Urolithiasis (stones in the urinary tract) is fairly common in goats and sheep, but not as
common in camelids. And due to the urethra being smaller in males than females, this
disease is seen in males rather than females.
Stones are generally caused by an
imbalance of calcium and phosphorus in the diet. There is a proper calcium/phosphorus
ratio that should be maintained in the diet of camelids - this can be checked by drawing
blood and doing a CBC. Feeding the proper type of hay for your area and a supplement
grain formulated for llamas can help keep the calcium and phosphorus ratio in proper
For example: Alfalfa hay is high in calcium and grains are high in phosphorus.
When the phosphorus is too high for the amount of calcium, the excess phosphorus, which
is absorbed into the blood stream from the intestine, is thrown away in the urine. When
the phosphorus gets too high in the urine, it forms crystals which have very sharp edges
and appear like tiny grains of sand. These tiny grains can pack into stones and plug up the
urethra, the tube that takes the urine from the bladder to the outside. If the urethra
becomes plugged from the stones, the urine often leaks out into the tissues, or the bladder
ruptures. Since urine is toxic to the animal, the llama may die of urea toxicity.
If stones have formed, you may notice your llama or alpaca acting depressed and possibly standing with his hind legs stretched out behind him. He may walk a little stiffly and reluctantly. You may notice him having to strain to urinate or possibly the urine will pass in just a dribble and take a long time. You may also notice a swelling in the sheath area. Call your veterinarian.
An irritated red or raw area appears under the animal's tail from strong urine. Sometimes it seems to occur from the high calcium content of alfalfa hay. Just applying a coat of Vaseline,
Desitin, or Bag Balm (for cattle udders) should clear it up. If severe, perhaps
the diet should be adjusted.