Health Resources

During shearing, I often come across both common and bizarre health issues in animals.  Some of them are so common and the treatments so widely discussed, that I want to share resources here to help owners struggling with some fairly common ailments.

Skin problems in alpacas

By far the most common issue I see in alpacas is loss of hair and “elephant skin”.  Without doing a skin scraping, you cannot know for sure what might be going on; however, the most common ailment seems to be chorioptic mites.  This excellent article by Dr. Ed McCaslin, DVM details an extensive study done on this.  The recommended treatment is Frontline Spray, applied for three treatments, three weeks apart.  It’s especially important to spray between the toes, even on the alpacas in your herd who do not show symptoms.

A second possibility may be a fungal infection.  I have known owners to treat with MTG (Mane and Tail), Nustock, or even home-made remedies containing tea tree oil.  I can’t attest to the effectiveness of these.

When the skin condition is severe (skin may looked like old, cracked leather and involve a great deal of hair loss), you may need to give antibiotics.  Please consult your veterinarian in all cases.


Lice are ubiquitous in Angora goats, but can also afflict other goats as well as sheep.  Check for lice by parting the hair in various parts of the body  – the lice usually appear as tiny brown specks…. that are moving!  (To date I have never seen lice on alpacas, which does not mean they cannot get them).  There are biting and sucking lice, and seeing both will make you feel itchy (but they do not transfer to humans, as much as you might feel creepy).  I’ve tried numerous solutions, and have found that the ivomec pour-on (the blue stuff) seems to be the most effective in eradicating them; however, you can also try ivomec injectable as well as python dust (please wear gloves!).
Articles on Lice:


Female alpacas in extremely poor condition

Sometimes the cause of a thin animal is pretty darned simple:  he’s just not getting enough to eat. Does your animal have continuous access to good quality hay?  If there are numerous competitors for food, is the hay in a variety of locations?  Low-ranking animals will prefer to eat farther away from the herd and if the food is only in one spot, the ‘bullies’ will hoard it all.

There may be other issues going on, though, as well.  The first thing to check is teeth.  Does your animal HAVE teeth?  As they age, animals can lose some of their molars, making chewing and grinding hay nearly impossible.  They can also develop spurs or points, making chewing somewhat painful and thus creating an aversion to eating. The lower incisors can be a factor – long incisors in alpacas can prevent them from efficiently grabbing grass, and the total lack of incisors means the animal must force the food into his mouth using his gums.

Many times, elderly animals need to be fed a soft mash (soak their pellets in hot water for a good 15-20 minutes so it is very palatable and can be gummed rather than chewed).

Nursing mothers tend to give all they have to produce milk for their babies; you need to increase their food rations!

TOUCH YOUR ANIMALS!  Get your hands on your animals at least once a month and perform a body condition score.  Here are some excellent resources on how to score your animals:

I will continue to add to this article, as there are many concerns animal owners have and they so often come up during shearing since that is when the fiber comes off and the skin is revealed!



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