Alpaca disease mhaemolamae
One known alpaca disease mhaemolamae you may not have heard of, but should be aware of it and what it does to your alpaca. It has been detected since the 1990's and was called Eperythrozoonosis or EPE. Recently the name has changed, but it's still the same disease.
Alpaca health is very important to an alpaca business. Educating yourself about this disease will help protect your investment.
If you have an animal that is lethargic with chronic weight loss, you should consider M. Haemolamae as a possible cause.
M. Haemolamae is a bacteria that attaches itself to the red blood cells of an alpaca. The immune system recognizes this as a problem and destroys the red blood cells. Your alpaca then becomes anemic.
In the majority of alpacas infected with this bacteria, there are no signs of the disease. If your animal becomes immunocompromised through another disease or is stressed from a move or through other environmental changes, the alpaca disease mhaemolamae can rear its ugly head.
The disease can manifest as an acute problem. Your alpaca may suddenly be unable to stand and be extremely weak. Or it may be a chronic problem. As mentioned before, your alpaca may have chronic weight loss and lethargy.
If you suspect infection with M. haemolamae, have your vet do a PCR (polymer chain reaction) test. This test amplifies the DNA so low levels of the bacteria can be detected on the red blood cells.
This is one of the disease thought to be spread by blood. Blood sucking insects such as lice, fleas, and ticks should be kept to a minimum on your farm. Only use a clean unused needle on each individual alpaca when giving injections. Needles are cheap. There is no reason to reuse a needle on another alpaca and risk the chance of transmitting a disease (besides, you dull the needle after the first use and it hurts more).
The alpaca disease mhaemolamae is treated with tetracyline. Check with a vet for doses. Unfortunately, it appears that tetracycline does not completely rid the infected animal of this bacteria, but only lowers it to undetectable levels.
Once infected, an alpaca becomes a carrier. They will not have problems with the disease unless they become immunocompromised. This is an opportunistic bacteria.
The problem with having a carrier in your herd is that a flea could bite the carrier and then bite another animal passing on the bacterium.
If you suspect M Haemolamae in an alpaca, you should probably test your whole herd and treat any animal with positive PCR results. Otherwise, you could have a reinfection of the disease.
Treated animals usually go on to live a long healthy life. Even though they have not gotten rid of the disease, they can live with it.
It's important to evaluate alpacas when sheared or learn
so you can spot a thin alpaca before purchasing. You should, also, require a PCR test before purchasing. The M Haemolamae carrier may look fine, but you bring them home and they infect your herd causing problems.
Here's a couple of interesting facts about camelid red blood cells:
- They have a lifespan of 235 days vs 100 days for human red blood cells
- Camelids have oval red blood cells instead of round like other mammals. This gives them a larger surface area so there is better oxygen exchange which helps them survive at higher, thinner air altitudes in their native South America.
The unusual shape of an alpacas red blood cell makes understanding alpaca diseases a challenge to veterinarians.
M. Haemolamae is thought to be in 25% of camelids (alpacas and llamas) in the United States.
Until something better is found for the alpaca disease mhaemolamae, keep the insect population down on your farm and test and treat to keep it in check if present.
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