John & Susan Merrell
41390 Hwy 226
Scio, OR 97374
503-551-7219 (cell)
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New Cria Checkup

The new cria needs to be checked to make sure they are healthy. A simple checklist to follow will help you decide if you need to intervene or call your veterinarian for help. A premature cria will require attention from a veterinarian in order to survive. Make sure the cria is not premature before continuing.

All of these things should become a part of your regular care of the newborn cria.

Place the dam and cria alone in a quiet area to bond for a few hours. This allows the dam and cria to identify each other without interference by the rest of the herd. It also allows the cria to learn to nurse undisturbed and allows you to monitor both cria and dam more closely.

Gently feel on the belly around the umbilicus (umbilical cord) of the cria to check for any bumps. A bump may be due to a umbilical hernia which should be examined by a veterinarian. Feel for a hole in the abdominal muscles where the bump is and measure it with your fingers. A hole two fingers wide or bigger will need medical attention. If possible, avoid touching the umbilical cord to decrease any contamination.

Thoroughly coat the umbilicus with 2-7% iodine or 0.5% nolvasan (chlorhexidine) using a film canister or 20cc syringe casing. Repeat this procedure 3 times in the first 24 hours. Take care not to get too much iodine or nolvasan on the surrounding skin because it can be irritating. Iodine is caustic and does a better job of drying out the umbilical cord tissue. The outer layer of cauterized tissue actually provides a place for bacteria to grow on the cord. Chlorhexidine does not cauterize and has been proven to decrease bacterial numbers on the cord more effectively than iodine as well as having a longer residual activity. An umbilical cord treated with nolvasan (chlorhixidine) will appear different than an iodine treated cord. It will still appear moist and will take longer to dry up than an iodine treated cord. Either choice is acceptable, but nolvasan (chlorhexidine) is preferable.

Take the rectal temperature of the cria. This will let you know quickly and easily if the cria is too cold or too hot (depending on the weather). Normal temperature for a neonate is 100-102°F (37.2-38.9C). A fever in the first 24 to 48 hours may indicate an infection which started in the uterus before birth. A fever later than this can be due to an infection acquired after birth.

Once he/she is dry, weigh the cria on an accurate scale which can detect 1/4 to 1/2 pound changes. Daily weights are the best way to determine if the cria is getting enough to eat and staying healthy. Once crias begin to look and act sick it may be too late. If the cria does not gain at least 1/4 to 1/2 pound a day, call your veterinarian. It is not unusual to have no gain or even slight weight loss over the first 24 to 48 hours.

Gently insert a finger (without a long fingernail on it) into the cria's mouth. The cria should be able to suck your finger. If the cria fails to suck on your finger or sucks very weakly, the cria is weak. There are many reasons for a weak cria, but it will need medical attention. Feel the roof of the cria's mouth as far back as you can and check for any holes or a split down the middle. This may indicate a cleft palate. Call your veterinarian if this is present because the cria will be unable to nurse properly.

Sit back and observe the cria and dam for a while to be sure you see the cria nursing. If you hear lots of noise while the cria is nursing, it may not be finding the nipple or may have other problems. Lots of sucking noise means that the cria is probably not getting much milk. You may hear swallowing sounds which is normal. A little bit of milk on the cria's lips after nursing is also a good sign that they are getting colostrum or milk. Crias will normally only nurse once or twice an hour. Nursing more often may mean that the cria is not getting enough milk and it requires investigation. Check the udder of the dam and the cria's mouth if you have not done so already. If you are in doubt about any problems, call your veterinarian.

If a cria shows signs of weakness, try giving a few cc's of Karo syrup. This will quickly increase their blood sugar levels, and has been know to invigorate an otherwise weak cria.

Hopefully all your crias will be healthy and happy. If not, early intervention is necessary to save their lives. All of these health checks can mean the difference between life and death for some crias.

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