Vaccinations and Parasite Control
A guide to precautionary treatment of alpacas
Annual vaccinations will vary by region but there are certain basic ones that all herds should receive:
1. Cria should receive CDT and Lepto at two months with a booster at 3-6 months. Rabies vaccinations can be given at 3 months with the CDT and a booster one month later at four months. Equine Rhinovirus and Influenza vaccines may be given if commingled with horses. E. coli vaccinations may be given if this problem is documented in other prior cria.
2. Annual vaccinations for the whole herd should include CDT 7- or 8-way, Rabies* and Lepto. Lepto is probably only effective if given 2-4 times/year.
3. New animals may be given CDT, Lepto and Rabies boosters all in one month as a prophylactic measure.
4. Most veterinarians recommend prebirthing CDT and or Lepto and Rabies if necessary for females. There is much argument regarding these boosters for mothers--some vets prefer to boost them pre-breeding instead; others recommend none at all.
5. Some vets recommend that weanlings receive additional CDT boosters at 12 months as well.
*Rabies vaccinations are sometimes considered superfluous by certain veterinarians. What they often don’t take into account is possible attack by predators or rabies infected animals as well as exposure to rabies at shows and fairs. Remember, camelids spit and rabies is transmitted via saliva. Personally, I always felt the additional expense was worthwhile.
Lamas can acquire a wide range of both internal and external parasites. They can be transmitted from other lamas, wild animals (deer, raccoons etc.) as well as acquired from residual eggs left by livestock that occupied your farm before your lamas.
Recommendations from areas other than yours are meaningless. In consultation with your own veterinarian the best approach is to do frequent random fecal parasite egg counts during the first year until a clear prophylactic method is determined.
Wormings and vaccinations other than rabies (for insurance and outbreak reasons a veterinarian should do these) can be done by you if you’re not squeamish about “sticking” your animals. CDT, Lepto, antibiotics, hypodermics, syringes etc. are all available from mail order supply companies. Combined with your own administration, the veterinary cost savings can be tremendous depending upon herd size.
If you wish to do this yourself, a good veterinarian should be willing to teach you proper subcutaneous (Sub-Q) and intramuscular (IM) injection techniques, sites and recommend dosages. Sub-Q injections are placed between the dermal layer of skin and the muscle or body by pinching or tenting the skin. They are used with drugs that require slow absorption or may cause irritation if applied into muscle. IM injections are usually given in the muscular portion of the hip as it provides a big, safe target.
Always wash your hands thoroughly before and after any medical procedure with an anti-bacterial soap or solution. Only new sterile needles and syringes should be used. Never use a dirty or suspect needle and use a different needle for each animal. Some vets will say it’s ok to use the same needle on mother and cria, but needles are inexpensive so why take the risk.
Different meds and vitamins have different viscosity so you’ll probably need at least 2 gauges of needles- your veterinarian again can recommend the best size. Used needles are considered in most states as hazardous medical waste and must be disposed of properly. Laws vary by state but using an old chlorine bleach bottle with several inches of chlorine in the bottom is an inexpensive and safe way to store them. Safe boxes are also available from mail order supply companies. Some states will require you to give a filled container to your veterinarian for disposal while others allow you to dispose them in a closed container in landfill. Your veterinarian, County Extension agent or State Veterinarians office can inform you of the proper procedure.
Remember that some infections can be transmitted easily to humans (especially eye infections) and the reverse. A good safety procedure for you and your herd is to always wear disposable gloves. Used gloves, cotton balls, swabs, bandages etc. are also biohazard materials and must be collected and stored until disposal correctly. If animals become infected with contagious diseases, they must be quarantined away from all other animals and their waste products disposed of separately as well- do not compost their waste together. Use bleach on their manure/urine areas after cleanup to at least one foot beyond the visible area.
In areas where meningeal worm occurs (primarily east of the Mississippi and transmitted by white-tailed deer, more frequent wormings will be recommended by your veterinarian. This worm is transmitted through deer feces to snails or slugs which are then eaten by your grazing animals on forage. It affects the central nervous system and the brain with symptoms including (but not limited to) confusion, circling, and staggering. It can be lethal if not properly treated immediately. More importantly, prevention by adequate and strict wormings is critical. More frequent mowing of pasture to lower heights reduces the snail/slug population by exposure to sunlight. The addition of livestock guard dogs will not only keep deer from entering your pastures but most other animals which may carry disease as well. Geese love snails, slugs and other insects and produce huge, delicious eggs- not to mention being outstanding guard animals.
Follow the recommendations of your veterinarian in all matters related to the well-being of your alpacas and you can look forward to them enjoying a long and healthy life.
LaRue and Barbara Austin breed their alpacas at Ruebarb Alpacas, in Houghton, Allegany County, NY.
July 28, 2017