
Last week, we had to call the vet out to look at, not one, but three cases of ‘Llama Lump Jaw.’ Two of them were old problems that kept resurfacing and the third was a new
swelling on Tom Burkes lower jaw. When we first collected him, he was sporting some horrible facial abscesses. Someone had put a halter on him and it hadn’t been removed for at least four years, as far as we could determine. This restricted his jaw movement and caused abrasion as his face was forced to conform to the shape of the stiff webbing. Since the swelling was in the same location as his previous abscesses, it looked like this old jaw problem had returned.
Meanwhile Fizz had developed a monstrous hard swelling on his lower jaw, which was growing visibly every day and Haven, another rescued animal who joined us last year, also displayed a lump on the side of his jaw that he had apparently lived with for several years. Haven’s lump appeared to be quite painless and despite assurances that it was the result of a bad tooth, exploratory surgery in the field, revealed a large foreign object stuck in his jaw. Tom Burke and Fizz were confirmed to
have osteomyelitis and Haven required further surgery to remove this foreign object. Two days later they were loaded into the trailer and trundled off to the vet’s surgery.
Haven behaved impeccably and under anaesthetic, had a piece of bone, an inch and a half long, removed from his face. Since an equivalent hole couldn’t be found in his jaw, it must be assumed that it belonged to someone else’s jaw! Whose jaw, we will never know, but at least it’s removal should put an end to the repeating jaw abscess. ….and Haven was an absolute angel last night when we removed his stitches!
Tom Burke and Fizz, both received an IV solution of Sodium Iodide to treat the bone infection. The effects were devastating. Fizz died within 36 hours from the toxic side effects of the IV and Tom Burke teetered on the brink of his own mortal coil for a few days and only just managed to pull himself back. Rendered almost blind and barely able to stand, he is now on the road to recovery and making the long journey up to the paddocks each day, with the rest of the herd.
Usually, we treat ourselves and the animals in our care, homeopathically, but sometimes, when illness does not respond to the treatment we are providing, we tend to think we are doing something wrong or we look for another approach. Antiopathy is the system of treating the symptoms of an illness. This is the approach that conventional human and veterinary medicine takes, whereas homeopathy treats the cause of the symptoms. Whilst dealing with the cause makes much more sense, at least in our eyes, it sometimes takes longer to relieve suffering and most people want any amount of suffering, to end as soon as possible. That’s why you can buy painkillers virtually anywhere. Pain however, is a symptom, not a cause and continually suppressing the symptoms, can lead to more serious health problems further down the road.
Another disadvantage of homeopathy is that the remedy is selected for each specific case. There isn’t one remedy that deals with abscesses and another that deals with osteomyelitis and selecting the right remedy can be a complicated process, especially when it comes to animals.
I would like to say that we have now discovered the remedy for Tom Burke, since he made a distinct recovery within a few hours of taking the remedy. We tried so many different remedies for Fizz, over a long period of time, but like some human cases, there are those that we just cannot beat, with the knowledge we have at the present time.
We ascribe no blame to vets or ourselves; we all did the very best we could, with the information we had and we are all wiser for the experience.
Fizz now grazes upon pastures divine; without doubt the prettiest llama we’ve ever seen and one of the most docile; we learned much about healing from him and he and his delightful antics, will be sorely missed.