Being a retired Veterinary Technician, having practiced more than 30 years, there are a few things I have learned. One of them is that when you catch a problem early, before it becomes a major problem, it is easier to remedy and less expensive. Also, don’t underestimate the benefit of feeding good food and clean water to your animals be they livestock or pets.
In my opinion, there is no substitute for daily interaction with your animals. I feed my goats and chickens twice a day, during the warmer months I am likely to walk past their enclosure several times a day. I enjoy spending time with them, watching the chickens do the amusing things they do, or grabbing a brush to rub up the goat girls. This type of interaction gives me what I call, “Mama-energy”.
Have you ever been at a cookout or on a beach and seen a mother’s head snap to attention and start searching for her kid, even when you didn’t hear anything out of the ordinary? Then you see said kid running toward mama with a cut finger or bruised knee. She knew something was wrong almost instantly.
It is much the same with animals. You learn the essence of them, how they sound when they are “normal,” how they act and react within the flock or herd. Did they eat with gusto today as they usually do? Is the water disappearing faster than usual? You can learn to intuit so much from your animals. This info can tip you off to something that is amiss, giving you a jump on treating it before it is a full-blown problem.
For example, we have 2 cats. One is a young male who often stays out at night but usually arrives back for breakfast by 8:00 AM. One day this past summer, he was late. He didn’t get home until nearly noon and upon arriving home, rather than demanding his breakfast, he stretched out on the porch and went to sleep. My Mama-energy alarm sounded. I picked him up and he seemed a bit depressed to me, although still alert and purring. I felt his ear tips and the pads of his feet – two sites you can check quickly and easily for general temperature and if you aren’t sure, then you can get a thermometer for confirmation. Well, my little friend was hot, not just warm. I looked at his eyes and his 3rd eyelid was slightly visible. A sign in cats that signals something amiss. I offered some food and he ate… some, but not like the teenage boy he typically resembles. Bingo – we just hit “red alert!” I knew something was wrong, but what? The 3 things that came to mind immediately were: 1) internal parasites, 2) ingestion of poison, 3) abscess.
I placed him in the bedroom where he immediately went to sleep. I gave him a litter box so I could get a stool sample to test for parasites. I checked him all over for any break in his skin which might indicate the source of the abscess. You can also feel for tenderness, swelling or a “mushy” spot under the skin which will turn into an abscess and break open to drain. Initially I felt nothing. To speed the story along, my buddy got lethargic and was eating less and less, and in 2 days had an open and draining abscess on his back. If he had been sick for more than 4 days, with a fever and refusing food totally, I would have had him to a veterinarian. But I use homeopathic remedies and one of the remedies I used on him will speed up the exit of anything that needs to exit body. I spent the next few days cleaning the abscess, keeping it open and draining, and force feeding water and food when I needed to. Some of his tissue sloughed away and he was left with an impressive gaping hole which eventually filled in and closed and you can’t even find a hint of a scar today. The body is an amazing thing.
The point I want to stress is: because I knew the normal actions and reactions of this cat, I knew something was going on and needed attention. Now if you are one who uses antibiotics, you could have gone that route, and begun to treat him with those. If my buddy had not been responding to the homeopathics, I would have taken him to a vet who probably would have prescribed antibiotics and a blood test to look for bodily function like liver and kidney. But I could see that each day he was moving through a new level of healing, showing me his body was doing its thing and moving toward health. Another thing, had he been an elderly or sickly animal to begin with, I would have taken him for testing and treatment earlier because such animals have less life and spirit with which to fight disease.
To summarize: Feed your animals as well as you can afford to feed them. Especially if they are feeding you (milking animals, chickens for eggs or meat, or meat animals). The product they produce will be more nutritious and healthier for the humans who ingest it.
Provide fresh (unfrozen) water in clean containers. None of us can live without water, and dehydration – especially in a dairy animal – can lead to swift and grave problems. Also be aware of new trends in water consumption. Excessive thirst can indicate infection and fever. Diarrhea can cause dehydration.
Spend time with your animals. Be attentive to them and their needs. Don’t go through the routine of feeding like a robot and miss information that might alert you to a problem. If you have to feed after dark, take a flashlight, count heads, be aware of appetites – who is eating, who is hiding, who is getting picked on. Pay attention to what comes out of them – hard stool, diarrhea, or bloody stool can be a signal of problems that could turn serious if not addressed. Learn to assess body condition – is your animal too fat or too thin? How is her hair coat – thin, coarse, full of dandruff, or thick and shiny?
Use all of your senses. Run your hand over your livestock and get the general feel of them. Watch how they behave and pay attention if you or one of your family casually remarks, “That’s odd…” or “I never saw her do that before….” It is most likely the start of something. It could be as minute as one of your goats going into heat, but could also be something serious. Just pay attention.
Don’t omit listening as one of your tools. One time I averted a crisis (young goat caught in a hay feeder) just by hearing her vocalization and thinking that it simply didn’t sound right. Enlist the help of your spouse and kids. Kids are often great observers and will notice something you may have missed.
It is also very helpful to record the normals of your species: average heart rate (an animal in pain will have a higher HR), average respirations per minute, average temperature. Learn to check mucus membrane color, the gum above the teeth should be pink, like bubblegum. White or gray gums indicate possible blood loss or compromised blood flow, and blue gums indicate poor oxygenation. If you have horses or ruminants, a stethoscope is helpful for hearing bowel sounds – learn how many “gurglings” per minute is normal for your species. Practice taking your animals’ temperature. Make a record of what the normal reading is so you know what is not normal. Find out where to feel for a pulse and get proficient at it so that you can check in an emergency. A strong steady pulse is normal, a weak or thready pulse could point to shock.
Even if you end up working with a veterinarian, the information you collect and share with the doc will help in your animal friend’s treatment. Get your Mama-enery mojo working and spend some quality time with your pets and livestock.
Thanks to Mama Megan for participating in the [Grow] Network Writing Contest.
We have over $2,097 in prizes lined up for the Fall 2015 Writing Contest, including all of the following:
– A 21.5 quart pressure canner from All American, a $382 value
– A Survival Still emergency water purification still, a $288 value
– 1 free 1 year membership in the [Grow] Network Core Community, a $239 value
– A Worm Factory 360 vermicomposting system from Nature’s Footprint, a $128 value
– 2 large heirloom seed collections from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, valued at $103 each
– A Metro-Grower Elite sub-irrigation growing container from Nature’s Footprint, a $69 value
– 2 copies of the complete Home Grown Food Summit, valued at $67 each
– 3 free 3 month memberships in the [Grow] Network Core Community, valued at $59 each
– 4 copies of the Grow Your Own Groceries DVD video set, valued at $43 each
– A Bug Out Seed Kit from the Sustainable Seed Company, a $46 value
– 4 copies of the Alternatives To Dentists DVD video, valued at $33 each
– 4 copies of the Greenhouse of the Future DVD and eBook, valued at $31 each