GLOSSARY AND LINKS FOR
MEDICAL INFORMATION ETC.
HEALTH, CARE & MANAGEMENT
FOR LLAMAS AND ALPACAS
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- An abcess is a round, hard swollen area - actually a pocket of pus which is formed from dead tissue cells after an injury which becomes infected. When located on the jaw, it can actually look like the llama or alpaca is holding a mouthful of cud. Like a boil, when the abscess is full, it will burst or need to be lanced. After the pus has been expressed, daily flushings with hydrogen peroxide followed by applications of Nolvisan will most likely show improvement. Healing can seen rather slow since an abscess heals from the inside out. There is also a wound dressing that your Veterinarian can get for you that has shown alot of success in treating abcesses. Called Silverlon, it is a treated gauze-type material that you pack into the abcess and it promotes healing while killing the infection. Some llama owners highly recommend this product. Check it out on their web site at
Often referred to as Berserk Male Syndrome, this is unacceptable behavior that is commonly seen in animals that have been overly handled by humans and "kitchy-koo'd" at birth or bottle fed. Signs may be jumping or rearing up, pulling on your clothes, and charging you in the pasture when they are older. Very dangerous. See More
- Most vets recommend feeding a good quality, dust free grass hay, 10-12% protein. Alfalfa is thought to be too rich for llamas and too high in protein. When feeding alfalfa, it is possible to upset the calcium/phosphorous balance - especially during the first year of the crias life when bone development is so crucial. Urine scald from the high acid content of alfalfa has also been experienced. Some breeders have also experienced a blocked ureter in male llamas from calcium deposits attributed to feeding alfalfa. A constant diet of alfalfa definitely puts unwanted weight on llamas and this form of malnutrition also can be the cause of many breeding, birthing, milking, and general health problems.
- The term used for bald spots. Most common is the bare spot on the ridge of the nose - more common in summer months and caused by fly irritation and rubbing. Some owners have found improvement by applying Vitamin E Oil, Vaseline, or Preparation H to the area. It normally grows back in winter months. If the area with hair loss is crusty, flaky, thickened or reddened, ringworm, mange, a type of fungus, or zinc responsive skin disease may be suspected. When wool is coming out or breaking off but not leaving a bald spot, it may be due to shedding or wool break. (see specifics under ringworm, mange, fungus, bare nose, elephant skin, or hair loss)
- May be suspected by observing weight loss, loss of color in the eyelids and pale gums. The addition of Lixitinic
or Red Cell to your feeding may help build the animal back up. Could also be a sign of Mycoplasma haemolamae, a serious blood disease. See more here.
Angular Limb Deformity
- The deviation of a limb - either outwards or inward. Can be congenital
or acquired. Read more about it here.
- A bare area on the bridge of the nose is often noticed on some llamas and alpacas. In summer months it is thought to be caused by fly irritation and by the animals rubbing. It could also be caused just by winter dryness and rubbing - those animals that "tunnel down" with their noses deep into the hay feeders looking for the tender stuff. Some owners have found noticeable fast improvement by applying Vaseline, Vitamin E Oil, Zinc Ointment, or Preparation H to the area. Treating for zinc deficiency in their diet rarely helps this bare nose syndrome.
Beserk Male Syndrome
Aggressive behavior that males may display at around two years old or even
younger. Caused mainly by over-handling by humans when young or by bottle
feeding. The male animals looks at humans as peers due to the bonding with
humans ranther than other llamas, and becomes very territorial rather than
having the respect for humans. An aggressive male can become very
- Gas buildup in the stomach.
A llama or alpaca may exhibit one blue eye or even both eyes may be blue. Some eyes are so striking, they appear almost white due to the lack of pigment and sometimes are referred to as a glass eye. Although considered a blemish rather than a fault by the show association, a blue eye is not considered a
desirable trait by lama breeders and the blemish may be inherited. Studies have been done regarding the association of a blue eye on a white haired animal causing deafness. Read more details here.
