Today my somewhat cantankerous old gelding Aladino showed some obvious signs of not being himself when I went out to feed. I immediately noticed that he didn’t want his grain. Big problem right there. He usually knocks me over trying to get to the dish. He was also off by himself and didn’t want to be bothered. I noticed he was shaking a bit also. None of the above are signs of normal behavior for him.
I left the barn and immediately set up some light weight movable panels in my garage since I don’t have a heated barn. The temperature was going to drop to around 10 degrees that night so I decided that it was better to have him in a warmer place. Al is 13 years old and it was possible that he was chilled. The temperature in my garage is around 48 degrees in winter, much warmer than the barn. The wind blows something fierce up here on the hill, so before I moved him to the garage I placed a wind-breaker like blanket on him for his trek across the pasture and into the garage. He willingly went into his new home for the night.
The first thing I did was get him a warm pale of water. We do have heated buckets in our barn. Warm water is better for animals in winter. They maintain their body temperature better if they stay hydrated. The next thing I did was take his temperature. This was no easy task as he didn’t appreciate that at all, but it had to be done. Temperature of 102. A little high, but not excessive. Could have been caused by the stress of moving him away from his buddies, trying to get a blanket on him or he was sick. Gave him a small amount of bute to help in case he really did have a fever. After about an hour in the garage, I removed the blanket. He was pacing, but finally settled into his new space. I left him some hay and grain and checked on him repeatedly through the night. He had eaten some of the grain and hay.
By morning, he was a different Al, eager to get out to his pasture mates. I took his temperature again much to his dislike. It was 101.2. Much better than the day before. He gobbled every bit of grain I put in his dish. When he was finished eating he began pacing as if to tell me to get a move on. I decided to re-blanket him and leave it on him when I put him back in his barn. Better to be overly cautious than not at this point. I felt that I had done the right thing by bringing him into the garage. I believe that he was in fact chilled and not able to warm himself. A cold animal will not eat. Had I not acted and taken him to a warmer place the outcome may have been different. I breathed a sigh of relief that he was going to be ok.
Its important to remember that even alpacas with a good coat of fleece can become affected by winter weather, especially the older animal. Fluctuations in temperature can cause havoc on animals and they should be watched closely. It’s a great assest to know the actions and personalities of all your alpacas, that way when one of them seems a bit “off”, you’ll know something is up and you can act upon it before it might develop into something more serious.