29 March 2007

Sick lamb, hard decisions

The Boy's market lamb, Cupid, has come down with a fairly common ailment: urinary calculi. Basically, he has the sheep version of kidney stones, but they are further down the pipe and blocking the exit. This can be fatal. When we figured this out we did realize that he wasn't plugged all the way up, not yet, so we thought perhaps we could dissolve the stones and get things flushed out.

The vet and I called around town today trying to find the special salt that is used as a treatment (ammonium chloride), finally tracking it down at a pharmacy about halfway across the city from where I work. I stopped there and got some on the way home, and the lamb was looking pretty good when I got here. Gram had gone to The Boy's school today to help with "Science in a Crate" and so they were home early - the lamb had gone out to graze a bit, was eating and drinking, and guzzled a half bottle of apple cider vinegar (home remedy in the absence of the ammonium chloride) and a good dose of the proper stuff once we offered it to him (sweetened, of course, it doesn't taste very good).

Over the course of the evening though, he's been looking worse ... and I think the pipes are now fully blocked. If we wait, and leave things plugged up for too long ... well, let's just say that we all have this sort of plumbing for a reason - the toxins have to be flushed out and if they sit in side you for too long, you will get very sick, never mind the fact that if you keep filling up the top end of the pipe and plug the exit, something's bound to rupture, and that's gonna really hurt.

Now, this is a market lamb - he goes to the butcher's in June (he's livestock, not a pet ... we have pet animals, even some pet sheep, but when you raise meat critters, the butcher is a part of the picture). Cupid will fetch a limited number of dollars at auction, and economics are also part of the picture: this one's had milk replacer, medication, and feed ... and he's rapidly reaching a non-profit status.

Weigh this against the knowledge of a painful and slow death, though, and the decision is clear: call the vet.

We cannot let an animal suffer - not if we can prevent it. So, Doctor Sarah, our wonderful vet, will come and have a look and see if she can clear the blockage and get Cupid back in the flow of things. Treatment is not always successful ... but he is healthy otherwise, seems to have a strong will to get past this, and a deep desire for the pain to go away. We'll have to see what we can do for him, it's the right thing to do.

Oh, I'd better go turn the light on. :)

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