- Signs include gagging, coughing, and regurgitating. Most often it is from eating grain too rapidly or it may be due to the type of grain being fed. Pellets should be rather hard and small in diameter. Feeding management can help immensely by feeding in long troughs rather than in deep dishes which enables them to get large mouthfuls. You can help work it out with upward movements on the neck area. A more serious disorder which may have choking signs is Megaesophagus. See below.
- Although quite rare, this respiratory defect atresia is probably the most well known birth defect in camelids. At birth, an obstruction is present between the nasal cavity and the throat which prevents the cria from breathing with its mouth closed. As a result, they cannot nurse and breathe at the same time. For more information on Coanal Atresia, see CA Info or CA Discussions
- More common in young animals, it is spread through the feces of an animal which has the disease or is a carrier, but may show no signs of illness itself. The primary sign is diarrhea. Sever cases show blood in the diarrhea, depression, and weight loss. This most commonly occurs when animals are crowded into small pens or where
unsanitary conditions exist. Treatment may be Corid added to the drinking water and all other water sources eliminated.
- A belly ache or discomfort in the abdomen. Signs may be obvious discomfort, laying flat out on the side with neck stretched back, changing sides often, kicking at the abdomen, straining at the poop pile and maybe producing dry looking "beans", or grinding the teeth.
- Interesting and detailed information on the genetics producing specific colors in many species of animals. Any hair or wool animal is readable. See National Color Breeders Research Foundation, Color Genetics in Iclandic Sheep.
- Cause can vary from infectious to environmental irritants. Commonly seen in summer months, the cause can often be from insect bites - specifically flies. The eye will appear red, swollen - sometimes almost swollen shut - and will display a discharge. This usually resolves rapidly with the application of a topical ointment prescribed by your veterinarian. If this doesn't cure it, the cause may be due to some foreign body, environmental irritant, or parasite and should be diagnosed by your veterinarian. Photos of affected eye.
Cria Care & Nursing Problems - Suggestions on the birthing and care of the newborn cria,
bottle feeding, and moms without milk. Birthing slide show. Cria Care
Cria Emergency Warming - How to quickly warm the newborn cria.
Cud - The food brought up from the first compartment of the stomach of the llama, into the mouth, to be chewed over again at the animal's leisure. See more detail under Digestive System.
Cyclopia - A birth defect resulting in one large eye. More info.
Deafness - Deafness may be possibly caused with the presence of a severe ear infection. Also studies have been done regarding the association of a blue eye and white hair causing deafness. See more details here.
De-worming - A suggested deworming program begins with doing a fecal exam in the spring to see what parasites you may be dealing with. A variety of dewormers may be used - such as Ivomec (cattle-injectible), Valbazen (paste), Panacur (paste), or Synanthic. A small herd May be treated 3-4 times a year, a medium to large size herd 4-6 times a year. If your farm has a number of visiting animals in and out for outside breedings, 4-H animals coming and going, or crowded pastures, it may be necessary to use a more aggressive deworming program. If you are in a white-tail deer area, you may want to deworm monthly with Ivomec as a preventive. It is recommended to not deworm females during the first 60 days of pregnancy or 60 days prior to birthing. Some breeders report pre-mature births and abortions possibly due to the stress of deworming or even the medication. It is convenient to give dewormers to females after they have given birth but before they have been bred again. It has been suggested to deworm crias for the first time at 10-12 weeks of age. Verify the type of dewormer for your area and correct dosages with your own veterinarian. (also see Parasites). More on de-worming. About Parasite Control.
Diatomaceous Earth -
DE (for short) is the remains of microscopic one-celled plants (phytoplankton) called diatoms that lived in the oceans that once covered the western part of the United States and other parts of the world. Natural DE also makes a very effective natural insecticide. due to the razor sharp edges of the diatom remains. More about Diatomaceous Earth
Digestive System - The unique digestive system of a llama contains one stomach with three compartments. Food is taken in through the esophagus and stored in the first compartment called the rumen. They regurgitate their food to rechew it. You can observe a bubble-like lump coming up the front of the neck when they bring up their cud. They then chew it with their back teeth in a figure eight motion - normally chewing 55-75 times. They swallow it again, wait about eight seconds, and then bring up another cud to chew. When the cud is reswallowed, it passes into the other two compartments of the stomach. This rumination enables the llama to break down its feed materials very efficiently. By the time all the nutrients are absorbed from the digestive tract, the waste is formed in small pellets call feces.
