Official website of the Victorian Eastern Region of the Australian Alpaca Association Ltd.

The Australian Alpaca Association Ltd.

Victorian Eastern Region of the Australian Alpaca Association Ltd.

Mineral and Vitamin Supplements


Many of the water-soluble vitamins(vitamins B, C) are provided by the microbes that live in the fore-stomachs,so healthy alpacas do not require supplementation if they are healthy.

Of the fat-soluble vitamins, vitamins A and E are available from green grass (even from green weeds that come up after brief summer rain) so only need supplementation if pasture is completely dry for more than 8-10 weeks

Vitamin D supplementation is required in alpacas. Inject all alpacas less than 3 years of age, and all females due to give birth in winter/early spring (to fortify colostrum) with 6000 iu vitamin D/kg body weight under the skin or into the muscle. Administer in late autumn, mid - winter (and early spring in higher latitudes like Victoria, Tasmania, New Zealand, Europe, Canada ).

Read the label on the bottle to determine vitamin D concentration to determine what volume to administer.

E.g. A 20 kg cria needs 120,000 iu vitamin D. If there is 75,000 iu per mL vitamin D in your selected source of vitamin D, then the cria would need approximately 1.6 mL of solution injected.

Too much vitamin D can be toxic.


Are minerals deficient in the surrounding area in sheep and cattle? Ask the local Department of Agriculture, district veterinarian and neighbouring farmers for information. If in doubt, sample soils, pasture and/or alpacas to determine if mineral levels are adequate, before supplementation.

Acid, water-logged soils (annual rainfall > 500 mm) contribute to selenium deficiency. Selenium deficiency may be treated using an annual depot injection under the skin of barium selenate. Alternatively, alpacas may be supplemented by short - acting oral preparations at a rate of 0.1 mg/kg BW orally every 4-6 weeks.

Do not inject alpacas with sodium selenite or sodium selenite as it can cause peracute liver failure and death

Excert from CriaGenesis (Dr Jane Vaughan) website - "Top ten tips of alpaca nutrition" Click here for further information on alpaca nutrition from Dr Jane Vaughan



Body Condition Score

Keeping alpacas on a good plane of nutrition is essential for healthy reproduction as well as minimizing variations in the diameter along the length of the fleece staple. Sudden changes in diet can result in sickness, foetal stress and tender fleece. Seasonal changes in dietary quality and quantity make it essential to monitor your animal’s body condition.

The below link provides a useful tool for determining your alpacas condition.


Body Condition Score of Alpacas

Alpacas and hypothermia (cold stress)

By Andrea Glew, Hill Farrance Alpacas


It may seem strange that animals who have originated in one of the coldest locations on earth can succumb to hypothermia or cold stress. The fact that such a thing can happen during the warmer parts of the year here in Australia may seem even stranger at first. However, adult alpacas can suffer from cold stress during freak cold snaps following shearing, when they are without the protection of their exceptionally warm fleece. Older animals, nursing mothers, thin animals and those suffering from nutritional deficiency are particularly susceptible. Very young animals born during autumn and late winter can also be at risk. 

Weather conditions to watch for are a sudden and severe drop in temperature, prolonged rain and cold wind. Each can be dangerous on its own but they are especially deadly in combination.

Common sense husbandry practices and property improvements can substantially minimise the risk of hypothermia. As well, having an emergency plan and a supply of treatments on hand in the event of cold stress is a wise move. Animals with hypothermia may live for some hours, which means they have a good chance of recovering if quick action is taken.


Hypothermia occurs when the body temperature of an alpaca falls below the normal range of 37.5 to 38.6 degrees C. Some breeders have observed body temperatures as low as 32 degrees C while others were not even able to get a temperature to register on the rectal thermometer. The drop in body temperature in turn causes poor circulation.

Apart from low body temperature, shivering would seem to be the other obvious symptom but in fact hypothermia is not always easy to recognise. 

Shivering is simply a contraction of muscles and is the body’s way of generating heat. Once the alpaca has used up its store of energy, shivering stops and the body temperature begins to drop. However, it is easy to miss this initial stage of hypothermia, especially if the onset of bad weather occurs at night.

Other signs of hypothermia include slow and shallow breathing, a slow heart rate (around 16 beats a minute), mental depression and coma. 

