6 Important Alpaca Health Indicators to Be Aware Of

The health of any animal is indispensable, but especially on an alpaca ranch. A herd of alpaca must be kept safe, comfortable, and well-fed as a whole to produce healthy alpaca individuals.

Some people would refer to alpacas as docile, which is true. In fact, they are prey in their natural environment, and instinctively mask signs of pain or weakness to survive. On a farm, these instincts are still at work, which can make it tricky to monitor your herd’s health.  But when you know basic alpaca health indicators, you can size up the general condition of a single animal or your herd pretty quickly.

Since these creatures are cute and cuddly, you should find it easy to develop a relationship with each animal. With this approach, you can readily assess the herd and identify any suffering alpaca as soon as possible. For example, if a particular alpaca does not exhibit the same degree of friendliness and effervescence as usual, this may indicate that the animal is not well or has been hurt.


6 Important Alpaca Health Indicators

1. If an animal is listless, dull in color, or very skinny, then it may be unhealthy.  Generally, alpacas are alert, curious, and nimble animals, and their coats are lush.  A mature alpaca can range in weight from 48 kg – 84 kg (106 – 185 pounds), depending on height and age.  So if an alpaca is stumbling, lying on the ground and refusing to get up, being less social with its herd members, or just seems and looks more tired than usual, it may be injured or ill. If the condition is minor and easy for you to identify, you can try treating it yourself. However, if it is more serious, consult a veterinarian.

2. If the entire herd is dull, not alert, and not curious, then there may be a parasite or nutrition problem. Get in contact with local vets to find out what diseases are common in your area. Diseases abound but they rarely manifest themselves in a dangerous way. Early detection and treatment will prevent the spread of an illness throughout your herd. The following diseases are a possibility:

  • West Nile Virus
  • Bovine viral diarrhea
  • Hoof and mouth disease
  • Meningeal worm transmitted by rabies, ticks, lice, or deer

The actual occurrence of any of these illnesses is rare in alpaca, but if you are uncertain about your animal’s condition, check with a vet.

Note:
Be careful of how frequently you administer worming medication. Too often, a worming can make worms more resistant to the treatment, leading to the need for more concentrated or costly medication. Monitor your own area and administer a wormer quarterly or when infestation is actually detected. The alpaca density on a farm determines the rate of spread of a disease. Study alpaca droppings for signs of worms and rotate to new pastures if worms are detected.

3. If an animal has an over-bite or has crooked legs, it may have genetic problems that will affect its mobility and health. If you’re purchasing an alpaca, pass over all such animals unless the owner can prove it was an injury and not genetic.

4. Blue eyes with a white coat may indicate deafness, which is genetic. Check for this and make sure you are prepared to treat them appropriately if you go ahead and purchase this alpaca

5. Alpacas should have narrow chests and straight legs, a nice tuft of hair topping their heads, and should always be alert and curious. However, they should not be aggressive, kicking or jumping on humans.

6. If you plan to breed your animals, you will need to see pedigree information, the parents (if they are still on the ranch), and all vet and vaccination records.


Also good to know:

Alpaca health issues may cause neurological symptoms such as seizures, ataxia (loss of coordination), head tilt, tremors, etc. To prevent these health problems in your herd, educate yourself about the animals you own.  Understanding what diseases can affect your animals will help you know how to prevent these and other diseases.

If you never take your animals anywhere, you only need to ensure that all visitors have not come from another farm and do not track anything in on their shoes. If you show your animals or have new animals, then it is a good idea to have a quarantine area set up. The space ideally would have a buffer zone all around of uncut land as wide as an alpaca can spit. Alpacas can catch a disease from any other ruminant, including goats, camels, cows and so forth.

Every animal will have a different personality. Every farm will have its own climate and landscape challenges.  And every farm deals with animal and herd health challenges.  But keeping an eye on these alpaca health indicators will allow for early detection and treatment of any condition.  And keeping your herd healthy means that most of your time will be spent enjoying your animals.

If you want to visit a farm, visit our alpaca ranch in MD. You’ll be sure to have a very good time.