HEARD HEALTH

A Herd Health Program is basically a disease control program. When Wild Oak Llamas began to become serious breeders and increasing the size of our herd, it was extremely important that we develop a way to care for the health of all our llamas. While living in Grass Valley CA, we were so blessed to have a remarkable camelid veterinarian to guide us, Robin Skillman, DVM. She was able to help us work out a program to fit our specific needs. Factors that went into determining the proper program depends on the ranches location, available feeds, animal density, contact with other species and housing facilities.

We have a herd management computer program to help keep records of pedigree, vaccinations, weight, parasites, teeth, illness/injury, breeding etc. We have learned to run periodic fecal examinations to check our llamas for worms and make frequent skin examinations to check for external parasites. If we find something unfamiliar to us, we take a sample to our vet to run a more extensive exam.

Mary does all the worming and vaccination of the herd. Rick does the shearing and toe nails. Doing these items ourselves cuts down the ranches overhead and also give us more hands on to really KNOW our llamas and properly care for their well being.

When someone purchases a llama from Wild Oak Llamas, they also get a binder for that individual llama that contains current and accurate health records, show records (if the llama has been to shows), breeding and birth records as well as it's Internal Lama Registry (ILR) certificate.

Toe Nail clipping

An old friend, EstherSue Sykes, giving a shearing clinic on our ranch. It is important for our llamas to be shorn annually to help prevent heat stress.  Below are examples of some of the different ways we shear our llamas.

Parasites and Llamas

Parasite Management in Camelids Stacey Byers, DVM, MS,

Dipl ACVIM


Internal or gastrointestinal (GI) parasite management rather than total eradication in camelids may seem like an odd plan, but is becoming more important as we see developing parasite resistance to medications. If we borrow some valuable lessons from other livestock species, tolerating low numbers of parasites in camelids is a good thing for both the animals and owners. This management method helps animals develop immunity, decreases parasite drug resistance, saves money for owners, and finally because it is impossible to completely eliminate parasites. 1. How do parasites cause immunity? As animals are exposed to parasites, bacteria, viruses, etc., their immune system develops white blood cells that are used to fight infections to these foreign organisms. Some of these organisms cause the animal to have life-long protection after just one infection. In other cases, the animal may only be protected against diseases for only a few months. We know that low level, repeated exposure to a foreign organism can help the immune system continue making the protective cells to help prevent or reduce the impact of the disease.

2. Why is drug resistance important? Parasite resistance to anthelmintics (anti-parasite drugs) is increasingly common. We now know that we cannot completely eliminate an entire population of parasites from the GI tract of an animal. After giving an anthelmintic, many parasites are killed, however the few that remain are resistant to the drug, and with time reproduce and create a new population that is also resistant. Eggs from these parasites are then shed in the feces exposing herd-mates to the now resistant parasites. No new products are in development so veterinarians are concerned that we may run out of effective parasite control drugs.

3. Are there ways to reduce the need for anthelmintics? Pasture and animal management strategies can help decrease animal exposure to parasites and the need for anthelmintics. • Use feed bunks rather than feeding on the ground • Eliminating standing water and wet areas around waterers to remove the favorable environment most parasites need to become infective. • Frequent cleanup of the dung pile and pasture rotation reduces the pasture contamination and chances of exposure. Unfortunately, young camelids are notorious for not using the dung pile and these juveniles typically have the highest infection rates for GI parasites. Their immune systems are immature compared to older animals. Until their immune systems have brought the initial infection under control, they can cause significant pasture contamination which can lead to infections in other juveniles or previously unexposed adults. • Quarantine pens should be used for all camelids entering your ranch. This includes new animals or those returning from breeding and shows. This policy reduces exposure of the existing herd to new parasite species as well as other diseases. Incoming animals are stressed from transportation, new surroundings, and removal from existing herd mates. The stress causes a mild immune suppression resulting in an increase in shedding of parasites or other organisms. Quarantining these animals for at least 4 weeks allows them to adjust to the new environment, feed and water, and allow their immune systems to bring infections under control. • Random herd fecal sampling can be used to measure GI parasite numbers. Concentrate on 3 general groups: crias in the first 2-6 months of life, yearlings, and adults. A sampling of 3-5 animals or 10% of the pen should be adequate.

What is a fecal flotation?

Fecal flotation is a routine veterinary test used to diagnose internal parasites or "worms." The test detects the eggs of mature parasites that live inside the body and pass their eggs to the outside by shedding them into the host's stool. Some of these parasites are worm-like, while others are tiny single-celled organisms called protozoa. Most of the parasites live in the intestine, but a few live elsewhere in the body.

How does the test work?

Stool material is mixed with a special liquid that causes the parasite eggs to float to the surface. The eggs are collected from the surface using a glass slide. The slide is examined under a microscope, and the appearance of the eggs identifies what type of adult parasite is present. The number of eggs found may reflect the severity of the infection, but this is not always reliable.

What sample is needed?

All that is needed is about a one inch piece of fresh stool. Ideally, the stool sample should be no more than 24 hours old and should be as free as possible of grass, gravel, kitty litter, etc. Your veterinarian may provide a container to collect the sample, but any clean, dry container with a tightly fitting lid can be used, such as a jar or plastic tub.

When should fecal flotation be done?

Kittens and puppies are frequently infected with intestinal parasites and are susceptible to re-infection. Therefore, multiple fecal flotations are recommended for young animals. Pet owners should bring a fresh stool sample to each appointment for the initial series of veterinary visits. If a pet is found to have parasites, follow-up fecal flotations may be recommended to monitor the response to treatment. Fecal flotation may also be recommended if a pet develops diarrhea or fails to gain weight as expected. Mature pets are less likely to be infected with parasites. A yearly fecal flotation done as part of the annual check-up is usually sufficient to monitor the healthy adult pet. However, more frequent fecal testing will likely be recommended if an adult pet develops diarrhea, exhibits unexplained weight loss, or has a history of recurrent parasitic infections.

Does the test work every time?

No. Fecal flotation is only a basic screening test and may fail to detect infection in some situations.

"Some intestinal parasites just cannot be reliably detected with fecal flotation."

A fecal flotation test may fail to detect parasite infection because:

1. The parasites themselves are too young to produce eggs. If no eggs are being shed, then the infection cannot be detected. The fecal flotation will be negative, even though infection is present. This is most common in very young pets, which is why multiple stool tests in puppies and kittens are recommended.

2. The infection is mild and there are only a few adult parasites present. In this case the number of eggs in the stool may be too low to be detected by fecal flotation.

3. Some parasites only produce small numbers of eggs and infection may be missed on a single test.

4. Some parasites just cannot be detected reliably with fecal flotation (see article Fecal Baermann).

Are there other tests that can be done?

Yes. Fecal flotation is just the first step. If repeat fecal flotation tests are negative and a parasitic infection is still suspected, then your veterinarian may recommend other tests such as doing a fecal wet mount, using concentration methods, using stool preservatives, or doing a fecal Baermann etc.

Contributors: Kristiina Ruotsalo, DVM, DVSc, Dip ACVP & Margo S. Tant BSc, DV© Copyright 2015 LifeLearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.

This is the chart we use to help determine what parasites we are fighting.