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Alpaca News From International Camelid Conference

The International Camelid Health Conference was held March 5-8, 2015 at Oregon State University. In attendance were alpaca veterinarians and owners from all over the US and from the UK and Germany. Topics included pain management, injectable anesthesia, dentition problems, ophthalmic examination, urogenital disorders, infectious diseases, orthopedic procedures, camelid dystocias and reproductive examination of the male and female alpaca. Dr. Woerner completed 22 hours of continuing education at this conference and also made some very valuable contacts in the camelid veterinary profession.

Perhaps of most interest to alpaca owners was the very informative presentation given by Dr. LaRue W. Johnson, Emeritus Professor, Colorado State University. Key points from his presentation are listed below for ease of reference.

  • Alpaca birthings need to be attended by a knowledgeable owner. The educated owner can recognize a problem and notify the veterinarian in time to save the dam (mother) and the cria (baby alpaca). Dystocia (difficulty giving birth) may result in death or the dam or the cria or both and may also caused irreversible damage to the dam's reproductive tract, making her infertile for subsequent breedings.
  • Owners who are breeding their alpacas, need to have an emergency birthing kit and need to become educated working with their veterinarian to know when and when not to intervene. For example, It may take up to 20 minutes for the reproductive tract to relax enough for the shoulders to clear the birth canal. For this reason, it is best not to intervene (pull the cria forceably) even if the head and feet are visible and are protruding from the vulva. Too often, excessive force is used during this time and damage is done to the reproductive tract. If the head/feet are visible and no progress is being made after 20-30 minutes, then assistance should be provided preferably with veterinary assistance.
  • The best way to handle an emergency is to prepare for it. At the first signs of stage one of labor (dam shows characteristic behavior (isolates herself, rolls, frequent urination, etc.) the veterinarian should be called. The first stage of labor can vary from 2 -24 hours. If it lasts more than 24 hours, she needs to be examined immediately by a veterinarian. Once stage two of labor starts, there is very little time (30 minutes to 2 hours) to allow for delivery of a viable cria.
  • Presentation is confusing to owners. A true "breech" position is the hind end coming out first with no hind legs. This is an emergency as it takes veterinary manipulation to position the hind legs so that they come out first.
  • Finally, one important anatomical feature to remember when the cria is being delivered. It is normal and preferred for the fetus to be rotated approximately 45 degrees when it is being delivered because the widest diameter of the pelvis is on an angle, not top to bottom as most people think. Small cria and/or large dams can deliver is and upright position, but rotation is favorable for an easier delivery.

Keep checking our website. TOVS and DOUBLE 8 ALPACAS are planning a Neonatal Seminar to be held in late April. This seminar will discuss the birthing process and Birthing Kits will be available for purchase.

Can you identify and name the two types of alpacas in this picture? Be the first one to email us ( and receive $10 off your next appointment/visit with TOVS.