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June 02, 2021

By: Sheila Cooney Scroggins, RN, MSN, FNP

"DUMMY CRIA" Syndrome

The SQUEEZE Maneuver.

Veterinarian, Dr. Daniel Mora employing the

Veterinarian, Dr. Daniel Mora employing the "squeeze" maneuver.

A Cure For The Dummy Cria Syndrome: The Squeeze Maneuver
by Sheila Cooney Scroggins, RN, MSN, FNP
Alpacas Magazine: 2016 Summer issue {pages 30-34}

Research findings in the study of equine neonatal maladjustment syndrome {also referred to as dummy foal syndrome} by Dr. John Madigan, U.C Davis Professor of Equine Medicine and Epidemiology, have resulted in a treatment known as “the squeeze maneuver”. Due to the many similarities between equine and camelid physiologies, Sheila Scroggins, the author of the above Alpacas Magazine article, decided to explore the possibility that dummy foal syndrome would also apply to alpaca crias. Below is a synopsis of Sheila’s article.

Signs and Causes of Neonatal Maladjustment Syndrome:

Neonatal maladjustment {“dummy”} syndrome is manifested when a newborn appears to be detached from its dam. Although the most prevalent sign of the syndrome is detachment from the dam, the newborn may also attempt to suckle anything, may seem depressed and uncoordinated, may have difficulty walking, and may be generally lethargic. These signs may be either subtle or profound and may disappear within hours, days, or weeks.

According to Dr. Madigan, the “dummy” syndrome in mild cases may be mitigated with simple supportive care and without intervening with the “squeeze maneuver”.

Wake-Sleep Initiation:

In the study of equine neonatal maladjustment syndrome, Dr. Madigan’s research has identified neuroendocrine chemicals in the brain of a fetus that regulate in utero sleep. The purpose of in utero sleep is to keep the fetus in a quiescent {at rest} state in the womb during gestation.

These neuroendocrine {sleep} chemicals are also linked to “wake-sleep initiation during the birthing process”. During a normal birth, the action of the “sleep” chemicals ceases and the cria is awakened. However, if after the birth, the neuroendocrine cells continue to secrete sleep-regulating chemicals, a somnolent {abnormally drowsy} newborn results.

Understanding the Birthing Pelvic Squeeze:

Dr. Madigan’s research has demonstrated that, as the fetus is squeezed during its passage through the birth canal, the birthing pressures of the pelvis trigger the cessation of the affects of the neuroendocrine {sleep} chemicals, and the newborn then awakens from it gestational slumber. However, if there is an aberration in the dam’s pelvic squeeze during the birthing process, the neuroendocrine “sleep” chemicals remain active, the newborn does not fully awaken, and a “dummy” offspring is born. Dr. Madigan has even demonstrated the squeeze technique with a 6-month old cria, inducing the cria into a sleep state by simply using the “squeeze method”.

In other words, the replication of the maternal pelvic squeeze after birth will reverse “dummy” cria symptoms and essentially “cure” the cria of neonatal maladjustment syndrome. Research to date has repeatedly replicated positive results with the squeeze technique.

Scroggins and her veterinarian, Dr. Daniel Mora, experienced theses positive results themselves with a newborn cria. A “lethargic, nearly flaccid” cria was squeezed for 40 minutes, during which time it lost consciousness. Upon release of the squeeze, the cria was completely normal.

The SQUEEZE Maneuver:

Dr. Madigan has demonstrated the squeeze maneuver with ropes. However, instead of using ropes, Scroggins and Dr. Mora simply used arms wrapped around the cria’s thorax and chest in order to exert sufficient squeezing pressure. Note: the cria pictured in Sheila Scroggins Alpacas Magazine article was also wrapped in sheeting and a towel.

What’s Next?

Alpaca breeders should research online “squeeze maneuver” articles and they should also encourage their camelid veterinarians to learn and to apply this maneuver.

Even if the “squeeze maneuver” does not “cure” the “dummy” cria, one possible cause of a neonate’s lethargic symptoms will have been eliminated by the squeeze maneuver, enabling the alpaca breeder and the veterinarian to more expeditiously consider alternative complications. When time is of the essence in newborn situations, this technique is invaluable.

Neuroendocrine cells are like nerve cells (neurons), but they also make hormones like cells of the endocrine system (endocrine cells)

Synopsis authored by Patti LaCroix with permission from Sheila Cooney Scroggins, RN, MSN, FNP.

Sheila Cooney Scroggins
Colusa Riverside Alpacas
4360 Indian Creek Road, Lincoln, California