2-9-03


SURVEY OF LAMNESS IN LLAMAS AND ALPACAS

BRIAN HARR, VETERINARY STUDENT

DAVID E ANDERSON, DVM, MS, DACVS

College of Veterinary Medicine
The Ohio State Univerity

There is little data available in the literature regarding the prevalence
or types of lameness in camelids. Lameness can be described as a disorder
of the locomotor system. It can be related to a dysfunction, or more
commonly, to a painful process in the limb.Various types of lameness have
been reported in a variety of sources in different species, but none have
reported the prevalence of lameness in camelids. Lameness is important to
all livestock species and a better understanding of the prevalence of the
problem in camelids is needed. Lameness occurs for a variety of reasons
including heritable defects, congenital defects, developmental defects,
growth defects, trauma, and infection. Injuries in camelids can be caused
by the same types of diseases reported in ruminants, horses, and small
animals. However, management, husbandry, and environment markedly influence
the prevalence of lameness as a problem. This survey was conducted to
determine the prevalence of lameness in a population of camelids.

MATERIALS AND METHODS

A questionnaire was developed to acquire detailed information regarding
aspects of management, farm demographics, and herd members. Once the
questionnaire was composed it was sent out on an international electronic
newsletter from The Ohio State University (CamelidMed), targeting farms on
which llamas and alpacas resided. Each farm was asked to provide
information regarding the number of animals, type of each animal, amount of
land and land type the animals were maintained on, number of lame animals,
type of injury, limb affected, gender affected, age at onset, treatment
administered, outcome, and if there was any reoccurrence. Information was
requested from the veterinarian to provide more details regarding the cause
of lameness.

RESULTS

A total of 80 farms responded to the survey, with 45 (56%)of them reporting
at least one incidence of lameness. Surveys were returned from 18 different
states, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Of the farms reporting, 89%
(71/80) of them indicated they operated as a breeding operation, 68%
(54/80) produced hair fiber for textiles, 64% (51/80) had their animals in
competitive exhibitions, 63% (50/80) considered there animals to be pets.
Twenty six percent (21/80) stated that there operations or animals were
used for other purposes, such as packing (5), therapy llamas (2), rescue
(2), training (2), driving, boarding, commercial trekking , and guard animal.

A total of 2,172 camelids were included in the study with an average farm
size of 27 animals. Of the 2,172 animals, 1164 (54%) were llamas, 822  (38
%) alpaca huacaya, 184 (8%) alpaca suri, 1 guanaco, and no vicuna were
reported.

The 80 farms reported that the animals had access to 9,203 acres with an
average farm size of 115 acres. Sixty nine percent (55/80) of the farms
reported that their animals had access to land they considered to be flat.
Fifty percent (40/80)of the farms reported terrain that was slightly
rolling, 33.75% (27/80) of the operations had wooded acreage, 30%
(24/80)had terrain that was considered hilly, 12.5% (10/80) had rocky
terrain, 11.25% (9/80) had land that was rugged, and 2.5% (2/80) of the
farms had land that was mountainous.

         Thirty five of the 80 farms reported no incidence of lameness in
893 animals with an average farm size of 159 acres. Of the 893 animals 57%
(513/893) were alpaca huacaya, 33% (295/893) llamas, and 10% (85/893)
alpaca suri. Ninety four percent (33/35) of these farms indicated that they
operated as a breeding operation, 77% (27/35) produced hair fiber for
textiles, 71% (25/35) competitively exhibited their animals, 49% (17/35)
considered their animals as pets, 20% (7/35) stated that their operations
or animals were used for other purposes, such as pack animals , training
facility, guard animal, boarding operation, and agistors. Eighty three
percent (29/35) of the farms reported that their animals had access to land
they considered to be flat, 37% (13/35) reported terrain that was slightly
rolling, 31% (11/35) of the operations had wooded acreage, 20% (7/35) had
terrain that was hilly, 9% (3/35) had land that was rugged, and another 9%
(3/35) had rocky terrain.

