A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

March 10, 2009

Identifying Ticks


Leigh from Hill Country Alpacas  posted a comment to my March 8, 2009 blog entry “Warm Weather Wigglers” asking which type of ticks we have.


Good question Leigh!  We are fortunate that we do not have deer ticks in this part of the country.  Deer ticks are the type of tick that can carry Lyme Disease, a dangerous disease to both humans and alpacas.


The types of ticks we have in our area are the American Dog Tick and the Rocky Mountain Wood Tick.   


I have been fortunate enough (although perhaps it is a matter of opinion whether this is fortunate or not!) to have our small animal vet show me ticks in their various stages from egg to nymph to adult.   The eggs and nymphs of the American Dog Tick are tiny, adult Deer ticks themselves are tiny so imagine how small their eggs and nymphs are.  If the ticks are not gorged with blood they are small and brown, once engorged though they become large and have more of a grey color to them. 


With any tick related illness it is important to find the offending tick and remove it, which if you are dealing with deer ticks is quite a challenging task.  The tick paralysis that TeQueely contracted was most likely caused by a Rocky Mountain Wood Tick.  The tick paralysis occurs from contact with the saliva of the female tick.  Typically that type of paralysis starts at the front end of the alpaca and progresses backwards.  For TeQueely her front end was definitely affected the most and she still drags her front right leg a little as a result.  When TeQueely was at her worst her eardrums were also severely swollen, to this day I still cannot believe that they didn’t rupture and can only imagine the pain she must have been in.


There are many species of tick in the United States, if you are interested in trying to identify the type of ticks you are encountering there are a couple of websites that have excellent pictures of ticks.  One is courtesy of the Department of Entomology at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln



The other website is www.tickinfo.com , that not only has pictures of ticks but has some fascinating information on its home page as to the ability of ticks to locate their hosts or prey.


Hope the pictures and information don’t make your skin crawl!



August 20, 2008

Ticks or Mosquitoes – They Both Bring Trouble




 I had a call



 yesterday from an alpaca breeder who was concerned that one of her female alpacas was having a problem due to ticks.  The breeder had noticed her alpaca staggering as if she were drunk, she had also noticed her carrying one ear back and on checking the alpaca’s ears had found ticks in them, which she removed. 



Ticks can cause a condition commonly referred to as tick paralysis.  It is caused by the secretions of the female tick and can cause an alpaca to die if left untreated.  Unfortunately alpaca ears are an ideal environment for ticks to thrive in, and due to the anatomy of the alpaca ear, ticks can easily get into the area of the ear that cannot be seen by the human eye or even by using an otoscope.  I know of one alpaca breeder who having realized that one of her young alpacas was having a problem took her to a veterinary teaching hospital where under anesthesia they removed 16 ticks from the alpaca’s ears. 


In early 2006 we experienced a bad case of tick paralysis in one of our alpacas TeQueely. TeQueely’s story is one that illustrates not only how severe and life-threatening ticks can be, but also is testimony to TeQueely’s will to live.  Fortunately TeQueely’s story had a happy ending and this year she delighted us by producing her first cria, but there are other alpaca breeders who have not the same luck as we did.


I cannot stress enough how important it is to be vigilant for ticks in your alpacas ears, or on any other part of their body.  While not everyone has the skill or time to check every alpaca ear with an otoscope, the least they can do is treat the alpacas ears every month during active tick season and watch for signs of ticks at other times of the year.  I hate to recommend treating every month on a routine basis as over time the ticks could become resistant to the treatment you are using.  Certainly in TeQueely’s case Ivermectin, a commonly recommended treatment for parasites and ticks, was not effective at all on the ticks on our property.  We live in cattle country where I am sure Ivermectin has been used repeatedly over the years perhaps leading to a tick that is now resistant to Ivermectin.


We currently use Adams Fly Spray and Repellent for Horses for our ear tick treatment; another product used by some breeders is Catron IV.  With the Adams treatment we put 2 cc into each adult ear, 1.5 cc into each weanling ear and 0.5 cc (or even maybe less if the cria is tiny) into each cria’s ear.


The breeder who I spoke to yesterday took her alpaca into her vet who checked to make sure that all ticks that could be seen with an otoscope had been removed.  The breeder will now follow a plan of regular treatments and examinations of her alpaca’s ears to combat any new ticks that may hatch.  She has some work ahead of her, but it will be worth it if she restores her alpaca to full health.


While the breeder was at the vet, the vet also mentioned to her the possibility that the alpaca’s problem was West Nile Virus, a terrible virus that is carried by mosquitoes.  As a precaution the vet has taken blood samples from the alpaca for a Complete Blood Count and West Nile Virus testing.  The West Nile Virus test typically takes a few days which may be too late if the alpaca does have West Nile Virus, but the alpaca breeder is keeping a vigilant eye on her alpaca and if the alpaca seems to be deteriorating she will have the vet treat her for West Nile Virus. 


In New Mexico we have recently had heavy rains, over the weekend at our farm we had approximately 3.25 inches of rain in two days, which is unusual for us. The increase in water and moisture will lead to a surge in both the tick and mosquito populations and we will need to be alert to any signs of problems with the alpacas.  We have noticed that our dogs have recently been picking up ticks despite us treating them and the yard we keep them in, so we know the ticks are around.  I am sure it is only a matter of time before the mosquitoes start appearing too.


