Treatment of hypothermia involves warmth, nutrition, and correction of underlying problems (e.g. milk supplements for crias whose dam is not lactating). Critical hypothermia occurs when core body temperature drops below 90 F. Consider the following treatments:
1. Protection. Get the animal into a well-insulated, preferably heated area.
2. Warmth. Wrap the animal in heated blankets. Using a heat lamp in a cold stall can be detrimental because the direct heat causes dilation of the surface blood vessels, which can exacerbate heat loss. By incubating the animal in a warm blanket, heat loss in prevented.
3. Time. Avoid too rapid heating. Warming a critically cold animal up too quickly can cause as much harm as the hypothermia because of altered blood flow and liberation of potassium and organic acids that built up during the period of poor blood flow caused by hypothermia. These can cause the heart to stop!
4. Energy. Intravenous administration of electrolytes and glucose are most useful. If an IV line is not available, glucose or other carbohydrate syrups (e.g. honey, fructose, and maple syrup) may be fed orally or may be inserted into the rectum. Yes, that's right! Camelids can absorb glucose from the rectum if there is adequate blood flow. All liquid supplements should be warmed to approximately 95 to 100 F.
5. Oxygen. Always a useful supplement to debilitated animals, but particularly useful to critically hypothermic animals.
6. Steroids. This is controversial because of camelids sensitivity to glucocorticoids. Our research suggests that dexamethasone should not be used in camelids. Prednisone type steroids may be safely used for short periods at modest dosages (e.g. not exceeding 1 mg/kg twice daily for 2 days).
7. Ulcers. I recommend prophylactic use of antiulcer medications for high-risk camelids. I prefer omeprazole (2 to 4 mg/kg, orally, once or twice daily).
8. Nutrition. Encourage the camelid to eat themselves back to health.
9. Stress. Companion animals are always welcome! Treat any underlying disease, parasites, etc.
10. Recovery. The effects of damage from hypothermia may not be fully realized for a day or two. These animals must be kept under constant vigil for 3 to 5 days to be sure other complications will not be suffered (e.g.diarrhea, depression, etc.).
Although heat stress is of great concern to camelids residing in North America, cold stress is equally important. Forethought and preparation will help you keep your llamas and alpacas from being caught with their fur coat down!
This continuing education article is provided by the International Camelid Institute. Consider making a donation today by contacting Karen Longbrake at phone 614-688-8160, fax 614-292-7185, e-mail email@example.com, or www.internationalcamelidinstitute.org.
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