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How to Treat a Tooth Root Abscess in an Alpaca

Updated: Oct 23, 2023

Alpacas are typically hardy animals and are not usually ailed by much, but tooth root abscesses can be a common source of discomfort in alpacas.

What is a tooth abscess?

A tooth root abscess is a condition where pus forms inside the teeth, gums or bone of the jaw due to a bacterial infection.

How do tooth abscesses occur?

Tooth root abscesses typically occur when new teeth are coming through (which can occur between 6 months and 4 years of age) or when a tooth or jaw fractures. These instances often create an entry point for bacteria that is responsible for causing an infection in the tooth. The occurrence of tooth root abscesses may also be due to the difference in food they receive here in Europe, which can be rough and sharp, causing abrasion of the mouth tissues and/or wearing of the teeth, which can be an invitation for bacteria.

Which teeth are likely to be affected?

According to the 2007 Retrospective Study of Camelid Tooth Abscesses, mandibular teeth (teeth of the lower jaw) are 15x more likely than maxillary teeth (teeth of the upper jaw) to be affected. Cheek teeth are 14x more likely to be affected than incisors or canines.

What does a tooth abscess look like?

Tooth root abscesses appear as a lump along the jawline, but this is not always easy to spot when they are in full fleece, so it is a good idea to regularly check the jaw when handling your alpacas. Struggling to eat, dropping food from the one side of their mouth or not eating at all and losing weight can all be indicators of pain resulting from a tooth root abscess.

Tooth root abscess in an alpaca after being lanced and drained
Tooth root abscess in an alpaca after being lanced and drained

How to treat tooth abscess in alpacas

The typical treatment for a tooth root abscess in an alpaca includes numbing the area with a local anaesthetic, lancing and draining of any pus and leaving the incision open to allow further pus and fluids to drain out (all of this should be carried out by a vet), followed by a course of antibiotics (such as Betamox LA injection, administered every other day for 10 days) to remove any infection that may be present. Administering pain medication after lancing and draining the site may also be recommended to help ease any discomfort. Expect the site to remain swollen for a number of days afterwards before it begins to reduce in size. Luckily, once treated and provided they can eat normally, tooth root abscesses are usually benign to the alpaca who can continue daily life as normal, without further intervention.

Disclaimer: We are not a veterinarian body. Please consult your vet before diagnosing a condition or administering medication to your herd.


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