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Preventing Clostridial Diseases in Alpacas

Updated: May 8



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



What is Clostridial Disease?

Clostridial diseases include Lamb Dysentery, Pulpy Kidney, Pasteurella/Pneumonia Braxy, Blackleg, Tetanus and Black Disease. They all derive from the Clostridium bacteria and can be prevented with vaccinations. They largely affect sheep, goats and cows, but are possible in alpacas.



Image of grice gram stain, source: Penn Medicine News



Black Disease

Black disease typically affects sheep and occurs when migrating liver fluke larvae damage liver tissue, creating suitable conditions for clostridial multiplication and toxin production. Symptoms include loss of appetite, dullness and death (which can often happen very quickly).


Blackleg

Blackleg typically affects cows, but is also known to affect sheep. It is usually fatal before the sickness presents itself. The bacteria responsible for this disease is soil-borne.


Pulpy Kidney

Pulpy Kidney disease is known to affect sheep of all ages and is a fast and often fatal disease caused by a toxin. The toxin multiplies in the small intestine - usually as a result of a feed change that causes partially digested food containing carbohydrates to escape into the small intestine. Symptoms include convulsions (sudden/violent/irregular body movements), staggering, head twisting backwards, diarrhoea and, in the hours before death, extreme reactions to being touched. Animals suffering from Pulpy Kidney do not recover.


Lamb Dysentery

Lamb Dysentery is a fast acting, severe and often fatal disease caused by blood poisoning. It typically affects young lambs less than 3 weeks of age. The bacteria responsible for this is found everywhere and latches to the gastrointestinal tract of most mammals. Symptoms include abdominal pain, foul smelling or blood tinged diarrhoea, convulsions (sudden/violent/irregular body movements), decreased suckling and disinterest in movement. Many die before symptoms even occur.


Braxy

Braxy is a fast acting disease that affects hoggs (sheep between weaning and their first shearing) in late autumn when the first hard frosts take place. The disease occurs as a result of sheep eating food (such as turnips) which has been frozen, which then causes multiplication of the clostridial organism, leading to the production of toxins. Sheep usually die quickly before symptoms present themselves.


Tetanus (also known as Lockjaw)

The organism responsible for causing Tetanus lives in the soil and can do so for years. The organism can infect sheep through wounds from shearing, docking, castration or vaccination, or it can enter the reproductive tract as a result of unhygienic practices when humans are assisting ewes during lambing. Symptoms include stiffness in limbs, difficulty walking, muscle spasms and rigidness in the jaw leading to an inability to open the mouth, and eventually, rigid legs extended backwards. If living on a farm where Tetanus is a known problem, it is recommended to vaccinate with tetanus antitoxin when carrying out castration, tail-docking or if an animal is cut during shearing, which will provide protection for about 2 weeks.


Pasteurella/Pneumonia

Pasteurella/Pneumonia typically occurs in lambs that have been weaned and have poor immunity due to receiving inadequate colostrum or suffering stress through poor housing conditions or overcrowding. Symptoms include high temperatures, coughing, heavy breathing, and discharge from the mouth and nose. Animals affected that survive are often stunted in their growth.


What are the Symptoms of Clostridial Disease in Alpacas?

As stated, typical symptoms of Clostridial Disease include abdominal pain, diarrhoea, fatigue, decreased appetite, disinterest in movement, lack of appetite or even sudden death.


How to Treat Clostridial Diseases in Alpacas

Currently, there is no effective treatment for Clostridial Disease in alpacas or other animals, so it must be prevented from occurring in the first instance.


How to Prevent Clostridial Diseases in Alpacas

To prevent Clostridial Diseases in alpacas, the following vaccinations are usually recommended to be administered on a 6-monthly or annual basis: Lambivac, Covexin 10, Heptavac-P Plus (includes Pasteurella), Ovivac and Ovivac-P. Your vet will be able to advise on which of these is most suitable for your herd, as no medication is currently specifically licensed for use in alpacas in the UK.


For cria:

If the dam was vaccinated within 6 weeks of birth, administer 2ml of Lambivac SC (subcutaneously) to cria at 30 days and then again at 60 days old. If the dam was not vaccinated within 6 weeks of birth, administer 2ml of Lambivac SC (subcutaneously) to cria at 2 days old, and then again 2-3 weeks later.


For adults not previously vaccinated:

For any alpaca that has not previously received clostridial injections (or you are unsure of their history), administer 2ml of Lambivac SC (subcutaneously) and repeat 4-6 weeks later.


Adults in the programme:

After initial vaccinations, alpacas can then receive bi-annual boosters with the rest of the herd each year (once in April and again in October) of SC Lambivac 2ml.

Important: Do not vaccinate females within 1 month before giving birth.


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