Thursday, April 5, 2012

Llama Medical Management

Continued from ILA Educational Brochure #4

(Note... This was one of a series of educational brochures put out by the ILA, and now published by ILR. I apologize to our alpaca owners for the "Il" llama, but I think most of this will be pertaining to alpacas as well as llamas)


Most llamas can be restricted or trained to submit to simple examination and medication. The various levels of restraint are 1) halter and lead rope, 2) earing, 3) securing in a chute, and 4) chemical immobilization. The owner may be prepared to administer the first three, but it is unwise for an untrained person to use sedatives or anesthetic agents. Stocks and chutes designed for llamas are available, or are easily constructed. Another common method of restraint is to press the llama against a solid wall while "earing" it as follows. Standing at the llamas shoulder, hold the halter and squeeze the base of an ear without twisting it. Hold on tightly. The llama will probably try to pull away. If additional restraint is necessary, the handler may release the halter and grasp both ears. Applied in this manner, there will be no injury to the ear. The discomfort experienced by the llama diverts its attention from other manipulations such as taking the rectal temperature, conducting a rectal examination, or collecting blood from a vein. The llama will not become head shy as a result of "proper" earing. Holding the tail simultaneously may also help. (Ed. note: Instead of "earing,” I use the TTEAM method of massage, and the llamas tend to relax rather then have "discomfort.")
Llamas seldom kick, but some do. Most of the time, they kick the hind leg forward and outward like a cow, but some are capable of kicking directly backwards. The safest place to stand is at the shoulder. To take the rectal temperature without the aid of a chute, have someone control the head and press the llama against a solid wall. Stand at the side and lift the tail, insert the moistened thermometer with a slight twisting motion for a distance of two inches, and leave it in place for three minutes.

Recognizing a Sick Llama

Observation is the key to early detection of illness. Llamas are stoic in many ways and by the time they begin to exhibit outward signs of disease, they may already be quite ill. If the rectal temperature is over 103 F, except on a warm day or after vigorous exercise, recheck it. A llama that doesn't eat for more than a day requires attention. Llamas on green pasture may require less water, but something is wrong if they refuse food. Other signs that should prompt further investigation include significant weight loss, diarrhea, difficult breathing, getting up and down frequently, or otherwise acting uncomfortable. To check for weight loss, feel the backbone and the top of the withers periodically. A significant loss of wool, with or without thickening of the skin or scabs, also warrants closer examination. With neonates, floppy ears may signify anything from frostbite to prematurity, dehydration, pneumonia, septicemia, or insufficient milk supply. Lameness or refusal to get up is another indication of illness. It is normal for a female about to deliver a baby to get up and down repeatedly. Abnormal head tilt, head shaking, tearing, slobbering, and a host of other signs alert the wise owner. None of the above signs necessarily portend disaster, however, if observed, communicate immediately with a veterinarian as to what steps to take.

Parasite Control

Llamas may acquire both internal and external Parasites. They share some species of nematodes (worms) with cattle and sheep. Management and control practices are similar to those for cattle and sheep. Some of the more important internal parasites in North America include stomach worms (Haemonchus, Ostertagia and
Trichostronglus), thread, necked strongyles (Nematodirus), nodular worms (Oesophagostomum), whip worm (Thichuris), liver flukes (Fasciola), and meningeal worms (Parelaphostrongylus).
Ticks are fairly uncommon on llamas, but should be checked for if they are a problem in your area. Lice may be either of the sucking or chewing variety and are unique to llamas. Unthriftiness, wool loss, and scratching are the usual signs. The tiny (1-2mm) lice are commonly found on the skin along the backbone and around the base of the tail.
The treatment of parasitic infestations varies with the parasite, geographical location, and the management practices used. Most llamas should be dewormed once or twice a year. Periodic fecal examinations for parasite ova should be conducted to monitor the effectiveness of the treatment.

(Ed Note: In areas where Meningeal worm occurs, it is recommended that injectable ivemectin at a dose of 1cc per 70 lbs is given as a preventative every 3-4 weeks. There have been a number of animals lost this summer because they were not on a regular deworming program.)

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