Help! What do I do?
This is a common enough event if you have horses, but the information in this article will work for just about any species.
Cuts (aka Lacerations) and Hemorrhage
Most people see blood and they panic. The truth is, there is rarely a need to do so. Here are some good rules to live by.
Location, location, location-the location of the bleeding determines the danger of that bleeding. The farther away from the main portion of the body, the less likely it is to be life threatening. Larger vessels like the aorta, jugular vein, carotid, femoral artery, axillary artery are a lot closer to the heart than the much smaller vessels on the distal portions of the legs (closer to the hoof).
Can you count the drips?-if you can count the drips of blood, then it is not a big deal. Apply pressure or wrap the area until the vet can get there to suture the wound. If you cannot count the drips because they are coming too fast or it is a steady stream of blood, then you DO have a real problem on your hands! Applying pressure is critical. Getting the vet there ASAP is a necessity. Keep the animal as calm and still as you can. Do not move the animal if at all possible. If you are on the trail or away from home, you may not have that luxery. In that case, apply a very tight wrap and get to a vet ASAP. Some owners have very well stocked First Aid kits and have lots to chose from in their supply. For those people I want to provide this warning. DO NOT give sedatives like Acepromazine unless you have spoken to your vet on the phone and they have approved it. It can make the bleeding worse.
Smaller is not necessarily better-large cuts, though they are dramatic and scary looking, are not necessarily any more dangerous than a small puncture wound. Owners often take action quickly on large, very obvious wounds, but let small puncture wounds slide. This is a VERY bad idea. Puncture wounds are in some ways more dangerous than large wounds. They need to treated right away just like a large cut. Antiobiotics and cleaning (lavaging with a dilute betadine solution) is a MUST. Make sure your horse or goat is current on their tetanus vaccine (this is not critical with cattle or pigs). If the wound is directly over or in close proximity of a joint, then you need to get the vet out as soon as you can to assess the potential damage to the joint and get started on the appropriate antibiotic regimen.
A badly placed bandage is worse than no bandage at all-I preach this to all my clients. Here is my spiel on Bandaging 101. In the case of leg wounds (which will be the vast majority of injuries that you can bandage) you will need to wrap the leg, a sufficient distance above the wound to make sure that the wound is covered, even if it slips a little and continue all the way down to the hoof. Yup, I know, its a real inconvenience to wrap all of that leg, especially when the wound is up higher, near the hock, but it is very critical. If you do not do this, what will happen is that the portion of the leg below the bandage will swell significantly. The bandage is inhibiting adequate circulation and lymph drainage. Speaking of inadequate circulation! This is the most important thing I can impart to you. Do not ever use vet wrap as a bandage alone. Always, always use adequate amounts of cotton padding under the wrap. If you do not do this, you will be essentially creating a tourniquet. I have seen this occur and when left on too long,,,,the hoof can come off.
Colicky horses are painful. Specifically abdominal pain. The main thing to remember here is that there are all different kinds of colic and all different degrees of severity. As with most emergencies, stay calm. You do not have to walk the horse but if the horse wants to go down and roll, then walking usually helps keep the horse from hurting themselves or making the situation worse. If the horse is not back to normal (starts eating) after about 15-30 minutes, then call your vet. If the horse is down and you cannot get them up or they will not stay up, call the vet right away.
This is VERY important: if you are going to self medicate the colic yourself and you are giving the horse flunixin (Banamine), DO NOT give more than 1 dose. If that does not work, DO NOT repeat. Also if the vet is on the way and you can keep the horse up and walking, then do not medicate. The vet will want to examine the horse without the effects of medications.
Labor and Delivery
Horses: you will rarely get the opportunity to see the mare in labor. They usually deliver when no one is around and can have a certain degree of control that allows them to go into labor as soon as you leave. If you happen to see the mare in labor, then there is a very good possibility that there is a problem. Watch her closely for 15 min. If progress is not made, then call the vet. The correct presentation for delivery is two feet followed by a nose. The shoulders are the widest and most difficult part to deliver. Once the shoulders are out, you are in the clear.
Goats: goats frequently have multiple kids and they can get tangled up on the way out. The most difficult deliveries are in Pygmy goats and single births. These may require a C-section. Goat kids should come easily and quickly between births. If not, call the vet. If the kids are small, then they can be deilvered all kinds of ways: head first, rear legs first, or front feet first. If the front feet are coming first, then the nose/head should come with it.
Cattle: Adult cows usually require less time to deliver their calves. First time heifers often need a little more time. However, in either case if you see the female in labor, watch her for about 30-45min. If no progress is made, then you should intervene. Get the cow up to the barn and see if you can assist or call the vet. Correct position is two feet followed soon after by a nose. Once the hips are out, all is well.
Alpacas/Llamas: Delivery in these guys is also usually fast. If no progress is made withing 15min, then you should be on the phone with the vet and have them coming out as soon as possible. The cria will not survive long if you do not hurry. They are all legs and neck and they get tangled up very easily. Positioning in this species is critical. The tip of the toes should be almost equal with the tip of the nose. Often the nose will be seen first, then the tip of the toes (two sets of toes to be specific). If you do not see this presentation then there is a major problem. In my experience, the head is the most difficult part. Once the front feet and head are out, the most difficult part is usually over. I highly recommend you have the vet do the repositioning of the cria. Alpaca and Llama females are highly susceptible to uterine infections post dystocia (difficult birth).
Pigs: Sows and guilts will make you wait and wait and wait for piglets to appear. They often begin nesting early and can take up to an hour or more between delivery of piglets and even get up for a snack and then back to delivering piglets. Their uterus is long and there are lots of places for those piglets to hang out in there. The good news is that you should know that there are no more piglets when they deliver the afterbirth…all of it. Two horns=two sets of afterbirth.