Shivering also occurs when the animals begin to warm up. At times shivering can be confined to the head but at other times the whole body. One breeder has likened it to the symptoms of staggers.

Adult alpacas

Breeders whose animals were severely affected during the cold snap of February 2005 reported that adults were often found in the paddock in the cush position and would or could not stand. One breeder found a young male lying flat on his side, with the only noticeable movement being in the eyelids. When lifted for transport, the alpacas could not straighten their legs and they were also reluctant to open their jaws when their owners tried to administer electrolytes and other oral treatments. 


Fowler and Fowler state that picking up a cria suffering from cold stress is like picking up a limp rag. They add that, while low body temperature and other typical symptoms may well indicate hypothermia, a cria in the final stage of blood poisoning can also show the same signs. However, animals suffering from blood poisoning will not become brighter as their body temperature returns to normal.


It is important to get the animals under shelter and warm as soon as possible. A barn, shed or stable with a power supply makes an ideal shelter and treatment centre. However, this is not always possible so breeders make do with whatever is to hand and have even taken severely affected alpacas inside the house if no other warm, dry spot is available.

If the alpacas are not too badly affected, stabling them somewhere dry and providing plenty of feed (good quality hay for preference) should be adequate. Unlikely though it may seem, digestion of feed that has a high fibre content generates considerably more body heat than concentrates. Other feeds that are good sources of energy and therefore body heat are crushed lupins and crushed or steamed barley and oats.

Where animals are more severely affected, stronger measures are needed to restore their body temperature. 

The ideal is to call on your local veterinarian for help in treating severely cold-stressed animals. Be aware, though, that your vet may not be able to respond immediately to a call for help, as he or she may already be busy treating other livestock. You will therefore have to administer emergency help until your vet arrives.

Be careful when raising the body temperature of a hypothermic alpaca. One's natural instinct is to do it as quickly as possible but that can be extremely harmful. The external body temperature should not be increased in advance of the internal temperature, particularly with animals that are suffering from severe cold stress. 

Raising internal body temperature

Warm glucose fluids can be administered intravenously but this should be done by a veterinarian.

Ketol (a product that increases the internal body temperature) can be syringed down the alpaca’s throat. Also have on hand injectable Vitamin B1 and give affected alpacas 3 to 5 ml, depending on their size. These two measures are helpful as a preliminary treatment if a severely affected alpaca needs to be taken to the vet for intravenous administration of warm glucose.

Raising external body temperature

Floats or stock crates can provide suitable emergency shelter as well as being useful for moving the alpacas out of the paddock. Breeders have also used vans, and electric fan heaters and 500 watt halogen work lights can be hooked up to power and installed in the van to warm the animals. The van's motor can also be left running to get extra warmth from the vehicle’s heater. The work lights should be placed about a foot from each animal and, along with the heater, moved from left to right to prevent burning of the skin. 

Hot water bottles and heated wheat bags can be used to warm smaller alpacas but will not be adequate for larger animals. Alpacas can be covered with quilts, blankets or even hessian bags and warmed by using hair dryers on the High setting to blow warm air underneath. However, it is generally not possible to keep this up for long periods such as the two to eight hours needed to restore the alpacas' temperature to normal. An electric blanket can therefore be draped over affected animals so it is not too close to the skin and left on the lowest setting until they have recovered.

A cria with hypothermia can be successfully warmed up by bathing it. Gradually immerse the cria in warm water (40.5 to 45.5 degrees C, or no hotter than is comfortable for your elbow when dipped in the water) in a large kitchen or laundry sink. The water should be deep enough to cover the cria’s back. Hold the cria’s head up as it may not have enough energy to do this itself. 

While the cria is in the bath, gently massage it all over but concentrating on the extremities to increase circulation.  Monitor the cria’s temperature and take it out of the bath and dry it as soon as its body temperature stabilises at 37.8 degrees C. Cover the cria with a towel while drying it in smaller sections with a hair dryer on low setting. Put a thermally insulated coat on the cria for extra warmth. If no cria coat is available, a child's jumper can be used as an emergency substitute. Put the cria’s front legs in the sleeves, then roll the sleeves above the cria’s knees.


Strange though it may seem, hypothermic alpacas are generally also dehydrated. It is therefore important to administer electrolytes such as Vytrate or Lectatde as part of their treatment. Make up the electrolyte in warm water according to the instructions on the label and administer it orally using a bottle or 60 ml syringe Take care that the fluid does not go into the lungs, as older animals may take some time to recover their swallowing reflexes.


