One of the worst feelings in the world as an animal owner is going out to do barn chores and finding an animal down on its side in the cold, unable to get up.
With colder temperatures coming up I decided to write up what I’ve done in my limited experience, which our large animal vet thinks is just dandy.
A quick note: Make sure not to warm them up too quickly or they could go into shock. This is a process that takes time, no matter how stressful it is. It is best not to rush it anymore then you have to for safety reasons.
Step one is especially important because you have to evaluate the situation before you can make any decisions.
1. If the animals is outside, get it inside- if you cannot do this because the animal is too large for you to carry, then try the next part and steps 2 thru 5 right where it is.
The idea is to get the animal inside and out of the wind as quickly as you can. Even if You have to force them to walk for a few feet because you can’t carry them. If they refuse to get up due to the cold You can get down and lay over the top of it, just like you would a hypothermic human. Be careful not to rest your weight on the animal, more like hover over them. I’ve had to do this one time with a blanket over the two of us, and within 10 minutes they could get up with help and walk the ten feet to the barn.
If it is inside but on its side, get it upright as quickly as possible unless they are resisting. If they are resisting, you need to try to figure out why. If it’s not due to the cold, a call to the vet may be the best idea.
If you can get them upright easily, then most likely they just need the extra protection of step 2 thru 4. Even this they’ll appreciate step 5, I’m sure. If I can get the animal upright easily enough, I see if they want to get up as well. It’s easy enough to tell honestly, if you know your animals well enough. They communicate in their own ways, effectively enough.
2. Get a jacket on it – I made my own from cutting the sleeves off of old adult zippered sweatshirts, but for larger animals you may need to purchase from a pet supply store. It is best to have something on hand. The sweatshirts were an invention of necessity, and I’m sure the jackets you buy are better.
3. Get it to drink warm – not hot, not even steaming – water with electrolytes. I keep lemon lime Gatorade on hand for this. I use a whole 20 Oz bottle per 5 gallon bucket and leave it for the day.
4. Get it to eat small amounts of its normal diet- hay or pellets for alpacas. If they refuse normal food try the next step.
5. Offer a tiny amount of high heat treats like corn or grains or even molasses- but only if ok for the animals digestive system.
6. Once inside, let them find a comfortable place to rest. Alpacas will go into Cush position, and other animals will do similar things.
7. Once they are resting comfortably, Prop them up with hay bales, cover them with hay to help them stay warm once they’ve started recover.
8. Tighten up the shelter as much as possible against wind – this may make your other animals nervous so I try to do it in a calm manor while speaking or singing in soothing tones.
Lastly- I have no experience with heaters- but if you’re dealing with a baby or senior animal they are recommended by other farm owners. I personally feel they are too dangerous unless you’re able to monitor them.
Thanks for reading- if any other experiences animal tenders have any other suggestions, please leave them in the comments below!
Until next time, have a wicked good day!