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Weight Loss and Other Issues

Weight Loss


Weight loss can be caused by Insufficient feed or quality of feed.

  • Internal parasites – check when your animals were last treated. Also be aware that high counts of internal parasites can also be secondary to a low resistance caused by an underlying illness or condition. Weanlings can be prone to parasitism due to stress and “hanging” around the dung pile.

Pregnancy, especially when there is a cria at foot, can be another cause for weight loss. You may need to look at weaning a cria earlier than 6 months to help the pregnant mother regain condition, especially when the cria is well grown and “sucking mum dry”!

  • Stomach Ulcers – See your vet.
  • Liver disease, loss of incisor teeth, overlong teeth and extremely over/undershot jaws can prevent the animal from eating properly and may lead to weight loss. This problem is exacerbated when there is only short grass and no supplementary feed such as hay, chaff and pellets.
  • A tooth root abscess, however in this case supplementary feeding won’t help, and if untreated will cause the jawbone to disintegrate.

A blood test can reveal an infection, anaemia, liver function or other organ disorders, as well as mineral & vitamin deficiencies, leading to the source of the problem. Supplement feeding in special feeding groups can be a solution (slowly increase and supplement richer feed) for the skinny alpacas.

Other Issues


Hyperthermia -Hyperthermia (overheating) in the summer may be caused by leaving alpacas in full fleece (rather than shearing) particularly when there is not a lot of shade. One of the signs of an alpaca becoming too hot is laying on their sides in the sun to let the air cool off the belly, which acts like a vent.

There are several risks with hyperthermia:

  • In pregnant females, foetal distress. Hyperthermia can cause a malfunction of the placenta because all the blood goes to the surface to cool off, which means the foetus doesn’t get enough nutrition. In early pregnancy this can cause deformities and also abortion. In males, the spermatozoids can die, rendering the male temporarily infertile. It can take several months for a male to get “back-on-line”.

In general, alpacas can loose a large volume of body fluids by sweating without any major problem but when becoming hyperthermic, this can cause death.


Colic - Means basically a tummy ache and comes from the word “colon”, which is part of the intestine before the rectum. Colic can be caused by pain from any of the internal organs: stomach, kidneys, liver, the gut, bladder or reproductive organs.

The signs are ALPACA DOWN. Literally that and the alpaca is not getting up. The only thing you can do is call your vet for physical examination and blood test.


Stomach Ulcers -symptoms: Lying on the side after dinner, eating small quantities and then sitting down.


Liver Diseases - symptoms: not eating well, different behaviour, sitting down a lot or colic. Often a result of facial eczema.


Tooth Root Abscess - Manifesting as a pus discharging lump on the outside of the upper or lower jaw. Vet intervention indicated.


Rickets - Crias which do not get sufficient sunlight in their first few months often have low levels of Vitamin D. This is essential for phosphate utilization needed for healthy bone growth. More commonly the cria afflicted will have denser fleeces with a lot of coverage, and are often in the darker colour range. The signs are easily recognized:

  • Standing with a round back Walking with stiff legs
  • Painful gait
  • Painful to be touched on the back

Rickets should be treated with a course of Vitamin D (see under Vitamin D above) and by shearing the cria when it is feeling better.