A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

April 15, 2007

Good News and Bad News – Cria Problem Solved

Filed under: alpaca, Alpaca Care, Alpaca Health, Alpaca Reproduction, Alpacas, camelids, Crias, General — alpacalady @ 7:56 am

Well it certainly seemed as if Friday night was a short one, by the time we got to bed it was 2:30 a.m. and we were up at 6:30 a.m. to do chores, but that’s the way life goes sometimes.

So I am sure many reading this are wondering how our friend’s little cria is doing.  Thankfully we heard from our friends on Saturday morning and the news is partially good. 

Prior to loading the cria and her dam in the trailer to take them to Oklahoma State University Veterinary Hospital our friends managed to see that the cria was able to pass a very small amount of urine.  There was a urethral opening after all but it was really tiny.  Our friends massaged the area where the urethral opening is and were able to assist the cria in expelling some urine.  In the meantime they also discovered that one of the vets who used to work on Camelids at Texas A & M University had set himself up to do occasional consultation on camelid cases and was now living about three hours from where the cria is.  (Note – Texas A & M University used to have a camelid program but sadly it was discontinued about two years ago.  We keep hearing rumours that the Texas A & M Camelid program is going to be reinstated but have heard nothing to confirm that rumour yet)

On the advice of the vets at Oklahoma State University our friends continued to feed the cria small amounts of milk from her dam every two hours throughout the night.  Unfortunately the dam is not allowing the cria to nurse which means the dam has to be milked out and the cria fed the milk using a feeding tube.  I say unfortunately but in some ways this may have been a good thing as it meant that the cria could be limited on her fluid intake until veterinary assistance was available.  Had her fluid intake been unlimited and her bladder not able to empty she may have eventually ruptured her bladder, so the ability to limit her fluid intake was a blessing in disguise.

Early this morning the cria was taken to the consultant vet.  He was familiar with the cria’s condition and was able to enlarge the urethral opening so the cria could urinate easily.  The vet feels that with the help of a course of antibiotics and some TLC the cria will be able to function well and should not have any more problems urinating. 

The not so good news is that the vet feels that this is a genetically heritable trait.  The dam of this cria has had a previous cria with a similar problem (although it was a milder case and the cria grew up without needing veterinary intervention).  Two crias with the same condition from the same dam is not a good thing and the vet has advised that the cria should not be bred.  Additionally the owners of the dam feel that it would not be right to breed the dam again or the other cria that has the same issue.  It is certainly a tough decision to make to pull three female alpacas from your breeding pool, but I personally feel that the owners are being responsible by doing so and applaud them for making their decision.

As of this afternoon the dam is still not allowing the cria to nurse.  Our friends are being persistent in working with the dam and the cria in the hopes that in a couple of days the two will bond and the cria will be able to nurse.

A lot of people who are unfamiliar with alpacas feel that it must be fun and cute to have a bottle fed cria, but it is in fact quite the contrary.  Typically alpaca crias do not take to the bottle well and it takes a lot of effort to get them fed.  Initially they need feeding every 2 hours around the clock, which is draining on the person doing the feeding especially if the cria is uncooperative about taking the bottle.  Some breeders use a feeding tube in this situation as it can be less stressful on the cria and helps to keep the bond between cria and dam stronger and cria and human weaker.  But even getting up to tube a cria every two hours is tiring.  Alpaca crias can also develop ulcers from the stress of being bottle fed which will cause them problems in later life.  Ask any alpaca breeder who has had to deal with a bottle fed cria, it is far from fun and cute.

Periodically we hear of people selling llama crias or sometimes alpaca crias without their dam as being ready to be bottle fed.  This is a terrible practice, the crias are undoubtedly stressed and somewhere there is a very distressed dam wondering where her cria is.  No reputable alpaca or llama breeder would sell crias as bottle fed “cuties”.  I can pretty much bet that there is no after sales support on crias sold in that situation and many will most likely not survive.

For now our friends will have sleepless nights looking after their cria, but hopefully she now has a good chance of survival and we know she will be raised with as much loving care as all of the other alpacas in our friends care.   Let’s just hope that in a couple of days dam and cria will bond and our friends can get some much deserved rest!


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