A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

September 11, 2008

Aches and Pains of Middle Age


Chai Keeping Weight Off Her Sore Leg

Chai Keeping Weight Off Her Sore Leg

With alpacas having been in the United States since the 1980’s the national herd population now includes some aging alpacas.  We have one boy on our farm, Cristobal, who is 16 years old and doesn’t think he is a day over 3!  He is healthy and strong and doesn’t show any signs of health issues (touch wood!).


As the alpaca herd ages it is inevitable that problems associated with age will start to appear.  Just as with humans good nutrition, exercise and good care all go a long way to ensuring a productive and healthy life for an alpaca, but sometimes despite the best management problems will still occur.


Our alpaca Chai is seven years old, I guess seven to be about the middle age point for alpacas.  It seems to be an age at which alpacas can start to show signs of aging, and we have even experienced some deaths around the age of seven.  It is odd, but it almost seems to be some sort of landmark in an alpaca’s life.


Chai had been favoring her left rear leg a couple of weeks ago.  Initially we thought she had a fire ant bite, but the pain from a fire ant bite dies down within an hour or two and Chai was still favoring the leg as the day went on.   As will often happen, Chai started showing symptoms after the vet’s office was closed for the weekend.  We were pretty certain her leg issue was not life threatening and so we gave her some banamine and a photonic red light treatment to see if it would make her more comfortable, with the intention of taking her to the vet if she was no better by Monday morning.  The treatment helped and by Monday morning she was walking well and so we decided against taking her to the vet. 


Chai continued to do well until this past Monday when we noticed she was again favoring her leg, so we made an appointment for her to see the vet so that we could get to the bottom of her problem.


Bright and early on Tuesday morning Chai and I headed off to the vets for our appointment.  As Chai loaded into the trailer she did not even try to use her leg and she was obviously in pain.


On arriving at the vets I unloaded Chai from the trailer so that he could see how she was walking.  This time there was a complete contrast in her use of her leg.  She hopped out of the trailer and walked so well that the vet had to ask me which leg was the problem.  It had only been about 20 minutes since we had left home, how strange.


After examining Chai’s leg our vet felt that the issue lay in the fetlock area of her left rear leg.  He decided to x-ray the leg and after looking at the x-ray he decided to x-ray Chai’s good leg as a comparison.  Once our vet looked at the two x-rays side by side Chai’s problem was immediately apparent – she has arthritis.


Ric had noticed that on both occasions that Chai had favored her leg the weather had been cooler and damp and he wondered if arthritis was the problem.  The morning that I took Chai to the vet was also cool and damp and the night before had been definitely chilly, which no doubt aggravated her arthritis.   Maybe by the time the vet saw Chai she had moved enough on her leg that she had worked out any morning stiffness.


I reminded our vet that Chai had traveling joint pain toward the end of her last pregnancy and asked if there could be a connection between her being pregnant (which we believe she is) and the flaring up of her arthritis.  Our vet said it was quite possible that there was a hormonal effect involved.


Our vet said that Chai’s arthritis is in the early stages and so he feels for now a good course of action would be to put her on a joint health supplement, with the occasional use of banamine if she has a bad day.  Over time if Chai’s arthritis becomes more problematic we could resort to steroid shots, but there are some excellent joint supplements available and hopefully with regular use we can keep Chai pain free and stop any rapid progression of her arthritis.


For now we are giving Chai some Glucosamine/Chrondroitin mix that we had on hand in the house, but after doing some research on the various products available I have ordered some of Dr. Pollards Arthritis Formula.  I wanted something that I knew was absolutely safe for alpacas and many of the joint formulas I researched had added ingredients that I was not familiar with.  Dr Robert Pollard has been using homeopathic medicines in Camelids for many years, he has thorough knowledge of homeopathy and his products are high quality and safe for alpacas, to me his Arthritis Formula was the best choice. 


Hopefully we will get the Arthritis Formula in the next couple of days and we can get Chai started on a more comfortable life.  It will probably take a little time to work on her system, but I am hopeful that it will help her.  Until then we will carry on with the Glucosamine and Chrondroitin mix, photonic red light therapy and the occasional shot of banamine if she appears to be having a bad day, all wrapped up with a good dose of TLC of course.




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