Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Pneumonia and other considerations

So, my intention was to lop a few easy pitches. This is farming and there are plenty of heartbreaks to go around, but there are also days of peace, joy, fulfillment, and happiness. With the nine does we hadn't planned to breed this year dropping 14 sweet, bouncing babies, I felt that I could talk about them for a bit. (They obviously had other plans regarding breeding. #12weekoldbucks*can*breed #doecode #whattheevenheck #goatsgottado #unauthorizedbreeding #Iknewitwastechnicallypossible,but8?!?!?!?! #bonusbabies #COSMOS!!!!!) I mean, a little fluff before we delve back into the grit. Is that too much to ask? I guess so...

Eden hasn't had a great beginning. Born along side her thriving twin on February 20th to Birgitta, Eden has caused some concern from the start. At birth, she just looked "off"; there wasn't anything wrong with her per se, but she stood oddly with her head down and body scrunched up. Sometimes kids need a bit to sort themselves out. We gave the kids and Birgitta their dose of Selenium & Vit. E gel. Since we live in a selenium deficient state, all newborns get this when they are born.

Of immediate concern, was that Eden wasn't as interested as her brother, Micah, in nursing. She was latching on and eating, but not with the usual vigor. We started watching her carefully several times each day. Over the next couple days, we noticed that overall she seemed weaker than Micah. She would latch on and suckle for a few minutes, but then fall off, sputter a little and shake her head. Eden repeated this cycle each time we watched her nurse. A finger near her mouth didn't elicit a suck response either. We chalked it up to inexperience coupled with some nasal congestion- possibly from inhaling birth fluids, which is not uncommon and usually resolves on its own. I was concerned that Eden wasn't getting enough milk and considered tube feeding her a couple times to make sure she was getting a proper share of milk. Without a proper suck response, bottle feeding would be too dangerous. Milk aspirating into lungs is often fatal.

When Shea from Knotty Goat Soapery popped over for a visit, she agreed that something appeared "off" and that tube feeding might be a good idea. I have had to tube feed kids for various reasons through the years and know how to, but Shea worked as a vet tech. I took advantage of her visit to help with holding Eden and watching my technique- since I hadn't needed to do this in a year or so. I am a firm believer in getting advice and help from those who may know more than I do and passing along knowledge to those who might use it. It takes a village- even when it comes to animals. :)

There are things to consider before supplementing feedings. It can become a self-fulfilling problem. One thinks the kid isn't eating enough, so it gets fed a bottle. Now that their hunger has been satisfied, they may not nurse, leaving them weaker and in need of a supplemental feeding. So, you feed a bottle, which means they eat less from Mom... and round and round it can go. It can snowball into raising "bottle babies"- which is rarely the best plan for kids. Whenever possible, nursing from their Mothers in the way kids are designed to do is best for the Moms, best for the kids, and really best for the humans. (While kids *can* be fed only 3-4 times per day and live, it is best practice to follow the natural feeding schedule does employ- feeding smaller amounts, every few hours, around the clock. When we are forced by circumstances to bottle feed, this is what we commit to... and it is exhausting.) Sometimes it is necessary of offer supplemental feedings, though. Each situation should be considered based on its unique factors. We do nothing on a whim.
Eden and her brother, Micah.
HUGE size difference!

Over the next day, Eden was tube fed a couple times until she seemed to be improving. Two weeks passed. In that time, Eden was active and alert. She began to follow her brother around. While it wasn't the normal, rough and tumble bouncing I was used to, Eden was beginning to be more and more active. She still never seemed to nurse as long as Micah. The congestion in her nose came and went. Sometimes it was quite pronounced, other times she appeared normal. We had had good success in the past treating slight nasal congestion with a combination of Triaminic and using peppermint essential oils diluted in coconut oil as a rub. We used those treatments on Eden when her symptoms warranted them.

At the Vet's office this morning.
This morning, her condition changed dramatically. The congestion that had been intermittent, settled into her lungs with a clearly discernible rattle. Sean called the Belfast Veterinary Hospital and we got an appointment for the afternoon. Upon examination, Dr. Sarah discovered Eden has a very pronounced cleft palette. For those unsure of what that is, basically, the boney structure at the roof of her mouth did not develop properly. There is a good sized hole which allows milk to travel from her mouth to her nose. It prevents her from creating the vacuum pressure to swallow properly, so drinking life-sustaining milk is a tremendous challenge. This condition often results in the decision to euthanize. The deformity commonly results in susceptibility to pneumonia, failure to thrive because getting enough nutrition will be a life-long hurdle, and the inadvisability of future breeding. Breeding is avoided because Eden will have a hard time maintaining her weight without the demands on her body carrying kids will cause. And, too, while we don't believe it is the case with her, cleft palette can be hereditary. So, though she is EXACTLY perfect in every other aspect in terms of what traits our farm is hoping to breed: naturally polled, lamanchas with excellent milk lines- this deformity means Eden can't be a mother as things stand. Right now, we're more concerned with whether or not she can live.

We discussed these dangers and concerns at length with Dr. Sarah and are following her advice- with a couple of adjustments. Dr. Sarah has suggested we pull Eden from her mother and tube feed her for the next 8 weeks or so. Tube feeding each meal will completely by-pass her cleft palette and reduce the risk of pneumonia. She gave us injections of Nuflor antibiotic to treat Eden over the next 3 days. Dr. Sarah thinks its worth waiting to see if there are any changes to the palette as she gets some size and weight on her. It is possible to have repair surgery done when she is a little older. Surgery comes with its own risks to weigh. Dr. Sarah offered to call in a consult because though she has performed the tricky surgery on other animals, there is a huge chance of infection and the surgery itself is tricky.

Birgitta's Family 2020
So, we are taking her advice and tube feeding her to supplement her diet. The change that we are making is this: pulling Eden from her family. Eden is 17 days old. That means that she has been dealing with and figuring out a way to eat enough milk to be an active- if not bouncy- goat kid. She climbs with her brother on top of crates and through pens. It is a risk to allow her to remain with her family. We think the risk of pulling her outweighs it. Separating her from her family means that she will be raised alone for months. She won't forge the bonds she needs to be part of her herd, an outcast that may always be bullied. The loneliness of separation can cause depression and for her to give up the will to live that she has been demonstrating. We believe in her. She has found a way to function for this long, we are hopeful that with support, she will continue on that path.

But, she may not. It isn't an easy path ahead. She's having some trouble with congestion tonight. We'll be monitoring her closely, but the reality is- there isn't a whole lot more we can do tonight. She has been given the antibiotic to help her lungs. She's had a dose of the steroid Dexamethasone to help open her airways. She's been tube fed. She is warm, dry, and surrounded by love.

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