An abcess is a round, hard swollen area - actually a pocket of pus which is formed from dead tissue cells after an injury which becomes infected. When located on the jaw, it can actually look like the llama or alpaca is holding a mouthful of cud. Like a boil, when the abscess is full, it will burst or need to be lanced. After the pus has been expressed, daily flushings with hydrogen peroxide followed by applications of Nolvisan will most likely show improvement. Healing can seem rather slow since an abscess heals from the inside out.

Aggressive Behavior

Often referred to as Berserk Male Syndrome, this is unacceptable behavior that is commonly seen in animals that have been overly handled by humans and "kitchy-koo'd" at birth or bottle fed. Signs may be jumping or rearing up, pulling on your clothes, and charging you in the pasture when they are older. Very dangerous.

Alfalfa, feeding

Most vets recommend feeding a good quality, dust free grass hay, 10-12% protein. Alfalfa is thought to be too rich for alpacas and too high in protein. When feeding alfalfa, it is possible to upset the calcium/phosphorous balance - especially during the first year of the crias life when bone development is so crucial. Urine scald from the high acid content of alfalfa has also been experienced. Some breeders have also experienced a blocked ureter in male alpacas from calcium deposits attributed to feeding alfalfa.


The term used for bald spots. Most common is the bare spot on the ridge of the nose - more common in summer months and caused by fly irritation and rubbing. Some owners have found improvement by applying Vitamin E Oil, Vaseline, or Preparation H to the area. It normally grows back in winter months. If the area with hair loss is crusty, flaky, thickened or reddened, ringworm, mange, a type of fungus, or zinc responsive skin disease may be suspected. When fleece is coming out or breaking off but not leaving a bald spot, it may be due to shedding or fiber break.


May be suspected by observing weight loss. The addition of Lixitinic or Red Cell to your feeding will help build the animal back up.

Angular Limb Deformity

The deviation of a limb - either outwards or inward. Can be congenital or acquired.


Blue Eyes

A llama/alpaca may exhibit one blue eye or even both eyes may be blue. Some eyes are so striking, they appear almost white due to the lack of pigment and sometimes are referred to as a glass eye. Although considered a blemish rather than a fault by the show association, a blue eye is not considered a desireable trait by llama/alpaca breeders and the blemish may be inherited. Studies have been done regarding the association of a blue eye on a white haired animal causing deafness.



Signs include gagging, coughing, and regurgitating. Most often it is from eating grain too rapidly or it may be due to the type of grain being fed. Pellets should be rather hard and small in diameter. Feeding management can help immensely by feeding in long troughs rather than in deep dishes which enables them to get large mouthfuls. You can help work it out with upward movements on the neck area. A more serious disorder which may have choking signs is Megaesophagus.

Coanal Atresia

Although quite rare, this respiratory defect atresia is probably the most well known birth defect in camelids. At birth, an obstruction is present between the nasal cavity and the throat which prevents the cria from breathing with its mouth closed. As a result, they cannot nurse and breathe at the same time.


More common in young animals, it is spread through the feces of an animal which has the disease or is a carrier, but may show no signs of illness itself. The primary sign is diarrhea. Several cases show blood in the diarrhea, depression, and weight loss. This most commonly occurs when animals are crowded into small pens or where unsanitary conditions exist. Treatment may be Corid added to the drinking water and all other water sources eliminated.


A belly ache or discomfort in the abdomen. Signs may be obvious discomfort, laying flat out on the side with neck stretched back, changing sides often, kicking at the abdomen, straining at the poop pile and maybe producing dry looking "beans", or grinding the teeth.

Color Genetics

Interesting and detailed information on the genetics producing specific colors in many species of animals. Any hair or wool animal is readable. See National Color Breeders Research Foundation, Color Genetics in Icelandic Sheep.


Cause can vary from infectious to environmental irritants. Commonly seen in summer months, the cause can often be from insect bites - specifically flies. The eye will appear red, swollen - sometimes almost swollen shut - and will display a discharge. This usually resolves rapidly with the application of a topical ointment prescribed by your veterinarian. If this doesn't cure it, the cause may be due to some foreign body, environmental irritant, or parasite and should be diagnosed by your veterinarian.

