Being Your Own Vet

Vetting Your Animals

Most preppers put a lot of time and effort into planning ahead for the care of their family members.  We store food staples, first aid items, clothing a size or two ahead, ammunition, and so on.  That’s definitely a wise plan.  But how well stocked are you for your animals?

Some medical skills are multi-species, like cleaning a wound.  Others we may have become pretty dependent on a vet to take care of for us, like giving penicillin shots.  That works alright at the moment, but we would be smart to be studying up and stocking up for Fido’s sake too.

Personal Experiences

We raise a number of different kinds of animals and each one has given us opportunities to work on our home vetting skills.  We nursed some turkeys and chickens back from the brink of death after dog attacks (though we’ve lost a lot too).  We’ve assisted in a difficult birth that would otherwise have ended in the death of mother and baby.  We’ve given antibiotic shots to animals with infections.  But we’ve got LOTS more to learn too.

Some animals seem to have more problems than others.  Despite the percentage of the book Storey’s Guide to Raising Cattle given to awful possibilities, we’ve had exactly one problem with our cows.  Several years ago, we had a bumper crop of small apples on our trees.  The branches of one hung over the pasture and the cows ate them as fast as they fell.  One managed to swallow an apple whole in her greed to keep the others from getting it.  It went halfway down her esophagus and got stuck.  She bloated to the point that we were afraid we were either going to have to puncture her rumen to relieve the pressure or she’d die.  I’d never prayed for a cow before!  After many tense hours, fortunately the building pressure finally forced the apple back out instead.  Whew!

You haven’t seen any new things here about rabbits lately because we aren’t doing very well with them.  You know the old saying about rabbits multiplying, but ours haven’t the way we’d hoped.  In fact, we’ve had a few die for no apparent reason.  They are eating and drinking and hopping around one day and the next morning they are dead in their hutches.  Still working on determining our problem(s).

We’ve found goats to be another tricky species.  In many ways, they are quite hardy.  I’ve seen ours eat yew needles before I could chase them away from the shrubs.  Yew is one thing that is supposed to be deadly poisonous in a matter of hours.  I called the vet and explained the situation.  He suggested 2 remedies, neither of which I had on hand.  For some reason I can’t remember now, I was unable to leave home to go get the items within the next couple of hours.  I was upset and anxious just waiting for them to die.  And they were fine.  Apparently, they had eaten only a mouthful and their guts were quite full of other browse.  That must have diluted the affect and slowed down the absorption.

On the other hand, we’ve found goats can be ailing and it’s very hard to tell at first.  One year, we lost almost all our goat kids within a couple of days.  They were nursing and playing normally one day.  The next day, we noticed they seemed to be lying down more than usual.  The following day, half were dead.  After examining their eyelids and gums, we were pretty sure they were anemic (probably from worms), but it was already too late to save most of the others.

Better six months early than one day late…

The reason I mention all this is because it’s a good idea to lay in a supply of things you will likely need for the care of any species of animal you decide to raise.  We are still learning what all we may need.  The afternoon of New Year’s Eve, I noticed one of our Nubians had diarrhea.  She was otherwise acting fine.  By nightfall, her twin sister did too and neither seemed to feel well.  Guess what-  all the feed stores and TSCs are closed on New Year’s Day.  Good reminder for other times when we may have to rely on our stores of supplies.  I called the dear friend we bought the does from and she offered us some possible diagnoses and the medicines I didn’t already have on hand.  I’m glad we’ve fostered relationships with good folks in our community.

To clarify, I am not advocating that you boycott the vet.  They provide invaluable services to pets and livestock without a doubt.  When I know an animal needs a veterinarian and the problem is outside of my experience, I will take it or call him to save the animal.  But I will also pay really close attention to the diagnosis and treatment, see what follow-up care he will train me to do myself, and try to acquire the supplies I may need to cope with the same problem again in the future.

With this in mind, here are a few things we keep on hand that may be helpful as you start making your list:

If you raise (and home vet) animals, what “must have” items would you add to this list?

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One Comment on “Being Your Own Vet”

  1. J Says:

    Injectible penicillin is a good idea as you mention…also consider tetracycline powder…a nice broad spectrum antibiotic. If you’ve got layer hens I suggest having hemmorroid cream on hand…if you ever had a hen prolapse (prolapsed cloaca) you know what i’m talking about. Quiet, dark confinement, clean area, cream on exposed cloaca 3x a day. Keep confined at least a few days after looking perfect then return to henhouse. We kept a layer going an extra year because of this (she was a favorite of the kids).


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