Unlike heat stress, hypothermia does not generally have a lasting effect on affected animals. However, with female alpacas it can result in still-births, abortions and small cria.


It is easier to prevent hypothermia or minimise its impact than to treat a group of affected animals.

Ensure your property has adequate shelter.

The provision of shelter is most important. However, this can often take time to achieve, especially if you have acquired a property that does not have established tree cover. Windbreak plantings need five to ten years to develop to the stage where they give adequate protection.

It is beyond the scope of this information sheet to give details about how to establish shelter belts but you can get this information from your local department of agriculture or primary industries. This is more appropriate as well as the staff can advise which trees do best in your area. 

As a general guide, though, belts comprising three or more rows of trees, graduating in size from smallest on the outside of the windbreak to tallest in the middle are most effective in deflecting wind and rain. Also, X-shaped windbreaks with “arms” 3 to 4 m long give excellent protection as they provide shelter from any direction.

Permanent structures such as sheds, stables or barns are valuable, especially if there is a need to treat alpacas with severe hypothermia. However, if it is simply a case of needing to provide shelter, there are some quick and relatively cheap ways of achieving this. 

Build up an emergency supply of feed.

Have on hand an emergency supply of suitable feed as heating your animals internally is a good way to both prevent and treat cold stress. Feeds with a high calorific value include:

Have a cold stress “first-aid” kit on hand.

Try to collect a store of old towels, blankets or hessian bags for emergencies. Synthetic feed bags are also useful as emergency “stretchers” for moving severely affected animals into transport or shelter.

Another wise investment is a supply of cria coats in a range of sizes to cover young animals up to the age of about three months, by which time they should have grown enough fleece to protect them from all but the very worst weather. Fleecy-lined dog coats with a water-proof outer shell make excellent cria coats and can be obtained fairly easily at reasonable cost from pet shops.

Keep a supply of electrolytes on hand as well as injectable Vitamin B1 and Ketol.

Have a rectal thermometer and know how to use it.

It is also a good idea to have an emergency supply of straw for bedding, extra insulation and to support severely affected animals in the cush position.

Be alert for severe weather warnings.

Most breeders try to organise for shearing or birthings to take place at a time appropriate to the climate of their region. However, freak weather is by its very nature unpredictable so it is still important to be alert for signs of trouble. The Bureau of Meteorology provides farmers and graziers and storm warnings which are often broadcast on the ABC’s regional radio stations and on television weather reports. 

Be aware, though, that TV weather bulletins can differ widely in their predictions. As well, by the time one gets to see the evening news, it is generally too late to take action before dark. Consequently, it is wise, if you have internet access, to check the Bureau of Meteorology's website regularly throughout the day during high-risk periods. Then alpacas can be moved to shelter well in advance of trouble, without anxiety or stress to them or their handlers. The address is www.bom.gov.au and forecasts are updated throughout the day, starting from about 5:30 am. 


A guide to raising llamas, Gale Birutta. Storey Books Vermont, 1997.

First Aid for Llamas and Alpacas, Murray E.Fowler, DVM, and Audrey C. Fowler. Clay Press Inc., 1995

Hypothermia in Alpacas, Rosemary Eva and Liz Coles, Alpacas Australia, No. 46 Autumn 2005, Australian Alpaca Association Inc. 

Out in the cold: alpaca breeders’ experiences with hypothermia, The WRAG, Issue No. 56, April 2005, Victorian Western Region Alpaca Group.

Rickets: A Snapshot

By Elizabeth Paul Erehwon Alpacas 

Rickets is a painful, arthritic condition caused by deficiencies in the bone minerals of calcium and phosphate; a vitamin D deficiency; or occasionally by glandular dysfunction. All mammals, including humans,  can be affected by rickets, but alpacas are particularly vulnerable. Every alpaca owner needs to be aware that this condition is both intrinsic to alpacas; and may be virtually undetectable, in the early stages.

In crias under say, 12 months of age, the most obvious (but not the only) sign of rickets is crooked legs, or Angular Limb Deformity. They usually respond well to vitamin D treatment. However, rickets in older animals, is more difficult to detect, and therefore harder to correct. The symptoms are vague and may vary from animal to animal. Even when, or if, it is recognised, it may already be too late to save the alpaca.  