Cria Care & Nursing Problems

Suggestions on the birthing and care of the newborn cria, bottle feeding, and moms without milk. Birthing slide show.

Cria Emergency Warming

How to quickly warm the newborn cria.


The food brought up from the first compartment of the stomach of the llama/alpaca, into the mouth, to be chewed over again at the animal's leisure. See more detail under Digestive System.


A birth defect resulting in one large eye. More info.



Deafness may be possibly caused with the presence of a severe ear infection. Also studies have been done regarding the association of a blue eye and white hair causing deafness.


A suggested deworming program begins with doing a fecal exam in the spring to see what parasites you may be dealing with. A variety of dewormers may be used - such as Ivomec (cattle-injectible), Valbazen (paste), Panacur (paste), or Synanthic. A small herd may be treated 3-4 times a year, a medium to large size herd 4-6 times a year. If your farm has a number of visiting animals in and out for outside breedings, 4-H animals coming and going, or crowded pastures, it may be necessary to use a more aggressive deworming program.

Diatomaceous Earth

DE (for short) is the remains of microscopic one-celled plants (phytoplankton) called diatoms that lived in the oceans that once covered the western part of the United States and other parts of the world. Natural DE also makes a very effective natural insecticide, due to the razor sharp edges of the diatom remains.

Digestive System

The unique digestive system of an llama/alpaca contains one stomach with three compartments. Food is taken in through the esophagus and stored in the first compartment called the rumen. They regurgitate their food to re-chew it. You can observe a bubble-like lump coming up the front of the neck when they bring up their cud. They then chew it with their back teeth in a figure eight motion - normally chewing 55-75 times. They swallow it again, wait about eight seconds, and then bring up another cud to chew.

Drooping Eyelid

Some llamas/alpacas tend to exhibit the drooping eye when they are somewhat stressed. This can also be a genetic trait and you will see it all the time. If you only notice it on occasion, notice what is happening each time - the animal is probably showing a slight stress to the situation. If it continues, the animal is probably prone to drooping lids. Not the best trait in the world, but not earth shattering either.


Elephant Skin

Patches of hair loss on the body of the llama/alpaca. Skin is dry, crusty, and bald.

Epe (Eperythrozoonosis)

This is a disease caused by a bacterium called Eperythrozoonosis suis which attaches to the surface of red blood cells and sometimes destroys them. Symptoms include anemia, watery blood, staggery, sluggish, stiffness in hindquarters, collapse.

Eye Infection

Causes can vary from environmental to infectious irritations. See conjunctivitis.



Avoid planting fescue in your pasture. Although some breeders claim to have their herds on pastures of fescue with no problems, others report fescue is the cause of reproductive problems such as abortions and premature births. Fescue is also said to elevate the body temperature in llamas/alpacas. The problem stems from a fungus on the fescue called endophyte. Further info on Fescue Toxicity.

Fighting Teeth

Male llamas/alpacas develop six very sharp fighting teeth, two up and one down on each side, at approximately two years of age which can be very dangerous when competitive males are together. These teeth can easily be removed with an OB wire either with or without a slight sedative.

Foaming Mouth

Sometimes in summer months, some llamas/alpacas may develop a white foam around their mouth as they lay and chew their cud. This can be due to a substance in the clover called slaframin, also called Black Patch Disease. It also could be due to an injury in the mouth or possibly a poisonous plant so the animal should be checked for normal behaviors.


"Within the ovary are all the eggs the llama/alpaca will have during her lifetime. The vast majority of these eggs (primary follicles) will never develop, while a few will develop into more mature secondary follicles. A few of the secondary follicles will develop even further into mature Graafian follicles, fluid filled structures up to a quarter of an inch in diameter. The Graffian follicle contains the mature egg that can be fertilized following ovulation. If ovulation doesn't take place, the follicle will degenerate and be replaced by another follicle."(Dr. Brad Smith)


GnRH - Gonadotropin Releasing Hormone

"What is GnRH? Gonadotropin releasing hormone. The commercial product brand name is CYSTORELIN. Cystorelin is a sterile solution containing 50 micrograms of gonadorelin. Gonadorelin is the hypothalmic releasing factor responsible for the release of gonadotropins (e.g. FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) and LH (luteinizing hormone)), from the anterior pituitary. Synthetic gonadorelin is physiologically and chemically identical to the endogenous bovine hypothalmic releasing factor. Cystorelin has been shown to be safe.