Drooping Eyelid - Some lamas tend to exhibit the drooping eye when they are somewhat stressed. This can also be a genetic trait and you will see it all
the time. If you only notice it on occasion, notice what is happening each time - the animal is probably showing a slight stress to the situation. If it continues, the animal is probably prone to drooping lids. Not the best trait in the world, but not earth shattering either.
Elephant Skin - Patches of hair loss on the body of the llama. Skin is dry, crusty, and bald.
Epe (Eperythrozoonosis) -This is a disease caused by a bacterium called Eperythrozoonosis suis which attaches to the surface of red blood cells and sometimes destroys them. Sumptoms include anaemia, watery blood, staggery, sluggish, stiffness in hindquarters, collapse. View articles on Epe here.
Eye Infection - Causes can vary from environmental to infectious irritations. See "conjunctivitis"Also seePhotos of affected eye.
Follicles -"Within the ovary are all the eggs the llama will have during her lifetime. The vast majority of these eggs (primary follicles) will never
develop, while a few will develop into more mature secondary follicles. A few of the secondary follicles will develop even further into mature Graafian follicles, fluid filled structures up to a quarter of an inch in diameter. The Graffian follicle contains the mature egg that can be fertilized following ovulation. If ovulation doesn't take place, the follicle will degenerate and be replaced by another follicle."(Dr. Brad Smith)
Fescue - Avoid planting fescue in your pasture. Although some breeders claim to have their herds on pastures of fescue with no problems, others report fescue is the cause of reproductive problems such as abortions and premature births. Fescue is also said to elevate the body temperature in llamas. The problem stems from a fungus on the fescue called endophyte. Further info on Fescue Toxicity.
Fighting Teeth - Male llamas develop six very sharp fighting teeth, two up and one down on each side, at approximately two years of age which can be very dangerous when competitive males are together. These teeth can easily be removed with an OB wire either with or without a slight sedative. (Illustration)
Foaming Mouth - Sometimes in summer months, some llamas may develop a white foam around their mouth as they lay and chew their cud. This can be due to a substance in the clover called
slaframin, also called Black
Patch Disease. It also could be due to an injury in the mouth or possibly a poisonous plant so the animal should be checked for normal behaviors.
Genetics - See Color Genetics
GnRH - Gonadotropin Releasing Hormone - "What is GnRH? Gonadotropin releasing hormone. The commercial product brand name is CYSTORELIN. Cystorelin is a sterile solution containing 50 micrograms of gonadorelin. Gonadorelin is the hypothalmic releasing factor responsible for the release of gonadotropins (e.g. FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) and LH (luteinizing hormone)), from the anterior pituitary. Synthetic gonadorelin is physiologically and chemically identical to the endogenous bovine hypothalmic releasing factor. Cystorelin has been shown to be safe. In the normal cycle of events the hypothalamus produces gonadorelin which is responsible for causing the anterior pituitary gland to release FHS and LH which cause development, maturation and rupture of the follicle, preparing the ova for conception."
"If female is not ovulating, we can administer an intramuscular injection of GnRH to begin the cycle of ovulation. In five to seven days, we can measure the progesterone level in her blood and determine if she has ovulated. We can then plan an appropriate breeding schedule".
"There are times when females develop follucular cysts, thus preventing conception. An intramuscular injection of GnRH in conjunction with manual rupture of the follicle has been effective in allowing the normal sequence of events to take place."
Guard Llamas -More about using llamas as guard animals.
Hair Loss - All Llamas periodically lose hairs as new hairs are emerging from hair follicles. More intense shedding of neck wool, particularly in short wooled llamas, may occur around 18 months of age and probably will not grow back to the youth length. Wool breaking off at a very short length and coming out in handfuls may be caused by a stressful occasion, heat, illness, nutrition, or even birthing. Whatever the stress that caused damage to the hair follicle, probably occurred 3-5 months before you noticed the wool break. Often this is limited to just an area up the back of the neck, but sometimes it includes wool break over the entire body. The wool will grow back to the original length, but it will take close to two years. A complete bald spot, called alopecia, can look crusty, flaky, red, or even thick upon a closer look. This could be mange, ringworm, a fungus, or zinc responsive skin disease. A skin scraping by your vet should confirm the actual cause and therefore proper treatment can be provided. Alopecia on the bridge of the nose is quite common, especially in dark animals, in the summer months and is often caused by fly irritation and rubbing. This area usually grows back in winter months. (see specifics about mange, ringworm, alopecia, bare nose, and fungus).
