A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

April 1, 2008

Oh Dear – Diarrhea

Skylar Moon
As a caretaker for livestock I find myself having a different focus on subjects that at one time would have not held any interest at all.   Several years ago I could never have imagined that I would find myself writing about diarrhea and then posting my writing on the internet for the world to see!  It’s funny how life leads you along some strange paths sometimes.

Our quarantine pen currently houses three dams and two crias.  The dams are here for breeding and the crias are still nursing from their dams and so came along too.  The little herd will have been in quarantine three weeks at the end of this week and all was looking good until Saturday when one of the crias started with diarrhea.

Cria diarrhea is something that happens for a variety of reasons, some more serious than others.  We always pay close attention to a cria that has diarrhea, and when that cria doesn’t belong to you it drives home how responsible you are for that alpaca.

At our farm we don’t rush into instant panic when we see a cria starting with diarrhea.  Crias pick up things as they nibble around the pasture, their little rumens can also be adjusting as they start to try eating grain or a larger volume of hay and sometimes diarrhea is the consequence of their exploration.

If the cria is running a fever my concern level is higher, fevers tell us that the body is busy fighting something.  Taking a sick alpaca’s temperature, heart rate and respiration can all give you clues as to what might be the problem.

In the case of the cria in the quarantine pen, Skylar, he was not running a fever, was still active and was eating hay well.  The day before Skylar had eaten some of the alpaca pellets that we feed.  Skylar’s owners had told us that Skylar was not really eating many pellets yet, not unusual behavior for a cria of his age, so when we had seen him eating more pellets than usual we were not completely surprised when he had loose poop the next day.  Having established that Skylar was otherwise okay we decided to first try him on MSE drench to help stimulate the good bacteria in his rumen and help him cope with digesting new foods.  We also gave him a photonic red light treatment that has good results on cria diarrhea.

By the next day the diarrhea was less and so we repeated the MSE drench and photonic red light treatment.  Yesterday morning though Skylar’s poop was getting looser so it was time to try something else and we started him on a course of antibiotics.  By the evening he was showing improvement and so we suspect that the cause of his problem may be either bacterial or coccidiosis. 

Coccidiosis is caused by a small parasite that can be carried by other alpacas or by birds.  At this time of the year when the birds are very active it is not unusual for us to see a case or two of coccidiosis.  As hard as we try to keep the water buckets clear of bird poop the birds do drink from them during the day and being birds they often poop in the water.  If the bird is carrying coccidia and an alpaca then drinks from that water the alpaca may introduce the coccidia into its system possibly resulting in coccidiosis.

As we have had one cria start with diarrhea it is possible that coccidiosis is present in other alpacas in the herd.  We had noticed some “ball stools” in the pasture as opposed to the usual alpaca beans and this can be an indication that coccidiosis is present.

For the next five days we will treat the whole herd against coccidiosis by adding a treatment medicine to their water.  It is an easy process, and with the exception of Griffin the llama (who spent yesterday turning the automatic waterers back on so that she could gain access to plain water) the alpacas drink the treated water without a problem.

Naturally we have notified Skylars owners of his condition, when you are caring for someone else’s alpacas I feel it is best to notify them straight away of any issues with their alpacas.  I know I wouldn’t be too pleased if I found out several days after the event that my alpaca had been sick.

If Skylar continues to improve as he did today he will soon be back to normal and by starting a proactive treatment of the whole herd we will hopefully avoid anyone else starting with the same problem.   

Rosemary

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