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Alpaca Health and Care

by GLAA members Lorrie and Randy Krause of Alpaca Acres

Although generally hardy and disease resistant, alpacas benefit from appropriate preventive medicine and ready access to a veterinarian experienced in working with camelids. Health management programs may include regular worming and vaccinations specific to the geographic area. Selenium supplements may be required to prevent white muscle disease. Vitamin D supplements will prevent rickets in winter-born cria. Toenails need to be trimmed regularly and teeth should be inspected and trimmed if they exhibit excessive growth. Alpacas are sheared annually for their comfort and well being.

General Health

Continuously review the alpacas eyes, ears, teeth, feet and general demeanor; look for abrasions, build ups, or lethargy. Review the dung pile daily for signs of abnormal feces, mucous or diarrhea.

Feces

Alpacas generally eliminate in several designated areas. They have small, dark pellets. If feces appears runny, contains mucous or looks otherwise abnormal, this could indicate a parasitic infestation or other health problem. Contact your veterinarian for a diagnosis and treatment.

Teeth

Alpacas with excellent bites seldom need their teeth trimmed. Front incisors that protrude beyond the top gum line may need to be sawed. Mature males that have developed fighting teeth in the back of their palates may need these cut off to prevent injury to other alpacas. If you are uncomfortable with these procedures, have your veterinarian perform them. Check for swelling along the gum lines and for tooth abscesses which may be caused by course hay. Also, be aware that alpacas will loose their baby teeth at approximately two years of age.

Feet

Alpacas have a padded foot with two toes. Alpacas toenails grow and may require periodic trimming if they are not worn down naturally. Check nails by picking up the alpaca's foot and looking at it from the bottom. If the nail bends over the side of the pad or protrudes, it needs to be trimmed. Lay clippers flat against the pad and snip each side and then the point of the nail. Alpacas have a quick that supplies blood to the nail. If you clip too close, it will bleed. DO NOT PANIC. Use blood stop powder or spray and wrap the foot in gauze for 30 minutes. If you are uncomfortable with this procedure, ask your veterinarian, shearer, or breeder for assistance.

Grooming

The focus of grooming should be to keep the fleece free of debris which can become embedded within the coat and cause skin irritations and abrasions or hinder later shearing. One of the best ways to do this is to groom the environment instead of the alpaca. Remove waste hay and seed pods from pasture and barn. Occasional grooming may still be necessary. A fiber brush and pick are excellent tools. Avoid excessive brushing as this can cause damage to the fiber and stress to the alpaca. A variety of sprays and concoctions are available to groom alpacas for showing.

Parasites and Worming

Alpacas like all livestock can get parasites, especially during warm weather. Parasites vary by geographic location. Talk to your veterinarian about a worming program specific to your area.

Worming is avoided by many breeders in the first and last 90 days of gestation for females unless treatment is indicated.

Starting in April, we inject adult alpacas with Dectomax every eight weeks. Crias are given Panacur orally. Corid is added to water supply during the wet and warm parts of spring, summer and fall to combat coccidia.

Periodic fecal floats may be required if feces appear abnormal to determine if some other form of eradication is indicated or other problems are present.

Special procedures may be needed in areas with high deer populations to guard against menengial worm.

Vaccines

Just like humans, dogs, cats and other mammals, alpacas need inoculations against diseases that they can contract. Consult with your veterinarian to adapt a program specific to your geographic conditions.

On our farm, we give CD&T subcutaneously (under the skin, but not in the muscle) at the following times:

  • Dams at day of parturition CD&T SubQ
  • Crias at two weeks CD&T SubQ
  • Crias at three weeks CD&T SubQ
  • Crias at two months CD&T SubQ
  • Yearlings on birthday CD&T SubQ
  • Adult Male on birthday CD&T SubQ
  • Adult Female on parturition anniversary CD&T SubQ

Potential Problems

Observing anything listed below could indicate potential problems. Contact your veterinarian for a diagnosis and treatment. You know your alpacas, use your good judgement in determining whether to contact your veterinarian.

Emergency Situations

These are situations that require immediate notification of your veterinarian. This is for general guidelines and is not an all-inclusive list.

  • Shaking or twitching
  • Diarrhea in crias
  • Severe Diarrhea
  • Unresponsive or downed alpaca
  • Labored breathing
  • Extreme loss of blood

Non-Emergency Situations

These are situations that may not require the immediate notification of a veterinarian, but notification should be done as soon as reasonable. Realize that any of these can quickly escalate to an emergency. This is for general guidelines and is not an all-inclusive list.

  • Change in behavior, cushing away from herd
  • Abnormal feces
  • Weight loss
  • Fiber loss
  • Lethargic alpaca
  • Limping
  • Lumps or bumps
  • Reddening or thickening of skin
  • Elevated or abnormal temperature
  • Straining