Yorkshire vet Julian Norton has had a week of pregnancy emergencies with alpacas, sheep and cows

Emergencies have taken up much of my veterinary time recently.

Julian has been dealing with some pregnancy emergencies this week

This isn’t just because the reduced number of routine jobs has left a predominance of urgent work. I seem to have been rushing from pillar to post more than usual.

One of the most urgent cases presented a week or so ago. An alpaca had given birth and, immediately afterwards, the whole uterus was pushed out. This is called a uterine prolapse and is a serious event for any animal. For a sensitive soul like an alpaca, it’s an urgent matter of life and death.

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I dropped everything and rushed to the farm as quickly as the speed limit would allow. Mum was surprisingly alert given the fact that the bright red, rugby-ball sized uterus was dangling out of her vulva.

Whilst this is a reasonably common problem in sheep and cows, it was only the second I’d treated in a camelid. However, the process of repair is the same, except for the fact that in this species everything seems to be much more delicate.

Despite being a relative novice at replacing an alpaca’s insides, everything went remarkably smoothly and the awful sight was soon corrected.

A few nights later, at the unsavoury hour of half past one in the morning, I found myself replacing another prolapse, this time in (or actually more accurately, out of) a cow. But it didn’t start like that. It started as a calving. A very difficult calving. After much effort, the monstrous calf eventually slid with a plop on to the straw.

Under the lights of the tractor, the farmer, his wife and I grinned with satisfaction, happy to have solved the problem so far. I stood up to stretch my aching back. As I rocked forwards, I could only groan again as the sack-of-potatoes-sized uterus slid out, in one smooth, flowing movement, with considerably more ease than the oversized calf had done just moments earlier.

My night’s work was not over! In fact, the hard part was just about to start. It reminded me of a terribly long evening’s work, many years ago, which started with a cow that had inadvertently spiked itself on a long metal rod. It had penetrated all the way into her chest cavity and this necessitated a lengthy suturing job. Just as this was completed, she started to calve.

After some manipulation and pulling, we got the calf out, only for her to push out her uterus too. I finally managed to replace the uterus as the cow gasped her last breath and expired. Luckily, this week’s case didn’t do this and has hopefully gone on to raise her giant calf.

A few more days passed and I added a sheep to my weekly prolapse collection, but this one was simple – just the size of a tennis ball – during daytime hours and without any panic. The farmer brought it to see me at the practice. An epidural, a good clean and gentle but firm pressure was all that was required to pop it back in, followed by a special suture to keep it all in place.

My final emergency was Scooby. He was possibly the unluckiest cat in recent times.

During a period when the roads of North Yorkshire have been quieter than any of us can remember, Scooby had been so unlucky as to have been hit by one of the very few cars around.

He was the only cat we had seen involved in a road traffic collision since lockdown, but his injuries proved to be extensive.

His right hind leg was floppy and painful and my X-rays revealed multiple fractures to his tibia. His injuries would present an altogether different problem from the miscellaneous uterine issues at the start of the week.