Signs and Symptoms: 

An alpaca with early rickets shows few signs of being ‘sick”. It continues to eat, even rapidly, although occasionally, one may lose its appetite. Generally, the alpaca stays mentally bright and alert, and its reactions are normal. Its temperature is neither elevated nor depressed. It does not present with scours, vomiting, staggers, spasms, excessive rolling or goes blind. So what does it show?

Pic 1 - Crooked legs on cria
Pic 1 - Crooked legs on cria


Lameness, or difficulty in walking or running, is the most obvious sign of rickets. There are, of course, many reasons for lameness. However, young crias, as mentioned, will usually display bent or crooked front legs. See Pic 1. They may be actually lame, or merely slower, more lethargic, or get left behind. Also, as the bones lose minerals and weaken, the back feet start coming under the belly, which produces the typical, humped back of rickets.  Alternatively, the back legs may become “locked” together at the hocks, so that the cria walks forward with the front legs and then picks up both back feet together. This is called the “bunny hop”. Sometimes the back legs can be so locked in that the cria can only turn in a circle. 

As the condition advances, it becomes more painful, and the cria weakens.  It may for preference sit down more often, or for longer periods of time, and start eating around itself. This might be seen as the animal being ” lazy”.  The situation becomes critical when the cria can no longer walk to its mother, or find water. An animal that has been down for too long, will die of thirst, hunger or pneumonia. 

Another name for rickets is “brittle bones’, and sometimes a cria may suffer a broken leg, for no obvious reason.  A cria born with a broken leg where no intervention was used, could well be suffering from rickets. 

Pic 2 - Straight legs on nursing female
Pic 2 - Straight legs on nursing female

Adult alpacas with rickets, usually do not show bent legs. They may sit down more often, or they may hand back, or just look a bit ‘off’. They may be lame, where the lameness shifts around from one leg to another. See Pic 2. This female has rickets, although her legs are straight. She is pregnant as well as nursing a 3 month old cria. 

Pic 3 - Same female with slight hump in the back
Pic 3 - Same female with slight hump in the back

See Pic 3. The female’s back is slightly arched, but not severely.  She was also slightly anaemic. With good grazing, she may have been able to carry on. However under drought conditions, intervention was required as all three were at risk. Females with untreated rickets, in late pregnancy, are likely to abort the foetus and then die themselves.

Stunted Growth: 

Occasionally, a cria will survive with rickets, but its growth is stunted. The body simply “makes do” with what it has available, and the animal gets along unless or until there is some other major stress.  “Miniature” alpacas, are most likely to be stunted alpacas. 


A cria, or even an adult, which eats normally, or even rapidly, and yet never seem to grow or put condition on, is often thought to have a worm problem. It may do, but just treating for worms, will not necessarily fix the problem. Most intestinal worms are opportunistic pathogens, meaning they are always present, and can take advantage of the time when the animal’s immune system is under attack, to increase in numbers. Crias that die “ of worms” almost certainly had something else wrong, to start with.

Loss of Condition: 

One of the most worrying signs in a female is the rapid loss of condition, especially if they are heavily nursing. Most alpacas are huacayas, so most alpacas look round and fluffy, even if underneath, they are walking skeletons. Alpacas with rickets tend to keep on eating, and this fact alone, means that a number of rickets cases are missed.

Pic 4 - Skeletal condition of nursing female
Pic 4 - Skeletal condition of nursing female

See Pic 4. This black female is 12 years old, and was nursing a five month old cria. She was noticed to be frantically and continuously eating, on good grazing, yet her condition was skeletal. She was stiff in her movements without being overly lame. She never sat down or chewed her cud during the day, until after starting rickets treatment.  In this case the first action was to remove the cria.

Regular hands-on condition checks, of all members of the herd should be routine and frequent. This is especially important, for both the weanlings and the breeding female herd.  

Serum Phosphate Levels:

The vitamin D3 level in a blood sample can be tested, but it is cheaper and easier to test for serum phosphate levels, since the two are considered to mirror each other. This is in fact not always correct, but nevertheless, a low serum phosphate sample is a good enough indication that the animal has rickets. Blood samples taken for serum phosphate levels need to be tested within the hour, or spun down for a serum sample, otherwise cell breakdown products can interfere with the result. 


