How to determine signs of a sick alpaca.
Wouldn't it be great if alpacas had a way of telling us that they are unwell, maybe make a weird noise, or nip at our stomach when entering their paddock. Well alpacas may not be that obvious but they do have certain characteristics that tell us that they are unwell. Some signs are hard to distinguish between normal behaviour, and others are a dead (no pun intended) give away that there is something wrong.
The more time you spend around alpacas, the easier it is to determine what is normal every day behaviour and signs of a problem. Alpacas get used to routine, waiting at the gate in the morning for breakfast, waiting at the gate for dinner, etc. so anything out of routine, such as not eating at meal times, may need to be investigated.
Alpacas love to sun-bake on a nice sunny day by lying stretched out on their side. This is normal behaviour. If an alpaca is lying on their side on a cold day with no sun, or lying on their side, getting up, lying down again, rolling around, and generally looking like they cannot get comfortable, further observation might be needed as they may have colic which is a stomach upset.
Another sign to look out for is lethargic alpacas. If an alpaca allows you to walk up and handle it when it is usually wild and wants nothing to do with you, then it may be in need of attention. If an alpaca is constantly sitting down for extended times during the day is another sign.
Grass seeds are a problem for alpacas. They get into their eyes and ears and can cause great discomfort for the alpaca. Signs of grass seed problems are watery or discharging eyes. Further investigate by catching the alpaca, pulling down the lower lid and inspecting for either grass seeds or eye ulcers which are quite common in alpacas. If a grass seed is found, carefully remove and treat with eye ointment which can be purchased from a vet. Eye ulcers can also be treated with the same ointment. Below is a cria with a grass seed in her eye.
If an alpaca is shaking their head and maybe an ear down, it could be a sign of a grass seed in the ear. If this is the case it is best to consult your vet.
If you come across an alpaca with behaviour that is out of the ordinary, the best advice we could give is to call a vet. Alpacas are too precious to take a risk with and it's better to be safe than sorry.
Alpaca Maintenance - More information on alpacas
Putting weight on thin alpacas
Fencing for alpacas
How to determine signs of a sick alpaca
Basic first aid kit for alpacas
Alpaca body temperatures
Can cold and wet weather affect alpacas?
Making sense of the alpaca fibre analysis
Rye grass staggers
Taking the perfect alpaca photograph
Berserk male syndrome
Preparation for Winter
Keeping alpaca records
Alpacas need head-space
Testing for parasites
A Working Dog's Guide to Alpacas
Alpacas for Pets
Alpacas as Sheep Guardians