I will keep my fingers crossed that the breeders alpaca makes a full recovery, hopefully her actions of removing the ticks from her alpacas ears, consulting with her vet and treating the alpacas ears will prove to be fruitful.



June 11, 2008

A Little Praise for A Big Accomplishment

TeQueely\'s New Cria Cushed

Those were the words on a card we received on Monday afternoon.  The card was from our neighbor Darlene and the Big Accomplishment she was referring to was the birth of one special cria to our girl TeQueely.


We almost lost TeQueely when she was seven months old, she suffered tick paralysis at that time and it really was touch and go as to whether she would live.  As a result of the tick paralysis TeQueely could not stand for over a month.  With a lot of TLC we finally got TeQueely walking again, she has a bit of a funny gait these days, but at least she can walk.  (You can read a little more about TeQueely on my blog entry of December 6, 2007)


During TeQueely’s illness Darlene was a huge help.  She helped with chores, brought us extra pillows and blankets for TeQueely to lie on, sat with TeQueely to keep her company and even on one very cold weekend supplied us with a lovely thick down-filled horse blanket to help keep TeQueely warm.  Naturally Darlene is very attached to TeQueely and was excited when we announced that TeQueely was pregnant.


Following TeQueely’s illness, once she reached breeding age we discussed TeQueely’s situation with our vet prior to breeding her.   TeQueely does have slight nerve damage in her front right leg and we were not sure what other unseen nerve damage had occurred.  Our vet told us that he felt that TeQueely was sound to breed and so we bred her knowing that when the time came for her to give birth we would need to be extra vigilant.


TeQueely’s estimated due date was May26, a day which came and went with no sign of impending labor from TeQueely.


Just this past Sunday Darlene had dropped by for a visit.  She was concerned that TeQueely was overdue and worried that she was going to have birthing difficulties.  I reassured Darlene that all seemed well with TeQueely’s pregnancy and told her that we would just have to have faith that all would go well when it came time for the cria to be born.


The very next day, Monday June 9, 2008 TeQueely went into labor and delivered a beautiful fawn male cria.  The birthing went well, it was a little bit of a slow process but TeQueely delivered her cria without needing assistance.  Of course I called Darlene at work to let her know the good news as soon as I had the cria dried off and made sure that TeQueely was okay.


TeQueely’s cria is a lovely little guy, he has inherited the heavy bone of his sire, Windrush Jennifer’s Zindel and the expressive face of TeQueely.  His fleece has a long staple length and a lovely silky feel to it.  The cria’s ears must have been pressed flat for a while as both of them are inside out in appearance, but a couple of days of taping them into the right position will solve that problem.


TeQueely herself is doing well and proving to be a great dam.  She is very bonded to her cria and gets quite frantic when he trots off to play with the other crias, but who can blame her, for her cria is a great accomplishment indeed.



December 6, 2007

A Face Only A Mother Could Love?

Filed under: alpaca, Alpaca Care, Alpaca Health, Alpacas, camelids, Family, General — Tags: , , , , — alpacalady @ 7:00 am

My TeQueely

I recently showed the above photo to someone who had not seen alpacas before.  I keep that photo along with two or three others on my Palm Pilot and the photos are handy to show people who are not familiar with alpacas.

On this occasion the lady viewing the photos made the comment “that’s a face only a mother could love”.  I had to chuckle because that comment in some ways had more truth attached to it than the lady knew.

The photo is of our of our girls TeQueely, granted it is not the most flattering photo, but TeQueely is one very special alpaca and to see her face looking out at me from my Palm Pilot always gives my heart a lift.

When TeQueely was seven months old she contracted a tick paralysis – we nearly lost her, but a combination of a determined owner and alpaca with an incredible will to live brought TeQueely through her illness and today she is not only alive and well but due to have a cria of her own next spring.

As a result of the tick paralysis TeQueely was unable to stand up for approximately a month.  Her story is one that I am in the process of writing and is too long to fully recount here, but for weeks and weeks my life revolved around keeping TeQueely on the road to recovery and working with her so that she was able to walk again.  It was an incredible journey that taught me so much about how if an animal has the will to live anything is possible.

Today TeQueely walks with a limp, her top line is a little too rounded due to her improper gait and her toe nails on one side are always worn down, perhaps she truly is an animal “only a mother could love”.  Ironically her own mother abandoned TeQueely when she was sick, we believe that when Queen left TeQueely’s side that night she did so having given her up for dead.

The bond between TeQueely and myself is unique and a treasure, she will never be sold from our farm and will live out her days with us.  TeQueely knows full well that she is special to me and we have our little routine after morning chores when she sees me headed back to the house.  Her head goes up, her ears standing erect and she runs over to the gate to have the special treat I always give her.  Sometimes the treat is some fresh grass, other times leaves, sometimes a small handful of pellets, TeQueely doesn’t seem too concerned as to what the treat is, but she is concerned that it is there.  Interestingly she doesn’t do the same to Ric, if he’s doing the chores in the morning she goes about her usual business exploring the pasture and joining the other girls at the hayrack.

A face only a mother could love? Perhaps so, but hidden behind that face is a character and strength of will that many would admire, and I am forever grateful that I am the one fortunate enough to be that mother who loves that face.


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