Alpacas with rickets, are often anaemic. An alpaca with pale membranes is unwell. An alpaca with chalkwhite membranes, is on the critical list. Checking anaemia levels, should be as routine and as regular, as checking body condition. Anaemia associated with rickets, is caused by a phosphate deficiency, not an iron deficiency.


Normal vitamin D production is initiated in the skin by UV light from the sun, so anything which inhibits this event is likely to cause a problem. Environmental events such as bad weather, dust storms, or bushfire smoke haze can affect vitamin D production some time after the event. Dark pigmented animals are likely to be more affected than lighter ones, as pigment protects the animal from too much UV exposure. Heavily fleeced animals are also at risk. Late shearing times can affect the extent of the alpacas’ natural response to making their own vitamin D supplies.


There are two phases to any treatment program: prevention and specific treatment of individual cases. Rickets is a preventable condition. Successful prevention requires a tailor made program and constant monitoring of changing conditions within a particular herd. Specific treatment consists of giving enough vitamin D3 and phosphate to replenish supplies, but it is not a “one size fits all” situation. Crias usually present fewer problems of treatment, unless their rickets situation has gone unnoticed for a long time. They respond well to vitamin D3 supplementation. However,  by the time rickets is well established, there could be other issues such as a heavy worm burden, coccidia or other problems. If these issues are seen as the cause, and treatment is only directed at them, the outcome is less likely to be successful.

Breeding age females with rickets invariably need the replacement of phosphate as well,  since they are often using minerals for two, whether late pregnant or nursing. This group is more difficult to treat, and more likely to die, usually because the underlying cause of their problems goes unrecognised.

Rickets is, in my opinion, not only the major cause of non-infectious disease in alpacas but is likely to be the major cause of death, in breeding age females.


Paul, Elizabeth:

Health Committee Report  Sept 2005.

Rickets in Alpacas: One Breeder’s Perspective 

Part 1, Town and Country Farmer, Summer 2008 Vol 25 No 4,  

Part 2,  Town and Country Farmer Autumn 2009 Vol 26 No 1.

Vitamin D and Rickets Seminar 2005-10

Is Your Alpaca Quidding?

By Allison Quagliani

Quidding is the carrying of a cud or quid of grass or hay in the mouth. Alpacas with overgrown or very sharp molars use this ball of food to protect their cheeks and gums from the pain incurred while chewing their food.  The quid is not swallowed and if you are very observant you may find them on the ground in the area where the alpacas live. From the outside an animal with this protective pad in its mouth looks like it has a swelling, often the size of a golf ball on the side of its jaw. 

Fig. 1 - Petunia's "swelling" on the side of the jaw
Fig. 1 - Petunia's "swelling" on the side of the jaw

The alpaca in Figure 1 had a much larger, very obvious swelling. Quidding is usually accompanied by other symptoms that indicate severe dental malocclusions and animals should be treated as soon as practicable to restore correct mouth function and ultimately good health.

The meeting of the lower teeth with the upper teeth and dental pad is called occlusion. If for some reason they don’t meet together correctly it is called malocclusion. Teeth continue to erupt for most of an alpaca’s life at the rate at which they are worn.  If a tooth is not wearing against another tooth it will become protuberant, meaning to stick out above thesurface of the others.

Fig. 2 - Hook and ramp shown digging into the gums (dotted line).
Fig. 2 - Hook and ramp shown digging into the gums (dotted line).

Other terms used to describe types of malocclusions are ramps, hooks (Figure 2) and wavy mouth.  Wavy mouth is the uneven wearing of the cheek teeth creating a “roller coaster” effect on the grinding surface of the teeth


In my work as an Alpaca Dentist I come across a variety of cases of varying severity. Below I will discuss three case studies of animals I have successfully treated. All three were found to have severe dental malocclusions.


Petunia is a nine year old female who was brought to my attention during November 2006. At that time she was in her ninth month of gestation and had been examined by a vet to treat a large swelling on the side of her face (Figure 1). The “swelling” turned out to be a small football-sized collection of food that was packed between her teeth and her cheeks! Petunia was referred on to me by the vet, who suspected a tooth problem.  

