Alpaca diseases do exist both infectious and non-infectious. "Hey, I thought you said alpacas were hardy!", you exclaim. They are, but like all mammals they are suseptible to diseases. We just touch on a few below.
Vaccinations are available for certain diseases but may not be approved for use in alpacas. This doesn't mean they shouldn't get a vaccination. It might just mean it hasn't been tested in alpacas and you are taking a chance that it either won't work or it might cause problems. Check with your local vet or find a vet familiar with alpacas that can advise you.
Always be prepared for anaphylactic reactions with any shot you give. We keep epinephrine available at all times and watch our animals very closely on shot day. Even if we have given the shot before and not seen any problems.
Infectious Alpaca Diseases
- Rabies - a viral disease that affects the brain and is spread by the bite of an infected animal. Check with your vet to see if this is a problem in your area and if you should vaccinate.
- Foot and Mouth Disease - a highly contagious viral disease in cattle, sheep, swine, and goats. It doesn't appear that it is as contagious in alpacas. We remember reading about alpaca herds being destroyed in England during the FMD outbreak years ago. So if your alpacas are in an outbreak area, they will probably be euthanized. Fortunately, there is no foot and mouth disease in the U.S. at this time.
West Nile Virus
- has been found in alpacas and has been fatal. Contact your vet about vaccinating in your area. Be sure to keep the mesquito population down.
Bovine Viral Diarrhea Virus (BVDV)
- Causes persistent infections and abortions.
- Causes anemia. Formerly known as EPE.
Non-infectious Alpaca Diseases
Here are some important alpaca health issues to be aware of and prevent:
- Heat stress - Alpacas can easily become overheated because of their heavy fleece. Sheer them in the spring. We cool our alpacas on very hot days by spraying them with water on the underbelly and chest. Some love it, others don't. So we set sprinklers out to wet the ground for them to lay down in and get cool.
- Cold stress - Provide shelter from the wind. Use water heaters in drinking water in cold weather. Breed females so cria are born in warmer weather. We had one born on a cold, windy, rainy spring day. We rushed him in the house, blew him dry with a hair dryer, returned him to mom, and he did just fine.
- One of our females develped an abcess. She looked like she was pocketing food in her cheek. We took her to the vet and he could not find a particular problem. The abcess was draining on its own. He floated her teeth and she never had another abcess.
- Foot problems - Most foot problems can be avoided by regular toenail trimming. If your alpaca toenails are curling outward or inward, you have waited too long to trim them. We trim about every two months.
Parasites and Poisoning Alpaca Diseases
Control parasites with regular worming.
More Alpaca Health Issues
- If you live in an area that white tail deer inhabit, you have the possibility of meningeal worm. To become infected is a slow, horrible death for an alpaca. Check with a vet as to how to properly innoculate against meningeal worm.
- An intestinal parasite.
- Other parasites - We do routine worming with Ivermectin and Panacur and keep good records. Once we had a female get very thin. She was pregnant when shots were due and soon to deliver. We skipped her and were going to worm her after the baby was born. You got it! We forgot. We figured out our mistake when we started trying to figure out why she was so thin by checking our records and noticed she had not been wormed. We immediately wormed her but it took a while for her to gain weight again.
- Poisons - Common ornamental plants around your yard can be extremely toxic to alpacas. Oleander can be fatal. Some other poisonous plants are rhododendrons, western azalea, certain laurels, purple foxglove, yews, milkweed, and some of the ornamental grasses. We have wild lupine in our pasture area which we weren't sure about so we removed it from our pastures just to be on the safe side. Keep gates closed so alpacas can't get out and graze on toxic plants around your house or remove them. Here is a very complete list with photos of
plants that are poisonous to alpacas.
Alpaca stomach ulcers
Get a book on Alpaca diseases and become very informed. Knowledge will help you keep your herds healthy and identify a problem if one comes up.
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