Katie Hennessy

Common problems seen in Central Florida Camelids

By Dr Katie Hennessy

Camelids (llamas and alpacas) are becoming increasingly popular pets in central Florida. These animals are native to the high altitudes and relatively dry climates in South America where the days are hot and the nights are sub-zero. Central Florida, however, has a much more humid climate and it rarely freezes, which can cause some difficulty for these animals.

Parasites can be an issue when their space is overcrowded, the pasture is overgrazed or different age groups are mixed. Parasites such as liver flukes and gastrointestinal parasites can cause trouble when they overload the animal. Fecal egg counts, a flock parasite control plan, and appropriate biosecurity measures should be taken into account when managing them.

Alpacas and llamas generally have designated toilet areas which helps decrease contamination of the grazing areas. However, fecal egg screening tests should be performed at least twice per year. Some signs of heavy parasite burdens include poor weight gain, colic and diarrhea.

Camelids can be infected with the same neurological viruses that cause disease in other mammals such as rabies and West Nile Virus. They are also susceptible to clostridial diseases which includes tetanus. Luckily, many of these diseases can be vaccinated against using equine or ruminant vaccines, these are an off-label use of the vaccinations and their efficacy cannot be guaranteed though they do appear effective.

Alpacas and Llamas should be fed a well balanced diet that is formulated specifically for camelids. Clean, fresh water and a grass hay should also be provided. Depending on the specific animal, some do need additional supplements. In addition, they need to be sheared 1-2 times a year, have plenty of shade and water sprinklers to help them manage the heat.

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