Alpaca diseases

Compared with other livestock, Alpacas are relatively disease free. Because of their dry fleece and naturally clean breech, fly strike is not an issue with Alpacas. They do not require mulesing or crutching.

They are vaccinated twice yearly with the same "5 in 1" vaccine used for sheep and goats to protect against tetanus, pulpy kidney, black leg, black disease and malignant oedema.

Likewise, Alpaca owners need to be aware if their animals are in a 'sporidesmin' area. Sporidesmin is a toxin in a fungus that causes facial eczema, which could be fatal. However, it is confined to specific geographic locations and is easily managed by not allowing animals to graze on affected pastures during warm and humid weather.

In the past 10 years, there have been a handful of cases of Bovine Johne's Disease (JD). Many breeders are taking part in the National JD M.A.P. (Market Assurance Program) which will provide assurance of their animals' health status.

Facial Eczema

Facial eczema is a disease process caused by a fungus, Pithomyces chartarum, that produces spores as part of its reproductive process. These spores contain a chemical called sporidesmin, which is the toxic compound that causes disease.

The spores are found in the leaf litter of pasture and are consumed by the alpaca when it eats the pasture. On entering the stomach the spores are broken down and the toxin is absorbed across the stomach lining, into the venous bloodstream. The venous blood from the stomach flows directly back to the liver, where the sporidesmin toxin undergoes an enzyme oxidation and reduction pathway within the liver cells, the by-products of which are oxygen free radicals. The free radicals released by this process cause damage (necrosis) of the liver cells and the cells of the biliary system within the liver.

This liver damage causes the disease process of Facial Eczema by reducing the ability of the liver to process normal metabolic and digestive toxins, leading to a build-up of these toxins within the bloodstream. Many of these toxins are photodynamic (react with UV light) causing damage to the blood vessels that they are flowing through. The more serious diseases seen with Facial Eczema are related to complete liver failure.

Restrictions of animal movements may apply, particularly between some states.

When buying Alpacas for breeding purposes it is advisable to arrange a veterinary check to ensure you are buying a healthy animal.


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