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How to Treat Mites In Alpacas

Updated: Dec 22, 2021

Want to improve your knowledge about alpacas? Keep reading to discover some key alpaca terminology and facts…


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. A few types of mites have been identified in alpacas, but the sarcoptic mange mite can typically cause the most extreme symptoms. Sarcoptic 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.


Image of sarcoptic mange mite, source Biomedcentral.com


What are the Symptoms of Mites?

Mites cause itchy, scabby skin which typically first appears on the head, and around the eyes and 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 or hair loss is likely to occur. If battling mites for an extended time, alpacas are likely to 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 severe case of sarcoptic mites that has lead to fleece loss and skin damage.


How to Treat Mites

Mites are very difficult to treat and the affected alpaca(s) requires persistent treatment. If one alpaca is suspected to have mites, ALL alpacas in that group must be treated at the same time.


Ivermectin

If you have mange mites in your herd, a medication containing Ivermectin must be used such as Ivomec, 1% Virbamec or Noromectin. 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. Note that Dectomax, Eprinex and Avermectin drugs do not work, as the medication must contain Ivermectin.


Administer 4 doses of an Ivermectin medicine, 7-10 days apart at the dosage rate of 2mls per 50kg of body weight. This can be increased to 2.5mls per 50kg of body weight if the accurate weight of the alpaca is unknown. This is administered subcutaneously and can be issued yourself if you know how to inject (top tip: ask your vet to teach you how to administer injections to help reduce costs).


Why Pour-ons are Not Recommended

Alpacas have very thick skin, so pour-on medication doesn’t tend to be absorbed well and is therefore not overly effective.


How to Prevent Mites

Diatomaceous Earth