ALPACA HEAT STRESS
Alpaca heat stress is an emergency. Do you know how to save your overheated alpaca? As temperatures soar into the 100's again on our farm, we are reminded of how important it is to be aware of our alpacas comfort in the heat. Sitting in our air-conditioned home, we can forget how hot it really is outside.
Let's start with how to keep a heat stress situation from happening in your herd.
- Shear your animals in the spring.
- Make sure plenty of water is available and have it in the shade so it doesn't get hot or the animals won't drink it.
- Provide shade with ventilation. Either a good breeze or fans will keep air flowing.
- Observe your herd for signs of heat stress. Carefully watch the very young and the elderly who are both more suseptible to problems in extreme heat.
- Know your heat index number every day during the summer. It's easy to figure out. Just add the temperature and humidity for the day together. For example: If your temperature is 75 degrees and your humidity is 65, then your index number is 140. Any number less than 120 is probably safe for your alpacas. 120-180 could mean problems for your alpacas. Anything over 180 and your alpacas are probably in danger.
- Provide water that your alpacas can wade in or lay down on. Lots of alpaca owners use those plastic child pools for their alpacas to wade in. Be sure and put it in the shade so it doesn't get too hot. We wet the ground deeply and the alpacas all cush on the wet sand to stay cool.
SIGNS OF HEAT STRESS
Alpaca heat stress signs can be subtle or a full collapse. Watch for:
- Nasal flaring
- Open mouth breathing
- Not eating
- Rapid breathing - 40 breaths per minute or more
- Unable to stand
- Heart rate over 90 beats per minute
- Rectal temperature greater than 104 degrees
TREATING ALPACA HEAT STRESS
The very first thing you must do is start to cool the alpaca down. Get a quick phone call in to your vet.
Do you know where your alpacas thermal windows are located? No, they're not a pane of glass stored in your barn or garage. Thermal windows allow your alpaca to get rid of excessive heat and are located at the armpit, belly, and groin.
Did you know that wetting your alpacas fleece can trap heat and make the condition worse?
Here are actions you can take before your vet arrives:
- Hose down your alpaca by spraying water in the alpacas thermal window areas.
- Shear the animal if it hasn't been done and if it won't cause further stress.
- Offer them water if they can drink. If not, they may need IV fluids when the vet arrives.
- If they're in the sun, move them to shade if possible or make temporary shade where the alpaca is laying or cushed.
- Ventilate by providing airflow with a fan or outdoors in the breeze.
Be sure your alpacas are not too fat or too skinny. Proper nutrition will help them through stressful temperatures. Keep herd handling to a minimum in hot temperatures or at least perform it early in the morning when it's cooler.
The most important aspect of alpaca heat stress is prevention. The second is recognizing it and acting quickly to save your animal. Be vigilant at observing your herd and you will nip heat stress in the bud.
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