She presented with a low body condition score, a generally unhappy demeanour and she had a constant stream of frothy green dribble running out of her mouth. I removed several large handfuls of partly chewed, matted grass from inside her mouth

Petunia did have serious teeth problems. Her molars were all wearing unevenly creating a wave mouth. Two of the lower molars at the back of her mouth had become so long (ramps) the opposing upper teeth were worn down below gum level. Every time she chewed her teeth were digging into her gums and the outside edges of her upper molars were cutting her cheeks. Imagine the pain!  Her only defence mechanism against this was to use the quid or grass ball as a buffer between the sharp teeth and the sensitive parts of her gums and cheek.

Petunia sat patiently while I worked on her teeth to file down the longer molars and remove all the sharp edges. Doing this removed the pain she felt while chewing and gave her a much more efficiently functioning mouth.

In the following two and a half weeks Petunia gained a mighty 5.6kg and has since given birth to a healthy cria. The collecting of food in her mouth did not stop immediately, it took a couple of months, partly because it had become habit and partly because she didn’t realise she no longer needed the protection it was providing.


I treated Prince, a rather special, stud male in March 2006. At twelve years old he had a low body condition score, was storing balls of food at the back of his mouth on both sides and had dribbled so much he had dermatitis on his lips. He was spending more time than the others sitting around and had also lost interest in the girls. 

Prince had dagger- like ramps on his rear molars and hooks on his upper premolars see Figure 2. The ramps were long enough to penetrate the opposing gum. The pain was preventing him from eating enough to maintain his weight. 

I provided the necessary treatment and he soon gained weight, stopped dribbling and collecting food in his mouth and importantly has cria due later this year.

Fig. 3 - In side view of Rocky's mouth, showing the protuberant tooth
Fig. 3 - In side view of Rocky's mouth, showing the protuberant tooth


I treated Rocky during winter. This 8yo wether had become very grumpy and started spitting. This was not his normal attitude. He was on good feed but not able to maintain body condition as well as his companions. His other symptom was a swelling slightly larger than a golf ball on one side of his face. His owner had noticed these symptoms and gave me a call after attending one of my presentations.

Two of his molars were more than 12mls protuberant, digging into his gums (Figure 3). These teeth were trimmed removing any pain associated with chewing. He was back to his normal, happy, easygoing self within a few days. 


These three alpacas and many others that I have treated usually displayed some common symptoms:

The majority of these animals tend to be in the 8 to 12 years old age group. Females with problems are often identified when nutritional demands are high during later pregnancy and lactation. 

Dental malocclusions do not appear overnight and take years to develop to the advanced stage of the above case studies. Watch closely how your animals eat and monitor body condition regularly. As with all health issues, the earlier dental problems are diagnosed the easier the treatment and of course the amount of stress and suffering to the alpaca is greatly reduced.

Further Reading

Dental Malocclusions in Australian Alpacas by Allison Quagliani, AAA Conference Proceedings, 2006

Teething in Alpacas

- by Allison Quagliani

During an alpacas life it will have two sets of teeth, a deciduous (or baby) set and a permanent set. The deciduous teeth are replaced by the new teeth at specific times and this process should be complete by the time the alpaca is around four years old. If you look in your alpacas mouths at certain ages you will be able to see the changes that occur.

Fig 1
Fig 1


A full term cria is usually born with its two front incisors already through the gum. By the time it is six months old it will have all six of its deciduous incisors - Fig 1.

Fig 2
Fig 2

Fig 2 shows a ten month old alpaca.


When the alpaca reaches two years of age the central two incisors are replaced. Sometimes the deciduous teeth are shed before the new teeth erupt through the gums. Often the new teeth erupt before the old teeth are lost and the mouth appears crowded for a month or so.

Fig 3
Fig 3

This alpaca is two years old. It has lost one of its deciduous teeth and will soon lose the other. The discoloured tooth is actually the new tooth. The new, permanent teeth always erupt behind the deciduous teeth - Fig 3

Fig 5
Fig 5

At two and a half years old this alpaca lost its two deciduous teeth moments before this picture was taken. The new teeth are already half grown - Fig 5

Fig 6
Fig 6

This alpaca is also two and a half years old. You can clearly see the two new teeth (discoloured). They are in a perfect position! - Fig 6

Fig 7
Fig 7

At three years old the next two incisors are replaced and within the next few months all six will have all been replaced. This is a three and a half year old alpaca that has lost his corner incisors - Fig 7


The new teeth grow quite quickly without any noticeable disruption to the alpaca’s lives. Occasionally the deciduous teeth do not fall out as they should and can affect the occlusion and health of the permanent teeth. In this instance extraction should be considered.