Hay - Good quality, dust free grass hay with a protein level of 10-12% is recommended for feeding llamas. Alfalfa, on a day to day basis, is thought to be too rich for llamas and too high in protein. Alfalfa will possibly cause the calcium level to go high, the phosphorus level to go too low, can cause urine scald, and can cause calcium deposits resulting in a block ureter. A steady diet of alfalfa also may be responsible for obesity in the llama.
Heat Stress - Llamas need extra care in hot humid weather. Always provide cool, clean water, a shaded area, and fans to keep the air moving. Long woolled animals may be sheared. Cool the animal's legs and belly with the hose - some will lay in a child's wading pool. Offer a bucket with electrolytes in addition to their fresh water. Feed a good quality hay and grain for easy digestion - good nutrition is just as important in hot weather if not more so. Plan breeding and birthing for the cooler months of the year. Signs of heat stress are drooling, open-mouth breathing, drooping of the lower lip, staggering, inability to stand, and not eating. A temperature of over 103 degrees is a danger sign and measure should be taken to cool the animal down immediately. Watch for a respiratory rate over 20 and a heart rate over 90. More about Heat Stress.
IgG - IgG (immunoglobulin G) is an antibody produced by the mother llama in her udder towards the end of her pregnancy and passed to her cria in the very first milk - the thick, sticky colostrum. The maternal first milk is so very important due to the fact that the IgG content of the first milking is double that of the second milking. Since the newborn cria has no immune system of its own, it is most important that the cria first nurse during the first six hours after birth and get an adequate amount of colostrum. As each hour passes, the stomach becomes less porous and the ability for the cria to absorb the colostrum lessens. If the cria does not obtain an adequate passive transfer of antibodies from his mother, he will be at great risk to any infectious disease within the first few months of his life until he is mature enough to manufacture his own IgG. It is recommended that a simple blood sample be taken 24 hours after birth to check the IgG level to assure that the passive transfer of antibodies was adequate. A minimal level of 800 is marginal.
Leptospirosis - A disease causing abortions, diarrhea, fever, bloody urine, and depression. More about leptospirosis.
Lice - There are two kinds of this tiny wingless insect that attacks the llama - the sucking louse which feeds entirely on blood and can cause anemia and the biting louse which nibble on hair and debris on the llama's skin surface. Lice can be spread among the animals by direct contact or by close housing quarters. Signs of lice include rubbing the affected areas, dandruff, and fiber loss in large patches. Watch for lice especially during the winter months when the llamas are usually in close quarters. The biting louse are white or light tan and can be found moving near the skin surface when disrupted. Examine the skin at the base of the neck or tail and inside the back thighs. Treatment may be a topical dust or a pour on medication. Treatment for the sucking lice is injectible Ivomec SQ, or fenthion pour on (Tiguvon) applied topically at the shoulder blades. Treatment for the biting lice is 50% Methovychlor (Marlate at WalMart) or 50% Rose Dust, (Captains at WalMart) applied topically. Ivomec is not effective for the biting lice.(Source - Dr. Norman Evans, DVM) Photo
More About Lice
Llamas As Guards - Guard llamas offer a viable, nonlethal alternative for reducing predation, while requiring no training and little care.More about using llamas as guards. Personal experiences with guard llamas.
Lump On Jaw - Occasionally you may notice a hard lump develop on the cheek along the jaw line. This can be especially concerning to new llama owners, but it can actually turn out to be nothing more than the llama holding a nice large wad of cud in their cheek to enjoy at a later time. Anything to alarm their new owners!!!! However a lump can also indicate an abcess or a tooth problem, so further investigation is advised.