         Forty five of the 80 farms reported at least one incidence of
lameness in 1,279 animals with an average farm size of 81 acres. Of the
1,279 animals 68% (869/1,279) were llamas, 24% (309/1,279) alpaca huacaya,
7.7% (85/893) alpaca suri, and 1 guanaco. Eighty four percent (38/45) of
these farms indicated that they operated as a breeding operation, 73%
(33/45) considered their animals to be pets, 60% (27/45) produced hair
fiber for textiles, 58% (26/45) competitively exhibited their animals, 31%
(14/45) stated that their operations or animals were used for other
purposes, such as pack animals (3), therapy (2), boarding operation,
driving animals, commercial trekking, and a rescue operation. Sixty percent
(27/45) of the farms reported that their animals had access to land they
considered to be slightly rolling, 58% (26/45) reported terrain that was
flat, 38% (17/45) had terrain that was hilly, 36% (16/45) of the operations
had wooded acreage, 16% (7/45) had rocky terrain, 13% (6/45) had land that
was considered rugged, and another 4% (2/45) had mountainous terrain.

There were a total of 64 llamas and alpacas with a reported lameness, a
prevalence of 2.9% for this population. One farm that served as a rescue
operation accounted for 9 of 64 lame animals. Of the lame animals 32.79%
(20/61) were intact males, 19.67% (12/61) were geldings, 47.54% (29/61)
were females, and no sex was reported for 3 animals. The average age at the
onset of lameness was 3 years 9 months, with a range of 2 months to 10
years of age. Lameness was reported to be in the right front limb 37.5%
(24/64) of the time, left front limb 34.38% (22/64) of the time, in the
left rear 31.25% (20/64), and in the right rear 21.88% (14/64).

The diagnosis of lameness was made by a veterinarian 69% (43/62) of the
time and by the owner 31% (19/62) of the time. It was stated that a
definitive diagnosis was made on 60% (36/60) of the animals, with a best
guess assessment being done on the other 40% (24/60). Foot injuries were
the most common type of lameness reported occurring 28.57% (18/63). Other
types of lameness included muscle injury 22.22% (14/63), fractures 15.87%
(10/63), ligament injury 15.87% (10/63), joint injury 14.29% (9/63), tendon
injury 12.69% (8/63), neurologic disease 11.11% (7/63), undifferentiated
lameness 7.94%, bone disease (non-fracture) 4.76% (3/63), and back injury
3.18% (2/63).

Treatments administered to the effected animals included confinement 48.39%
(30/62), antibiotics 43.55% (27/62), other 35.48% (22/62), non-steroidal
anti-inflammatory drug 22.58% (14/62), physical therapy 17.74% (11/62),
vitamins or minerals 16.13% (10/62), steroids 14.52% (9/62), acupuncture
1.6% (1/62). No animals received chiropractic care, but received treatment
that was not specified for lame animals.

  Sixty four percent (37/58) were said to have completely recovered, 22.41%
(13/58) improved but still showed some side effects, 8.6% (5/56) stayed the
same, and 6.9% (4/58) of the animals' condition worsened. In 87.5% (50/57)
of the animals there was no reoccurrence of lameness.

DISCUSSION

The results of this study reveal that lameness is of importance to the
health and well being of llamas and alpacas. Results indicate that 56% of
camelid operations have had at least one occurrence of lameness on their
operations. Foot injuries were the most common type of lameness reported
occurring 29% of the time compared to greater than 80% of lameness
occurring in cattle and horses. Lameness was reported to occur in one or
both of the front limbs 72% of the time. Limits to this study include it
was retrospective, a survey that was limited to those subscribed to the
international electronic newsletter from The Ohio State University
(CamelidMed), targeting farms on which llamas and alpacas resided. Also,
owner input on the questionnaires versus a veterinarians input. Further
research is warranted to further characterize risk factors associated with
lameness.




David E Anderson, DVM, MS
College of Veterinary Medicine
The Ohio State University
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              http://www.vet.ohio-state.edu/docs/ClinSci/camelid/index.html
              http://www.internationalcamelidinstitute.org

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