Molly's baby was sick. She wasn't eating; she was lethargic; and she had mild ataxia. The baby camel, also called a calf, needed specialized neonatal care, so her owners brought her to the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech's Harry T. Peter Jr. Large Animal Clinic in the Veterinary Teaching Hospital where faculty members are skilled in providing care to camelids, like Molly's baby.

Molly's baby was brought into the hospital with her mother. Bringing babies in with their mothers is typical for all camelids, according to Dr. Laura Lee, a resident in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, as it reduces stress on the calf and the mother and also allows the baby to continue to drink its mother's milk.

After a physical examination and a round of tests, the calf was diagnosed with meningitis and a regimen of intravenous fluids, antibiotics, other supportive medications, and a plasma transfusion were ordered. Despite having a life-threatening illness, she responded very well to the treatments and, after nine days in the hospital, was able to return home.

"Molly's baby's long term prognosis is very good," said Lee.

While camels may not be very common patients in the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, other camelids, like alpacas and llamas are. Camelids make up approximately 30 percent of the hospital's large animal caseload, according to Dr. David Hodgson, head of the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences.

"Alpacas and llamas are very commonly raised for their fiber and are of great value to their owners," explains Hodgson. "Having highly-skilled faculty members with appropriate knowledge and a hospital with advanced treatment and diagnostic facilities to provide care for these animals is of great benefit to the animal, their owner, and the community."

The hospital provides comprehensive specialist services in such areas as internal medicine, surgery, neurologic disease, cardiac disorders, ophthalmic evaluations, and nutrition consultations. The Horace E. and Elizabeth F. Alphin Radiology Center also provides the college's veterinarians with the diagnostic imaging services necessary to perform a variety of non-invasive testing on the animals should they be needed.

Should it become necessary, state-of-the-art surgical suites are available where surgeons can perform everything from orthopedic and gastrointestinal procedures to caesarian sections. The college's Theriogenology team also offers complete reproductive service and consultations. The team can address such issues as male and female infertility, semen analysis, pregnancy diagnosis, and fetal wellbeing assessment.

"From pregnancy to birth and into adulthood, our hospital is ready to provide care to these animals," said Hodgson.

Camelid owners who are interested in services are asked to call the hospital's main line at (540) 231-4621 to contact a clinician or to schedule an appointment.


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