By Melinda Van Bossuyt
Stress and B Vitamin Deficiency
When I found Ebenezer up in the pasture, he was staggering around in a tight clockwise circle. His head and neck swooned only to the right. It was an uncontrollable movement. His eyes were bulging out of their sockets. He was unable to respond to me.
"This is it," I thought. "Ebenezer is done for. He must have had a stroke." I headed for the house to call the vet.
"Poor Ebenezer," I reasoned. "He is getting pretty old. He did have that swelling on his neck."
I thought about all the wonderful years spent on the trail with Ebenezer. Even though he was a big and powerful stud, we could count on him to haul countless pounds of stuff into the wilderness for us. We could trust Ebenezer with children. He was such a gentle giant. When our son, Douglas, was a little boy, he would do anything to keep from stepping on the child. He truly was a part of our family. Back at home, Ebenezer was an effective stud. He fathered so many wonderful pack llamas in the classic style. Yet he was a gentle and gentlemanly breeder. The llama ladies loved him and so did we.
Dr. Paul Jones patiently explained to me on the phone that Ebenezer wasnít a goner yet. "Get some injectable B vitamins. He needs Thiamin. "
It seems that Ebenezer was exhibiting the symptoms of vitamin B-1 deficiency.
Dr. Jones told me that livestock, when under great stress, can develop this problem. For example, B vitamins are kept on hand for race horses because they endure great stress and develop these symptoms. He related how once at the fair (a place that can be stressful for animals and their owners) a whole herd of stressed out goats became bulgy-eyed and crazy in their stalls. The fair folks thought a plague had hit. But Dr. Jones said as soon as they got their B shots, everything was fine.
Ebenezer had undergone some changes in his life recently. We moved him from the pasture where he had lived in retirement with his first girl friend, Windstorm. She was a real grouch in her old age and pretty hard on him. You could say he was hen-pecked. Also, there was a young intact male living next door in Ebenezerís old home. There had been some friction over the fence. No doubt Ebenezer had experienced some stress lately.
"Where do I get the B vitamins?" I asked.
Dr. Jones was surprised. "Donít you carry B vitamins when you go packing?" he asked. "If you donít, you should."
The B vitamins had to be purchased from the vetís office as the farm stores are not allowed to sell it anymore. Later that day I administered the appropriate dose to Ebenezer. It took about five days of injections to get him back to normal which is exactly the amount of time Dr. Jones said to give the injections.
About six weeks later, Ebenezer did not come down when it was time to eat. I had to go looking for him. He was collapsed on the ground, far up in the pasture. I worked hard to get him up. He finally staggered to his feet and began the clockwise movement, jerking his body only to the right. His eyes were bulged. It was very difficult to move him down the hill toward the barn. Once again we did a series of B vitamin shots and Ebenezer came around.
Since that time, I give Ebenezer a B vitamin shot once a month as maintenance. I figure that my parents, like many other elder people, get regular B vitamin shots. Why not Ebenezer? After all, he is a senior citizen and if he does better with B vitamin shots, he deserves to have them. B vitamins are inexpensive. They are water soluble so overdosing is not a problem.
For twenty years we have packed llamas and never had another llama with these B vitamin deficiency symptoms. However, because both physical and mental stress is part of the routine of our long pack trips in the Sierras, I have decided to start carrying the B vitamins as part of my first aid kit for the llamas.