As always I recommend you to take a few moments when you are handling your animals to have a look at their teeth. This way you will become familiar with what is normal and able to recognise any abnormalities before they become serious problems.


Further Reading

Dental Malocclusions in Australian Alpacas by Allison Quagliani, AAA Conference Proceedings, 2006

A very cold Cria


Story by Jean & David Daddo, Pitchingga Ridge Alpacas

We didnʼt think he had a chance - newly born, he lay, cold, wet and inert in the horizontal freezing rain that whipped across our property, heralding the second front for the day.

All the other mums and babies had moved through the gate and were well settled in the shed. But Muffin had delayed ....... almost as if her tiny lifeless bundle might just get up and follow like all the other crias.

But he didnʼt........and reluctantly, she seemingly resigned herself to the inevitable, and joined the herd.

Yuki was so cold and listless, we didnʼt even stop to take his temperature. I grabbed him up in my arms and rushed him up to the house. We rubbed him briskly, wrapped him in a dry towel, then set him in kush position in a cardboard box packed with fleece and 2-litre OJ bottles, filled with hot water. Over the top to trap the warmth, we placed a thermal blanket. All that was visible were two lifeless nostrils. And there he lay.

Every now and then I would rub him briskly, and cover him again.

An hour had passed when I noticed there was a slight movement under the blanket. Yuki was starting to shiver...his eyes were responding, and his nostrils were moving. Another hour later, his temperature was finally registering on the thermometer at the lower end of "normal".

I syringed 60 mls of glucose and warm water into his mouth....ever so slowly!

Minutes later, Yuki lifted his head for the first time and sucked down his first 60 mls of Impact.

Then, miraculously, he was out of his box taking his first wobbly steps on our slippery floor - three hours after we had found him so close to death.

We felt then, that he would make it!

Yuki stayed in the house for three days. During that time Muffin stayed in the shed, always looking hopefully over the gate. We milked her every four hours that first day to give Yuki the much-needed colostrum. For the first two days, his two-hourly feeds were topped up with Impact. On the third day we changed to three-hourly feeds of Di-Vetelact.

The fourth day, we put Yuki in the shed with Muffin. It was a wonderful joyous reunion... and Yuki went straight under for his first drink from his mum.

All was well until the next morning, when we noticed that Yuki wasnʼt quite the same. Maybe there was some major underlying problem. We took him to the vet, who found nothing out of the ordinary but mentioned that his drastic start in life could have caused some damage to his vital organs.

Although probably destined to be just a wether, Yuki had come so far and we wanted him to have every chance. We decided to give him plasma. We left him at the clinic, resigning ourselves to what could be a sad ending.

Two hours later, we returned to the clinic to be met by the vet nurse, in fact the entire clinic staff followed closely by Yuki, skipping brightly along behind.

Yuki didnʼt look back after that day. We continued the four-hourly supplementary feeding with Di-Vetelact for about two weeks until Yuki suddenly refused his bottle.

Yuki is now 9 months old - a lively, friendly little appaloosa.

We are glad we put in the time (and the $) to save him... .and we think he might even appear at the Red Hill Show in March - Section 11 - Class 1101 !

Subcutaneous Injections: A New Technique

By Dr. Ian Davison

Published in Alpaca Yakka originally, and subsequently in many regional magazines

As a surgeon and alpaca breeder, I have occasionally been called upon to exercise the skills and understanding gained in one field in the conduct of the other.

To date, I have had no call to restrain patients with manacles of the type used for shearing; nor have I yet been spat upon by even the most recalcitrant of surgical subjects.

But I have had the unhappy experience of skinning several alpacas, whose demise has been met through a spectrum of misadventures ranging from still birth to old age, and snake bite to sarcocystosis. My recurring impression, each time I repeat this melancholic ritual, is how extremely thin is the fatty subcutaneous layer, beneath the skin. Unlike many animals, most especially humans, the layer of fat beneath the alpaca's skin is either extremely thin or nonexistent for much of the body, and the skin rests loosely but directly upon the muscle and bone that constitutes the frame of the alpaca.

