In part 1 of this post, I covered the happy part of Coraline’s birth story — the labor and delivery. If you haven’t yet, go read it first before you start part 2.
|Coraline and two of her triplets, the doe (left) and second buck (right).|
Late Wednesday morning, after I overslept a bit from having such a wacky sleep pattern in the nights leading up to Coraline’s kidding, I noticed that Coraline’s afterbirth was still hanging. It had been a bit over 24 hours, which is when it’s officially considered “retained” (at least based on what I have read). She was standing eating hay, and seemed just a little bit not like herself. I thought at the time that it was just because the rest of her placenta needed to clear out, so I called the vet’s and let them know what was going on. A retained afterbirth had happened with one other doe previously, so I wasn’t too terribly concerned at this point. The vet gave us a shot of oxytocin to make her body flush the rest of the afterbirth out.
However, after we gave her the oxytocin, I realized something more was wrong. Coraline was not herself. She was shivering a little, hadn’t eaten all of her alfalfa pellets, and just seemed…”off.” I find myself using that term a lot. Sometimes it’s hard to describe to someone else how a goat is when it’s not itself, but not showing overt symptoms. I knew something was up, but the best way I could describe it was “off” and a little listless. So we loaded her up and took her to the vet.
Upon arrival, Coraline passed the rest of the afterbirth. The vet did a check on her and found everything pretty much as it should be. Her heart rate was a little elevated, but she thought that was likely due to stress. Her temperature was normal, her rumen was functioning, her udder was warm and pliable. The vet did an ultrasound to be sure there wasn’t a retained fetus, and that was all clear. The only obvious symptom was the “off-ness.” A little listless, not interested in food, head hanging a bit, not really interested in walking around. Then she passed a bit of foul-smelling uterine fluid, and we all thought we had our answer — a uterine infection. The vet gave us the option of having lab work drawn or just administering banamine and Nuflor (an antibiotic). We thought that infection was the culprit, and talking to the vet it seemed like the antibiotic and banamine should clear her up, so we declined additional lab work at that time. I had personally suspected hypocalcemia due to the mild shivering and had already given some calcium drench, so I asked about giving another dose later, and the vet said she thought that would be a good idea. Typically hypocalcemia is associated with a low body temp, so it seemed that it could be ruled out at that point, but I did administer the additional calcium later than night anyway.
After that point, there seemed to be ups and downs. She actually ate a bite of her alfalfa pellets as soon as we got her home, and I thought that was a good sign. When I checked her a little later, she was laying down again, and that is when I unknowingly snapped the last picture I would ever take of her. I could tell that she still did not feel good. However, she had just recently come in from the vet check and I was still hopeful at this point that the Nuflor would kick in and get rid of whatever was making her ill. I almost wish I hadn’t snapped this picture, and I actually almost didn’t, but the way her little buckling was standing was so precious that I couldn’t resist. But I do hate that my last picture of her was one in which she was not herself.
I checked on her again later that night (I believe it was around midnight) and decided at that point to pull the kids and bottle feed them. I had been wrestling with whether or not to do that from the beginning. Half of me knew that mom’s milk is always the best food for babies, but the other half of me was concerned that their nursing would tax her body more and either slow her healing process, or, if she was hypocalcemic, would drain her of more calcium. I finally made the decision to pull them because I noticed her walking away from them after only letting them nurse a couple of seconds. Normally does won’t do that until they’re starting to wean them. I still didn’t know if I was making the right decision, but I thought it would be better to be safe than sorry. I realize now in hindsight that her walking away from them was probably the first sign of discomfort in her udder, but I didn’t make that connection at first. I now believe that I did make the right decision in pulling the kids.
When we finally got to MSU, the staff were all extremely helpful and kind. Perhaps because it is a learning environment, they went above and beyond to explain everything. These are the things I learned about septic gangrene mastitis:
- Coraline had most likely contracted the bacteria during her labor. Often the timeline of the infection is about 3 days post-labor, which is about when Coraline started to get ill. The release of oxytocin that occurs when they give birth causes them to “drop” their milk for the babies and open their orifices to allow milk out, which unfortunately can also allow bacteria in. Then the bacteria grows inside the udder at a rapid rate. The vet at MSU said that he had once done a check on a cow one morning and she appeared fine, but the very same cow was down that afternoon from septic mastitis.
- The bacteria can be found in any organic surfaces, from “clean” straw to dirt to our hands. He said that there is no good way to prevent it, simply because the bacteria is everywhere.
- He said that this is a very rare thing, and we will probably never see it again in our lives. I certainly hope he is right about that!
- In addition to the necrotic infection of the udder, the bacteria that causes septic gangrene mastitis also creates toxins that go throughout the body and affect other organs. Coraline’s kidneys and liver were already affected, and it sounded like she had a little fluid or damage in her lungs. Her albumin level was very low.
- Because the infection grows so fast and becomes systemic, it is very hard to treat and the odds, he said, were about 50/50. One of the other people there used the word “grave” when referring to her prognosis. The best case scenario was that she would lose part of her udder. Surgery was not an option because of her septic state.
After giving us all of the information, they quickly wrote up an estimate for us. Then they put her on IV antibiotics and fluids and anti-inflammatory medication. We knew at that time that they were going to keep her for at least 24 hours, but we found out later that they were actually going to keep her at least over the weekend (which was good news, in my opinion, because I knew she would be in good hands and I did not feel capable in the least to treat her at home).
|Coraline a week or so before she kidded, wanting some attention.|
Second, I am going to apply a teat dip/udder wash to each doe immediately after she kids. I feel like that would be the best time to do so, because most of the time (though not always) the does lay down to deliver the kids, then stand up to allow them to nurse. I want to catch them right after they stand up and clean their udders then to remove the bacteria they no doubt collected while laying down. It’s not a perfect solution, since obviously the does will lay down again, but at least it’s something.
Rest in peace, Coraline. Tell Clara I said hi.
Top: Coraline and her doeling, Mattie. Bottom: Coraline as a baby with her mother, Clara.