Stomach Ulcers
Symptoms & Treatment


What Is It?


         A stomach ulcer is a small hole in the gastrointestinal tract. Scientists don’t completely understand why camelids develop stomach ulcers, but they suspect that stress is the most common reason.

         Because camelids have multiple stomach chambers, veterinarians have difficulty detecting ulcers in these animals. 


     Some Experiences From Llama Owners:
About our male llama who appeared to have ulcers: We have had several cases of ulcers - no real cause - llamas are not under stress. I had noticed this guy laying down a lot, head was down when standing, though he was not standing much, he was eating and drinking water. I called our vet, penned him in the barn, but he could still talk to his buddies and see the girls. Over night he ate grain, appeared to drink some and went to the bathroom. The night of penning I gave him 4 - 300 mg Tagament and 3 Zantac tablets mixed with water. In the morning I gave him the same by syringe and kept him penned for the day.  That night I let him back to his buddies, and continued each night for 8 nights to give him the same solution. By last Sunday he was much better, standing, head up, eating lots of hay, walking the field. I will continue to keep an eye on him for a couple of weeks, but he seems to have got over the ulcers. Donna in Canada


Treating Stomach Ulcers in Llamas

“Bioavailability and Pharmacokinetics of Oral Omeprazole in Llamas”
Investigator: Dr. Geof Smith
Institution: North Carolina State University
Status: Year 1 of 1
Posted: November 2004
Study ID: D04LA-06

Stomach ulcers can frequently cause illness and even death in llamas and alpacas. Although the exact cause of these ulcers is unknown, stress appears to be the most common predisposing factor. Unfortunately, many of the drugs commonly used to treat stomach ulcers in other species are ineffective in llamas and alpacas. An intravenous version of the drug omeprazole has shown some promise in treating camelids; however, administration requires veterinary assistance. A new oral omeprazole product has been successful in treating stomach ulcers in horses and may offer an easier alternative for llamas and alpacas. Investigators in this study will examine the effectiveness of the new oral medication in camelids to reduce stomach acidity and decrease ulcers.

MAF: Why do camelids get stomach ulcers?

Dr. Smith: We think ulcers are mostly caused by stress. Just like in other species, camelids seem to get ulcers when they are in the hospital or when they are sick for another reason. Llamas are herd animals, so if they leave the herd behind, they seem to get stressed and get ulcers. They occasionally get ulcers in the first compartment of the stomach, which is similar to the rumen of the cow, but the ulcers that cause big problems are in the third compartment.

MAF: Are ulcers in llamas easy to diagnose? What are some of the symptoms?

Dr. Smith: No they aren’t. Unlike a horse, where veterinarians can pass a scope down and look in the stomach, llamas have rumen so we can’t see into their stomach. The signs are teeth grinding, excessive salivating, not eating, laying down a lot because their stomach hurts and very black feces because they have digestive blood in their feces. Based on some of the signs, we can suspect an ulcer, but we can never be sure the animal has an ulcer. Eventually an ulcer can perforate or poke a hole in the stomach, and once that happens, the animal usually will get an infection pretty quickly and die.

MAF: What is standard treatment when an ulcer in a llama is suspected?

Dr. Smith: Most owners and veterinarians try to reduce stress on the llama. They also try to decrease the production of stomach acid. Some of the drugs used to treat llamas are also used in humans, but they’ve been shown to not work very well in llamas. The one drug that does work well in decreasing acid production is omeprazole, which is what my study is about.

MAF: What do you hope to learn about omeprazole for llamas?

Dr. Smith: The purpose of our study is to see if this drug can be a useful agent to prevent and/or treat stomach ulcers in llamas. So far, scientists have shown that omeprazole only works when given intravenously. The problem is that the veterinarian has to administer the drug; the owner can’t give it at home.

A new oral form has been shown to work really well in horses. It would be much easier to give by mouth than by shots twice a day and would cut down on cost as well. The oral version could also be used for prevention. If a llama was stressed or in the clinic, you could have him on this drug, or any time you needed to ship the animal away from home to a show, you could put him on the drug.

The drug has to be absorbed into the blood for it to work, but because llamas have a rumen, we don’t know if the drug makes it through the rumen when it’s given orally. The drug has been shown to work in llamas when given intravenously so if we can show that we can achieve the blood levels necessary to be effective when omeprazole is given orally, then we can recommend it to veterinarians.

People already are using the drug and assuming the horse dose is appropriate, but it may not be. We’ll adjust the dose until we get what we feel is an appropriate dose in llamas that we can recommend to owners. We have good evidence this will work; we just need to determine the dose.

The Above Article Is From:  Morris Animal Foundation

More Info on Ulcers in Llamas

  Stomach Distress | Diagram of the Llama's Stomach

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