Parasites and diseases

PARASITES
Alpacas are susceptible to both internal and external parasites, like all livestock.  Many of the parasites that plague alpacas are common to other small ruminants; some few are of special concern or affect alpacas differently.  It is part of our job as shepherds to be vigilant in overseeing the health of our herds.  Putting your hands on your alpacas regularly is an important part of assessing their health, both in terms of body scoring them to feel if they are maintaining proper body condition, and to determine if other possible health conditions are present.

While there are many things we can tell with the naked eye about our alpacas’ health, most parasites are not visible without microscopic examination.  For potential external parasites such as mites, skin scrapings may need to be examined.  For internal parasites, regular fecal exams are vital to assessing the health of your herd.  Don’t worm your animals without knowing if they need treatment – worming to a schedule or “just because” is a quick way to develop a population of parasites resistant to your wormers.  All animals naturally carry some internal parasites, and your vet can help you determine if an animal actually needs treatment or not.  If you do treat an animal for internal parasites, always check to make certain that your treatment worked.

The following pages contain detailed information on some of the parasites of concern to alpaca owners.  They are intended for reference only.  Please discuss any suspected parasite issues with your own veterinarian, so that a comprehensive plan of treatment suitable for your region can be determined.

Internal parasites

External parasites

  • Mites
  • Lice
  • Spinose ear ticks

DISEASES
Just as there are many parasites that affect alpacas, there are also a number of diseases, metabolic disorders and other ailments that can also negatively impact our animals. Some of the more common will be addressed below. Please note that I am continuing to work on the articles and will be debuting new ones as time permits. Thank you for your patience and for checking back in periodically.

  • Polioencephalomalacia (PEM)
  • Thiamine deficiency
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease)
  • Heat stress
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