LH - Luteinizing Hormone- "The breeding stimulus causes the release of a hormone from the pituitary, a gland at the base of the brain. This hormone (luteinizing hormone or LH) in turn, causes the mature follicle to rupture and release the egg into the oviduct, where it is fertilized. Following this release (ovulation), the follicle fills with blood, the cells of the follicle undergo a reorganization and become a temporary hormone secreting tissue, the corpus luteum or CL. The prime hormone produced by the corpus luteum is progesterone, the most important hormone during pregnancy. If progesterone production ceases, the animal will not be able to continue the pregnancy and will abort. Blood progesterone concentrations are normally very low. As the follicle becomes a corpus luteum, its appearance and composition changes. Whereas the mature follicle was fluid-filled and fairly soft, the CL is much firmer and usually projects somewhat above the surface of the ovary. This difference in composition is an important factor in the diagnosis of pregnancy by rectal palpation. (Dr. Brad Smith)
Mad Cow Disease-
Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy -
Mange is a contagious skin disease caused by one of a variety of mites that
can live on the animal. It is transmitted by direct contact with diseased animals or indirectly by contaminated quarters or even dust baths. The mite's entire life cycle is on the animal and two to three weeks may be required to complete the life cycle. The Sarcoptic mange is caused specifically by Sarcoptes
scabeii. The mite burrows into the outer layer of skin in areas without much hair such as the legs, ears, and belly. The area develops bald spots, flaking, crusts and the skin may become thickened and leather-like as the disease continues. The mites may cause intense itching. Your veterinarian can confirm the mites with a skin scraping. Treatment is Ivomec injected SQ, 1cc per 100 lbs. (Source - Dr. Norman Evans,
into - Mites, Mange & Treatment, Witches
See Digestive System
Megaesophagus - A condition of the esophagus, the main sign is regurgitation and choking after swallowing. Generally affected animals are smaller and unthrifty. Associated signs are cough, fever, weight loss, and nasal discharge. Veterinary consultation is necessary.
Meningeal Worm- The larvae of this parasite is passed in the feces of the white tailed deer. The larvae then enter ground snails which can be ingested by llamas and alpacas in the pasture. The larvae then migrate throughout the spinal cord and the brain causing damage to the central nervous system. There is no way to diagnose Meningeal Worm definitely, but sometimes symptoms can be treated effectively. Most common symptoms are rear leg weakness, lameness, staggering and stiffness, circling, abnormal head position, and gradual weight loss. Treatments include multiple doses of a de-wormer and an anti-inflammatory. A preventative treatment in areas populated with white tail deer is monthly de-wormings with injectible Ivomectin. See more info and treatment at
Mange, & Treatment, Lice, Mites & Mange
- Parasites can be both external and internal. External parasites may be flies, ticks, mites, or lice. (see specific names for details). Internal parasites may be kept under control with good herd management starting with a good nutritional program, feeding up off the ground, good sanitation, pasture rotation, and a good
de-worming program for your area and the weather. Signs of internal parasites may be a general lethargy, weight loss, a depressed stance, and ploppy stools or diarrhea. (see
de-worming, meningeal worm, coccidiosis). About de-worming.,
in Llamas, Pesky Parasites,
Whipworms, Mites & Mange,
Lice, Meningeal Worm
Pastern- The pastern is the lower joint on the legs.
Soft or Dropped Pasterns
Pastures should be seeded with an all round mixture of grass hay. Use caution when considering fescue or alfalfa in your pasture. (see "alfalfa" and "fescue")
Listing from Purdue University or
Listing from Univ. of Illinois Champaign/Urbana or
Listing from Cornell University or
Poisonous Plants in Canada
Predators In The Pasture
Coyotes and Wild Dogs
Llamas As Guard Animals
Premature Cria - Cria is weak, has
low birth weight, inability to stand, floppy ears, no suckling reflex, incisors
More info and care.
Rattlesnake Bite - Info and Treatment
Throwing up, gagging, coughing, and choking after eating probably is from eating grain too rapidly, the type of pellet, or feeding management. See choking.
