Kath & Tom Wordsworth, Newland Alpacas.
August Bank holiday is supposed to be a time for relaxation; but not if you have Alpacas.
During morning feed time and herd inspection I came across Max with a reddish/pink bulge on his right hind foot. On a quick inspection I suspected an abscess so went off for some warm water to bathe it.
With the help of husband Tom we rounded Max up for a closer look.
It turned out not to be an abscess but a nasty cut across his pad ? the reddish bulge being fatty tissue. I ran off to phone the vet. As it was Bank holiday Monday I had to get in touch with the emergency vet who turned out to be a South African and had no idea where we lived,not being from this area, but after a lengthy conversation I managed to direct him to us.
Max, a four year old entire male, did not seem unduly worried at this point ? he was putting weight on the foot and walking OK so we separated him from his field companion and put him in a corral next door. The vet arrived an hour later and we set off to inspect Max.
The vet?s verdict ? it would have to be stitched as it would never heal on its own due to the foot flexing all the time, but not today as we needed to clean it up and keep it that way.
His first job was to detach the fatty bulge; however the vet had come without any suture to tie and cut off the bulging fatty pad, so Tom was sent off to raid his fishing rod for some line. That done the cut was given a good clean out, heavily bandaged and Max was given a painkiller and Pen/Strep antibiotic. The vet left with instructions to give the foot a daily clean and bandage. He would be back on the Wednesday to check on its progress as he did not want to stitch it up yet as a foot infection could be a strong possibility.
Wednesday arrived ? the vet came and inspected but said we still needed more time before stitching so we had to carry on with a few more days cleaning and bandaging and a date was set for the following Monday for stitching. We were keeping our fingers crossed as Monday arrived. Was this the day for stitching? Terrible thoughts had been going through my mind over the last few days ? what if his foot had become infected and would not heal?
The vet arrived with a nurse and I can only describe the scene as something out of M.A.S.H as a field hospital was set up in the pen. Luckily, re-enforcements had arrived to help in the form of one of our sons, Ben.
As many of you will know, entire males hate having their feet and legs touched so we needed all the help we could get. I was in charge of the head end, Ben had the middle area and Tom was at the rear end holding on to the affected leg & foot for the vet. We had Max against a metal gate in full view of all the other Alpacas to help in comforting him. I tried all methods of keeping him calm, rubbing his head and ears and generally talking nicely to him ? on the whole it seemed to work, so the vet set to.
Firstly a local anaesthetic was put into the foot, then another clean out. The local soon took effect and stitching began. Thankfully I was at the front end and didn?t see anything but Tom told me all the gory details. In between jobs the veterinary nurse took some photos. The foot was double stitched (internal and external) and then re-bandaged. The vet and nurse departed leaving the healing process to take its course. We had to keep the foot as dry as possible and re-bandage daily. We were fortunate with the weather and we had very little rain over the next few weeks so the bandages remained dry.
On the 20th September we became a little anxious about Max?s foot as the area on the side of his foot where the fatty bulge had been severed did not seem to be healing well and looked a little unhealthy. We rang the vet and she thought it wise if we gave him another course of Pen/Strep.
The vet came out on the 25th September to attend a difficult alpaca birth so after she had finished that emergency we asked her to take a look at Max?s foot. She was happy how things were going but we had to carry on with the daily bandaging. As you can imagine this was one daily task nobody looked forward to ? least of all Max. We got it down to a fine art, taking about 5 minutes. First we had to remove the old bandage without his foot touching the floor, then a non-adhesive dressing was placed over the stitched foot followed by some Soffban bandage then finishing off with coloured Vetrap bandage secured around the leg with tape. He looked like he had a club-foot but didn?t seem to mind.
This routine carried on for the next few weeks and on the 18th October we decided the foot had healed well enough and decided to stop bandaging. The pad was as good as new.
We still have no idea how the foot was cut ? had he been fighting or had he caught it on the fence wire? What we do know is that we will now keep a supply of bandaging in the emergency chest and we have some idea of how to treat before we call the vet out. It has been a learning curve ? another piece of knowledge to help in the keeping of alpacas.