Hair Loss

All llamas/alpacas periodically lose hairs as new hairs are emerging from hair follicles. More intense shedding of neck fiber, particularly in short fleeced llamas/alpacas, may occur around 18 months of age and probably will not grow back to the youth length. Fleece breaking off at a very short length and coming out in handfuls may be caused by a stressful occasion, heat, illness, nutrition, or even birthing. Whatever the stress that caused damage to the hair follicle, probably occurred 3-5 months before you noticed the fiber break.

Hand Spinning

Hand spinning is the art of twisting natural fibers into a continuous consistent thread. This process can be done by hand or by use of a spinning wheel. Threads can be spun thick or thin and plied together or left as a single strand. The finished yarns can later be dyed or left natural. Hand spun yarn can be used for a variety of textiles i.e. knitting, crocheting, felting, and weaving projects. You can also use raw fiber (unprocessed fiber shorn directly from an alpaca) for knitting, weaving and felting.


Good quality, dust free grass hay with a protein level of 10-12% is recommended for feeding alpacas. Alfalfa, on a day to day basis, is thought to be too rich for alpacas and too high in protein. Alfalfa will possibly cause the calcium level to go high, the phosphorus level to go too low, can cause urine scald, and can cause calcium deposits resulting in a block ureter. A steady diet of alfalfa also may be responsible for obesity in the llama/alpaca.

Heat Stress

Llamas/Apacas need extra care in hot humid weather. Always provide cool, clean water, a shaded area, and fans to keep the air moving. Long fibered animals may be sheared. Cool the animal's legs and belly with the hose - some will lay in a child's wading pool. Offer a bucket with electrolytes in addition to their fresh water. Feed a good quality hay and grain for easy digestion - good nutrition is just as important in hot weather if not more so. Plan breeding and birthing for the cooler months of the year.



IgG (immunoglobulin G) is an antibody produced by the mother llama/alpaca in her udder towards the end of her pregnancy and passed to her cria in the very first milk - the thick, sticky colostrum. The maternal first milk is so very important due to the fact that the IgG content of the first milking is double that of the second milking. Since the newborn cria has no immune system of its own, it is most important that the cria first nurse during the first six hours after birth and get an adequate amount of colostrum.



A disease causing abortions, diarrhea, fever, bloody urine, and depression.

LH - Luteinizing Hormone

"The breeding stimulus causes the release of a hormone from the pituitary, a gland at the base of the brain. This hormone (luteinizing hormone or LH) in turn, causes the mature follicle to rupture and release the egg into the oviduct, where it is fertilized. Following this release (ovulation), the follicle fills with blood, the cells of the follicle undergo a reorganization and become a temporary hormone secreting tissue, the corpus luteum or CL. The prime hormone produced by the corpus luteum is progesterone, the most important hormone during pregnancy.


There are two kinds of this tiny wingless insect that attacks the llama/alpaca - the sucking louse which feeds entirely on blood and can cause anemia and the biting louse which nibble on hair and debris on the alpaca's skin surface. Lice can be spread among the animals by direct contact or by close housing quarters. Signs of lice include rubbing the affected areas, dandruff, and fiber loss in large patches. Watch for lice especially during the winter months when the llamas are usually in close quarters.

Lump On Jaw

Occasionally you may notice a hard lump develop on the cheek along the jaw line. This can be especially concerning to new llama/alpaca owners, but it can actually turn out to be nothing more than the llama/alpaca holding a nice large wad of cud in their cheek to enjoy at a later time. Anything to alarm their new owners!!!! However a lump can also indicate an abcess or a tooth problem, so further investigation is advised.


Mad Cow Disease

Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy.


Mange is a contagious skin disease caused by one of a variety of mites that live on the animal. It is transmitted by direct contact with diseased animals or indirectly by contaminated quarters or even dust baths. The mite's entire life cycle is on the animal and two to three weeks may be required to complete the life cycle. The Sarcoptic mange is caused specifically by Sarcoptes scabeii. The mite burrows into the outer layer of skin in areas without much hair such as the legs, ears, and belly.