A bald spot, usually crusty or scaly, caused by a fungus that grows in the hair and hair follicle. Not an actual worm or parasite. It can be easily treated with topical Betadine or Iodine applied to the area. Your vet can confirm diagnosis with a culture or a microscopic exam. It is contagious to other animals and people - wash your hands well after treatment.
Ryegrass Staggers -
A disease caused from eating rye grass infected with endophyte fungus. Signs include tremors, shaking head and neck, stiffness, falling,
incoordination, saw-horse stance, and swaying. More Info
Sick Cria Management
FTP Cria, Premature Cria, Septic Cria, Meconium
Impaction, Hyperosmolar Syndrome
Excessive drooling and
salivation can be associated with the presence of Black
Patch Disease - or slaframine in red
Because of the curious nature of the llama, snake bites on the nose are quite common. If you are in an area with rattlesnakes, have your medical kit ready.
Info and treatment.
Meningeal Worm, Heat Stress, or Ryegrass Staggers
A fine stemmed and leafy plant with very quick
regrowth. Can be used for pastures and forage but there are some cautions as it may be poisonous under certain conditions. Read more about
Tipped Ears -
Tipped ears are when just the very end tip of the ear folds over rather than standing up straight. Tipped or floppy ears occur occasionally on a newborn llama or alpaca - more often on a premature
cria. Normally they will correct themselves on their own within a short time, but sometimes helpful support is beneficial to assure that a straight ear is the end result. See how to apply
Toenails - Toenail trimming should be part of your routine herd management program. Just how often a llama's nails need trimming depends on each animal and also the surface they walk on. If they walk over concrete or are on the trail alot, their nails will file down somewhat and probably need trimming less often than those animals that are on soft pasture all the time. Long nails will extend beyond the pad on the foot. If extremely long, they may fold over or curve causing lameness or pain. Trim the nail back just even with the pad using a nail trimmer similar to pruning shears. Trim the sides of the nail even with the pad in two or three cuts or whatever is needed. Then cut across the point taking care not to cut into the pad or the quick. If cut too short, the nail will bleed, will be painful, and could possible get infected. When lifting the leg to trim the nails, lift the foot straight back bending the leg in the direction that it would normally bend. Do not pull it out to the side .... this is painful to the leg and the llama will probably struggle.
Photos and more
See Uterine Torsion
Urine Scald -
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.
Urolithiasis - Stones in the urinary tract. Normally caused by diet, a blockage can occur in the urethra. Death can occur. More about
Stones in the Urinary Tract.
Uterine Prolapse -
- A condition where the pregnant uterine horns rotate
from their normal position. The twist is normally located near the
cervix. This prevents the cervix from dilating and will prevent birth if it is not corrected.
More information here.
Vaccinate llamas annually with CD/T, a clostridium/tetanus immunization. Administered SQ, consult your vet for the proper dosage. A 7-Way or 8-Way is also a suitable vaccination, but some breeders feel the CD/T is enough. A good time for vaccinating is in the spring before the weather gets hot. Do not vaccinate any pregnant females within 60 days of birthing or within 60 days after breeding. Another booster vaccination should also be given to an expectant mother about 60 days prior to the delivery date to increase the antibodies in the
colostrum. Vaccinate crias with CD/T at 10-12 weeks of age. Give a booster of CD/T again 4 weeks later. Crias do not need to be vaccinated at birth.
Weeds In Pastures -
A picture guide for identification of
West Nile Virus -
A type of virus transmitted by mosquitoes.
Whipworms, Life Cycles of Whipworms, Parasites
In Llamas, Parasite Management.
- Treatment for mites and
re-growth of wool.
Wool Break -
See Hair Loss,
Mites, Mange & Treatment,
Worming - Parasite
Management, De-worming, Pesky Parasites,
Life Cycles of Parasites,
Parasites In Llamas
LLAMA DISCUSSION BOARD - Questions & Replys
All medical problems should be discussed with your personal veterinarian. The
information here is from
various breeders and veterinarians. The
author makes no guarantees concerning the information on this site.
This document is copyrighted by the Different Drummer Studio and no part may be copied to another homepage.
Permission is granted to link to this page or to print it for personal use provided that this copyright notice
is not altered or removed.
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