Caring for older animals

Caring for older llamas and alpacas

Since llamas and alpacas have been popular in the United States now for nearly 35 years we have a lot of senior animals in our herds.  These senior animals often require special care and should be watched closely to be sure they have the best care possible.   Some of the things we need to be aware of include arthritis, over or under weight, poor teeth, lower tolerance for extreme temperatures and more susceptibility to parasites.

Arthritis is fairly common in older animals and will express itself in fallen pasterns, stiffer joints in cold weather, and animals who don't want to move around as much.  Unfortunately these conditions can't be cured but they can be managed.  The arthritis herbal formula  developed by Dr. Pollard was the one that worked best on our older animals.  There are other formulas on the market for horses that you might try that include glucosamine and chondroitin. Keeping animals active and warm during colder weather also helps and in extreme cases you may want to consult a veterinarian for mild pain killers.

Overweight animals can be a big issue with some older animals and the best fix for that is a good diet and plenty of exercise.  If possible put the water and the feed at opposite ends of the field forcing older animals to move between the two areas.  Eliminate grain from their diet and make them clean up the good quality hay before giving them more so the eat the stems as well as the leaves.

Under weight animals, of course, need more feed.  Our vet recommends feeding rice bran as a supplement to add weight as it is high in fat and protein.  Some breeders also use calf mania.  Also watch older llamas and alpacas in the herd and be sure they are not being forced away from the feed by younger, more aggressive animals.  you may have to separate underweight animals so that they get their fair share of the grub!

Just like horses and people teeth need proper care in all animals.  As llamas and alpacas age their teeth can wear down and create sharp points that make it hard or uncomfortable to eat. Older animals should have their teeth checked and uneven points can be filed down easily.   Watch for piles of half-chewed feed around the feeders as an indication of teeth issues.

Parasites also can be more common and harder to control in older animals.  Animals may also take longer to recover from parasites.  It's a good idea to check fecal samples of older animals frequently to catch infestations of parasites early for treatment.  With a small microscope you can easily learn to do routine fecal checks with the fecal kit available from Quality Llama Products  however we do recommend you have a vet do a complete test at least once a year.  Some of the parasites are easy to miss such as coccidios which is small and easily missed.  A vet can also check for liver flukes which will require special treatment to cure.   If coccidios is found it can be treated with corid  and liver flukes can be effectively treated with valbazon  Stomach worms, biting lice, ticks, and mites are best treated with dectomax

Extreme heat or cold can also be a problem with older llamas and alpacas, especially if they are underweight or have arthritis.   Older animals need plenty of good clean water all year around as well as shelter from both the heat and the cold.  In extreme cold weather you may want to blanket your animals, watching closely that they don't get too hot if the weather changes.  It is also a good idea to keep a good bed of straw in the barn during cold weather.  During hot weather you may want to consider a wading pond or mister and fans to keep temperatures down for older animals.

As with all animals but especially older animals it is also important to keep plenty of free choice minerals and vitamins available to help keep their immune system functioning properly.

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