What are Mites?
Cousins to ticks and spiders, mites are arthropods (invertebrate animals that possess an exoskeleton, segmented body, and paired jointed legs). Typically, mites feed on dead plant material and other insects; however, some prefer to latch onto animal hosts. Mites crawl on the skin of animals and burrow in to lay their eggs, which sets off an allergic reaction that causes the animal to scratch. Sarcoptic mites and chorioptic mites are most common in alpacas.
Image of sarcoptic mite, source Biomedcentral.com
What are the Symptoms of Mites?
In alpacas, mites cause itchy, scabby skin which typically first appears in between the toes, around the ankles or on the ears. If left untreated, this skin irritation can spread to the rest of the body. The affected alpaca(s) will be itchy, uncomfortable and scratch excessively. As symptoms worsen, poor fleece growth and/or hair loss is likely to occur. If battling mites for an extended time, alpacas can become malnourished and underweight. They may even cause self-injury through excessive itching, scratching and biting of the affected areas, which can lead to breaks in the skin and subsequent bacterial infections. In the photo, you can see a case of sarcoptic mites that has lead to fleece loss and skin damage.
How to Treat Mites
Mites can be difficult to treat and the affected alpaca will require persistent treatment. If one alpaca is suspected to have mites, ALL alpacas in that group must be treated at the same time. Treatment of mites in alpacas depends on the type of mite present, which are pretty much invisible to the naked eye, so an initial skin scrape by your veterinarian for investigation under the microscope is recommended to first identify the species of mite so an appropriate treatment can be selected.
How to treat Sarcoptic Mites in alpacas:
To treat sarcoptic mites in alpacas, administer 4 doses of an Ivermectin 1% drug (such as Ivomec or Panomec) 7 - 10 days apart, via subcutaneous injection at a rate of 0.5ml per 10KG of bodyweight. The more expensive ‘plus’ versions of these medications are not necessary to just treat mites; however, they can be considered if you also need to treat for liver fluke. Avermectin injections do not work to treat mites in alpacas.
How to treat Chorioptic Mites in alpacas:
To treat chorioptic mites in alpacas, bathe the affected alpaca using Keratolytic shampoo (such as Sebomild or Sebolytic) and leave it to soak in for 20 minutes before rinsing and then, once dry, apply a topical anti-mite spray to affected areas (such as Frontline or Deosect) and rub it down to skin level. Using anti-mite spray should also be done from toes to knees/hocks in animals from the same group, even if no clinical signs are seen.
How to Prevent Mites in alpacas
Change the Substrate If your alpacas are receiving medication for mites, we recommend completely mucking out their shelters, disinfecting the area and leaving it to dry before putting fresh straw back down. This will reduce the level of mites present in the substrate and help with their recovery.
Quarantine New Alpacas Where possible, quarantine new alpacas and assess them for mites before introducing them to the rest of the herd.
Early Treatment If your alpaca(s) begins to show signs of mites, treat as necessary and follow the prevention protocols before it becomes worse and/or spreads to the rest of the herd.
How to Treat Damaged Skin After Mites
Although you may have treated your alpacas for mites, they will be left with sore and damaged skin that needs some tlc to encourage healthy skin and fleece to regrow.
Cattle Salve Apply cattle udder salve to all affected areas to help moisturise and soothe the skin. We use Gold Label Udder Cream which is bright pink, so you can see where it has been applied and can usually be purchased from your local farm supplies store. For mild cases, once to twice-a-week applications should be enough, but daily application may be required for severe cases. Over time, the scabs will begin to drop off and reveal fresh, pink skin.
Xtra Care Gel Available from Eggs-port, Xtra Care Skin Gel aids the growth of skin, fleece and foot which is aimed at alpacas with poor, dry, flaky or bald patches - ideal for alpacas that have suffered a mite infestation. Adults should receive 10ml every other day for 2 weeks and a visible improvement should be apparent after 28 days of using the product.
Disclaimer: Fostings Alpacas are not a veterinarian body. Always consult your vet when creating a health plan for your herd and before administering medication.
Learn how to look after alpacas
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