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Alpacas make great additions to any lifestyle farm. as well as being part of the farming process, Alpacas make great pets. it is important to seek preventative and ongoing care as you would for your other farm animals.


Alpacas are infected by both internal and external parasites.

Lice and mange affect alpacas. They can be difficult to detect and control depending on the mite. There are no licensed products or doses for treating external parasites in alpacas. Some cattle and sheep doses can be used. Check with North Canterbury Vets for a recommendation.

Alpacas get the same types of worms as sheep. These include round worm, whip worms, tape worms and liver flukes.

Barbers Pole (Haemonchus contortus) is a potentially harmful roundworm, blood sucking parasite that thrives in moist humid conditions. Anemia is the basic feature of infection due to blood loss.

Barbers Pole can be a serious problem with alpacas, often causing death. Oral and injectable products only are recommended. Pour-on drenches have not yet been successfully designed for use on alpaca. Avoid any products containing levamisole (“clear drenches” due to a narrow safety margin.)

Ryerass staggers

Ryegrass staggers occurs when animals grazing perennial ryegrass eat large amounts of a toxin produced by ryegrass endophyte, a fungus that grows inside the plant. It occurs in sheep, cattle, deer and horses and the signs are usually seen when animals are disturbed and forced to move. Alpacas are particularly sensitive to this neurological disease.

  • Head shaking or tremoring
  • Stiffness or high stepping gits
  • Staggering
  • Falling over

After a while the animal recovers. Deaths tend to be accidental following injury such as drowning after a fall into water or being caught in fences.

There is no 100% effective treatment other than to provide plenty of uncontaminated feed and shifting them to a safe environment. This is often hard in a dry summer when grass is short but grass silage, hay or alpaca nuts will be ideal.

Things that may help alpaca to cope with or recover from a bout of rye grass staggers include B vitamins, “Summer Tonic” 

Rickets Alpaca

Alpacas are more susceptible to deficiencies of Vitamin D than other grazing animals in New Zealand. Deficiency can be due to inadequate precursor uptake when grazing, or inability to convert precursors due to underlying liver or kidney disease.

The classic signs are abnormally crooked front legs in young alpacas. Other signs to look out for are:

  • Depression
  • Sore limbs
  • Hunched stance
  • Ill-thrift
  • Reluctance to stand or move

Prevention is better than cure. Supplement young, growing animals up to two years of age with Hieject. Cria injections should start at 8 weeks, with a regime prescribed by your veterinarian until two years old.

Cria Congenital Defects

Congenital refers to something present at birth. Because of the small gene pool these “abnormalities present at birth” tend to show up more regularly than in other commonly farmed species. They include heart defects, facial deformities, leg deformities and umbilical hernia. The vast majority of congenital abnormalities are genetic in origin. We do not recommend breeding from these animals if they do survive.

Heart defects are common. Often, affected cria are slow on their feet, grow slowly and are more susceptible to changes in environmental temperatures. They may live for several weeks to months in good conditions however stress of any sort will often result in heart failure.


Reproduced with permission thanks to Franklin Vets, Papakura

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North Canterbury Veterinary Clinics operates four clinics throughout the Hurunui region.