A condition of the esophagus, the main sign is regurgitation and choking after swallowing. Generally affected animals are smaller and unthrifty. Associated signs are cough, fever, weight loss, and nasal discharge. Veterinary consultation is necessary.

Meningeal Worm

The larvae of this parasite is passed in the feces of the white tailed deer. The larvae then enter ground snails which can be ingested by llamas and alpacas in the pasture. The larvae then migrate throughout the spinal cord and the brain causing damage to the central nervous system. There is no way to diagnose Meningeal Worm definitely, but sometimes symptoms can be treated effectively. Most common symptoms are rear leg weakness, lameness, staggering and stiffness, circling, abnormal head position, and gradual weight loss.



Parasites can be both external and internal. External parasites may be fleas, ticks, mites, or lice. (see specific names for details). Internal parasites may be kept under control with good herd management starting with a good nutritional program, feeding up off the ground, good sanitation, pasture rotation, and a good deworming program for your area and the weather. Signs of internal parasites may be a general lethargy, weight loss, a depressed stance, and ploppy stools or diarrhea.


The pastern is the lower joint on the legs.


Pastures should be seeded with an all round mixture of grass hay. Use caution when considering fescue or alfalfa in your pasture. (See Alfalfa and Fescue)



Throwing up, gagging, coughing, and choking after eating probably is from eating grain too rapidly, the type of pellet, or feeding management. See choking.


A bald spot, usually crusty or scaly, caused by a fungus that grows in the hair and hair follicle. Not an actual worm or parasite. It can be easily treated with topical Betadine or Iodine applied to the area. Your vet can confirm diagnosis with a culture or a microscopic exam. It is contagious to other animals and people - wash your hands well after treatment.

Ryegrass Staggers

A disease caused from eating rye grass infected with endophyte fungus. Signs include tremors, shaking head and neck, stiffness, falling, incoordination, saw-horse stance, and swaying.



Excessive drooling and salivation can be associated with the presence of Black Patch Disease - or slaframine in red clover.


Because of the curious nature of the llama/alpaca, snake bites on the nose are quite common. If you are in an area with rattlesnakes, have your medical kit ready.

Sudan Grass

A fine stemmed and leafy plant with very quick regrowth. Can be used for pastures and forage but there are some cautions as it may be poisonous under certain conditions.


Tipped Ears

Tipped ears are when just the very end tip of the ear folds over rather than standing up straight. Tipped or floppy ears occur occasionally on a newborn llama/alpaca - more often on a premature cria. Normally they will correct themselves on their own within a short time, but sometimes helpful support is beneficial to assure that a straight ear is the end result.


Toenail trimming should be part of your routine herd management program. Just how often llama's/alpaca's nails need trimming depends on each animal and also the surface they walk on. If they walk over concrete or are on the trail alot, their nails will file down somewhat and probably need trimming less often than those animals that are on soft pasture all the time. Long nails will extend beyond the pad on the foot. If extremely long, they may fold over or curve causing lameness or pain. Trim the nail back just even with the pad using a nail trimmer similar to pruning shears.


Urine Scald

An irritated red or raw area appears under the animal's tail from strong urine. Sometimes it seems to occur from the high calcium content of alfalfa hay. Just applying a coat of Vaseline, Desitin, or Bag Balm (for cattle udders) should clear it up. If severe, perhaps the diet should be adjusted.


Stones in the urinary tract. Normally caused by diet, a blockage can occur in the urethra. Death can occur.

Uterine Prolapse

Prolapse occurs.

Uterine Torsion

A condition where the pregnant uterine horns rotate from their normal position. The twist is normally located near the cervix. This prevents the cervix from dilating and will prevent birth if it is not corrected.



Vaccinate llamas/alpacas annually with CD/T, a clostridium/tetanus immunization. Administered SQ, consult your vet for the proper dosage. A 7-Way or 8-Way is also a suitable vaccination, but some breeders feel the CD/T is enough. A good time for vaccinating is in the spring before the weather gets hot. Do not vaccinate any pregnant females within 60 days of birthing or within 60 days after breeding. Another booster vaccination should also be given to an expectant mother about 60 days prior to the delivery date to increase the antibodies in the colostrum.


Weeds In Pastures

A picture guide for identification of weeds.

West Nile Virus

A type of virus transmitted by mosquitoes.