Alpacas do not usually require many treatments. However, they do require annual clostridial preventative vaccines, periodic worming, and winter vitamin supplementations. They may also require medication to treat any illnesses or conditions that may arise. See our previous blog for further details on which medications alpacas need and why.
Here are the main ways in which medication can be administered:
IV – Intravenous
IM – Intramuscular
SC – Subcutaneous
T – Topical
O – Oral
Guide Weights for Alpacas
Scales and handling set ups are used to receive an accurate measurement of an alpaca’s weight, in turn allowing you to accurately calculate the correct medication dosage. However, if you do not have your own scales, your vet should be able to advise on measurement adjustments to cater for unknown weights.
Below are the average weights of different alpacas as a guide:
Crias: 6-8kg at birth, increasing by around 1.5kg+ per week for the next 2 months
Male adults: 69-90kg
Female adults: 45-68kg
Intravenous injections or withdrawal should only be conducted by a vet. This injection requires a high level of skill, as medical professionals must access the blood vessels without causing infections.
Intramuscular injections are commonly used by alpaca breeders. You must use a needle that is long enough to penetrate both the skin and the muscle, injecting the substance directly into the muscle. You should first pull the plunger back before injecting, to check that you are not penetrating a blood vessel. Always massage the area after injecting.
Recommended vaccination sites are on the rear thigh, towards the stomach (avoiding the sciatic nerve near the tail) or at the top of the front leg where it meets the shoulder.
This is another common method used by alpaca breeders. You should use a narrow-gauge needle to inject the substance under the skin. Pinch the skin to create a “tent” shape and inject under the length of the tent – if you inject sideways to the tent, you risk pushing the needle out through the other side and missing altogether!
The recommended vaccination site is at the top of the front shoulder where it meets the neck.
To check whether the needle is successfully under the skin, pull back slightly on the plunger to see if there is any resistance. If there is no resistance, you may have gone through the skin and out the other side. If you draw blood, you have hit a blood vessel and need to reposition.
To double check that you have injected correctly, feel the fleece at the injection site. Dry = success. Wet = likely that you missed!
If you need to reposition the needle because it was in the wrong place or the alpaca moves, be sure to choose a new site at least one inch away. This will ensure that there is no leakage into the original site.
Topical treatments are applied to the skin as directed. It can be difficult to administer to alpacas with full fleeces, so ensure you part the fleece well beforehand. The best time to complete this type of treatment is just after shearing.
Oral treatments are administered via the mouth. This needs to be done with care to avoid the substance entering the alpaca’s airways. Carefully restrain the alpaca and place your hand under the lower jaw, applying gentle pressure behind the teeth to part the mouth slightly. You can then place the substance directly into the mouth.
Top Tips for Administering Medications
Always ensure you wash your hands before medicating your alpacas. Use sterile equipment and fresh needles for each alpaca to reduce the risk of contamination.
Make a note of the medication batch number in case of any issues.
Shake the product thoroughly before use to ensure it is mixed well.
Select the smallest gauge needle possible to handle the volume and thickness of the product. Needles are colour coded in terms of gauge – the higher the number, the finer the gauge of the needle. We typically use a ½ inch 18G needle for standard SC injections.
If multiple injections are required, leave one needle in the bottle, and use a separate needle for injecting. Remove the dispensing needle before storing.
Inject air into the substance’s bottle before withdrawing the drug to balance the pressure. After withdrawing the drug, hold the syringe and needle vertically and tap it lightly to move the air bubbles up. Push the plunger carefully to remove any trapped air.
Disclaimer: We are not a veterinarian body. Please consult your vet before administering medication to your herd. There are no medications in the UK which are currently licensed for use in alpacas, so it is always best to consult your vet for advice on medications and dosage rates.