It raises a question as to why this should be so, especially in animals that have evolved mechanisms which make it peculiarly well adapted to the harsh high altitude climate of the South American Andes. Perhaps the external coat of fleece provides such efficient insulation against thermal extremes that it no longer requires the alpaca equivalent of the human's "undercoat" of fatty tissue.

But that is not the point of this article. I have long struggled to find a way of efficiently delivering subcutaneous vaccinations to alpacas without injecting into muscle, a mistake which is likely to result in the formation of painful abscesses. The difficulty of keeping the tip of the needle within the very thin subcutaneous layer is compounded by the conspiracy of fleece which obstructs vision and access, and an animal that is likely to respond suddenly and violently to the unexpected displeasure of a needle.

I have employed a variety of strategies, which have included at times injecting into the glabrous skin of the perineum (under the tail), where vision is not obscured by a shroud of fibre, and bending the needle at the hub so that it can be delivered with a sliding action through the skin rather than a puncturing one.

But all without uniform success.  

Until, that is, I hit on the idea of using "short" needles. I reasoned that, if the skin was (say) 2 mm thick, then a needle that was only 3 or 4 mm long would penetrate below the skin surface if introduced perpendicularly, but would be most unlikely to penetrate the deeper muscle layer (or at the very worst, do so in such a superficial way that a muscle abscess would be a most unlikely result). But needles do not come that short. The job was therefore to bring the hub closer to the needle tip, so that its effective length was shorter.

This can be very simply achieved by cutting the very tip off the needle cover, so that the needle protrudes beyond it just a millimetre or two. The injection is then administered, with the cover still on the needle, by a stabbing motion through the fleece at virtually any point on the body of the alpaca. The needle tip is prevented from penetrating any further than is allowed by the needle cover, a distance which can be predetermined by the person administering the injection.

Using this technique, I find I am now able to inject subcutaneously with both certainty and efficiency, and have a cavalier disregard for where on the torso of the animal I direct my aim.


 By Rosemary Eva and Liz Coles, Longueville Park Alpaca Stud

At shows, open days, field days or just general discussion with the public how many times do we hear -  “they spit, they make great pets, they guard sheep from dogs, and they don’t get footrot – or do they?..........”  To mention just a few queries.   

So the answer to the latter question is probably “no”  BUT they can get a condition known as infectious pododermatitis (1) where the footpad can become ulcerated and pitted and lead to loss of the whole pad on one or more feet.

All four feet showed significant degree of damage
All four feet showed significant degree of damage


During a prolonged period of rain followed by heat and humidity, a small herd of wethers had been happily grazing in a very wet paddock for three weeks.  These animals are very well cared for with all husbandry and vaccination programs carried out on a regular basis.  The owner brought them in for their routine check including toenail trimming only to discover that all had varying degrees of pad loss but no sign of infection.  Of particular interest was that the damage to the feet of the white and lighter animals was far more extensive than the darker colours.   None of the animals was lame, all in excellent health, bright and alert and no obvious signs of discomfort.

Wound cleaning and dressing materials.
Wound cleaning and dressing materials.


First and foremost was to get them out of the wet paddock and on to a dry area almost devoid of any grass, and if necessary, supplementary feed them until the condition improved.   

The feet were thoroughly cleaned with diluted bleach/water and then dried.    A liberal amount of Betadine ointment was then applied and the pad covered with a non-stick dressing Melolin

To keep the dressings dry and in place the whole foot was wrapped in Vetwrap.  Each animal tolerated these dressings and they were kept in place for one week

All feet securely bandaged.  New boots, cute eh?
All feet securely bandaged. New boots, cute eh?

Conclusion.  After one week  being kept on dry ground and allowed to graze only on pasture when it was dry, the dressings were taken down to review progress and determine the way ahead.

Same foot one week later.
Same foot one week later.

Note the pad starting to granulate and the outer edges healing well.  All animals remain healthy but total healing will be slow but steady.  

This case is a salutary lesson to all alpaca owners and demonstrates the need for careful vigilance in prolonged wet conditions.

Acknowledgement:  Sincere thanks to the owner of these wethers who gave permission to share this experience with other alpaca owners

Reference:  Medicine and Surgery of South American Camelids,  Murray Fowler, DVM 2nd ed.    P.265