Caring For Llamas and Alpacas
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|Llamas, like other mammals, normally lose their baby or deciduous teeth which are then
replaced by permanent teeth. It can be very alarming for llama owners to find their llama
with a bloody mouth, and a tooth in the feed manger! In general, the permanent central
incisors erupt at 2-1/2 years, the middle incisors at 3 to 3-1/2 years, and the last or
corner incisors at 4 to 6 years. The fighting teeth erupt at 2 to 7 years, 2 with average
being 2-1/2 years. The fighting teeth are very large and pointed in the adult male llama.
They can be used as harmful weapons against other llamas or people. For safety reasons,
the fighting teeth should be removed or filed off in the male.
|FIGHTING TEETH AND TOOTH SAWING
It is seldom necessary to remove fighting teeth on females or quiet geldings, and even a stud male may be able to keep his fighting teeth as long as he lives by himself and never has an accidental encounter with another male. However, if two or more males are kept together, all of them should have their fighting teeth cut to avoid torn ears, bites on testicles, and other injuries. Fighting teeth will continue to grow, so if they are cut soon after eruption, it is important to check from time to time to see how much they have grown. If they are too long, they should be cut again. Usually this only has to be done twice in a male's life.
Fighting teeth can either be removed surgically by a veterinarian, or quickly and easily be sawed off by you or your veterinarian, using obstetrical wire. Most llamas seem to find the procedure non painful and non threatening. Often they are bothered more by having someone's fingers in their mouth than they are by the actual process of tooth-sawing.
In order to cut fighting teeth, the animal must be restrained securely to keep his head steady. Putting the llama in the chute and cross-tying the head works well. Two people are needed to saw fighting teeth. Both should wear glasses or some sort of eye protection, since the cut tooth can fly off at a high speed in an unanticipated direction. Since both fighting teeth and molars are very sharp, it may be helpful for the person holding the mouth open (referred to as the "holder") to wear gloves. The holder should stand on the side opposite from where the tooth will be cut. That is, if one of the llama's left teeth is to be cut, the holder should stand to the right of the llama's head, reaching over and under the llama's nose to hold the lips back away from the teeth. This is important to prevent the llama's lips from getting hurt, to keep the llama from pushing the wire saw out of his mouth with his lips, and so that the person doing the sawing can see what he or she is doing. The person doing the sawing may also want to wear gloves, unless the wire saw has sturdy handles. If handles aren't available, it is usually easiest to wrap the last few inches of the ends of the wire saw around the little fingers, while the center loop is held securely between the forefingers and thumbs. A 1-1/2 to 2 foot piece of wire is a comfortable length to work with. After the first time a section of wire is used to saw a tooth, it will kink and curl into small loops and circles.
doesn't mean that the saw is used up, it simply indicates that it has been used. If more
than one llama needs his teeth sawed, change to a new wire between llamas to avoid the
possible spread of eperythrozoonosis. (See Chapter 5.)
| RETAINED DECIDUOUS TEETH
As far as dental disease, llamas do not seem to have as many problems as we humans do. Occasionally, a deciduous or baby tooth will not have fallen out by the time the permanent tooth has erupted. The temporary teeth should be loosened gradually. This can be done by rocking them back and forth gently over a period of several days. Then the tooth can be pulled out easily, if it doesn't fall out on its own. If this doesn't work, your veterinarian should pull the tooth.
BROKEN AND CHIPPED TEETH
Sometimes llamas who are playing or fighting vigorously will knock out or break a tooth during sparring, which can cause a very bloody mouth. This occurs most commonly with deciduous teeth because their roots are not as extensive and secure as in permanent teeth. Young males may look quite piratical with several chipped or broken baby teeth! Luckily, the broken or missing deciduous teeth will be replaced with permanent teeth as the animal matures. Broken deciduous or permanent teeth should be examined to determine the extent of the problem. Loosened teeth may need to be removed, and the possibility of infection will need to be assessed by your veterinarian.
Other dental problems may be marked by the development of a firm, bony lump on the cheek or the jaw.
A lump may just be a wad of food but should be examined as it is often indicative of a tooth infection. Any tooth and its root may become infected, but whenever there is damage to a tooth, whether it is broken or sawed off, the risk is a little higher. The bony lump forms in the area of the infected tooth or tooth stump. Infection can be confirmed by X-ray, and if present, it will need medical or possibly surgical attention. Antibiotics are used to combat the infection, but dental surgery to remove the bad tooth is usually indicated.
DENTAL PROBLEMS IN THE OLDER ANIMAL
As the llama ages, old or infected teeth often loosen and fall out. When a llama is missing teeth or has irregular wear of the teeth, it will cause problems with the first step of digestion, the mechanical breakdown of food through chewing. Such a llama will begin to lose weight even if it is still eating enough food. Sometimes it will eat less food because the mouth may be sore. When faulty chewing is observed, an oral examination should be done by your veterinarian. It may be necessary to float or file irregular edges on the teeth. If the llama still has trouble chewing or is missing several teeth, it should be fed softened food which does not require extensive chewing. Alfalfa pellets, perhaps mixed with a little grain and softened with water into a gruel make an ideal supplement for those llamas who no longer chew well enough to get the nutrients they need from hay or pasture.
|THE TEXT AND IMAGES ABOVE ARE COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL. IT IS UNLAWFUL TO COPY, MODIFY OR PUBLISH WITHOUT THE EXPRESS WRITTEN CONSENT OF ROCKY MOUNTAIN LLAMA ASSOCIATION.|