Top 5 Things You NEED in a Medical Kit for Alpacas and Llamas
Dr. Charlene Arendas,
Town & Country Veterinary Hospital, Howland, Ohio.
Reprinted from Topline, May 2016, ORVAL
As camelid owners, we know we need to have camelid-savvy vet we can turn to for help with our animals. However, sometimes we become accustomed to certain medical issues or minor injuries that occur at the farm or that we notice at shearing time. There are definitely some things we ought to talk to our veterinarian about having on hand at home, to use in such instances when the vet might not be able to come out for several days. Then, at least we can put a call in to them and they can advise us what to do in the meantime. If we have some of the following items at home, it may help our animals sooner.
1. Flunixin meglumine (Banamine)
Flunixin is a prescription-only, anti-inflammatory and pain medication. It can be used for a variety of painful conditions, colic symptoms, wounds, lameness/limping, swellings, and irritations. Multiple doses or high doses of this medication can possibly induce or worsen stomach ulcers. It should NEVER be combined with steroids such as Dexamethasone or Prednisone, or with other “anti- inflammatories” such as “Bute”/phenylbutazone or aspirin. Typical dose is 1cc per 100 pounds, given SQ, every12-24 hours.
**Note – although flunixin/Banamine does come in an oral paste, how well it is absorbed in camelids is unknown. You should only use the injectable form.
2. Vitamin B-Complex
This is available over the counter, and is a combination of all the B vitamins: B1 (Thiamine), B2 (Riboflavin), B6 (Pyridoxine), and B12 (Cyanocobalamin). They all are water-soluble, which means they are safe to give at high doses – any extra is excreted in the animal’s urine (and the urine can become a darker yellow or almost orange color).
Each of the specific B vitamins are responsible for many bodily processes, help with absorption of nutrients from food, support neurologic function, and can help stimulate appetite. I think any “sick” camelid – one with an illness lasting more than a day or two – can possibly benefit from a few injections of a vitamin B complex. I usually give about 5cc of B-complex SQ once a day to a sick adult camelid for about 3 days. There are also over-the-counter Vitamin B pastes/gels available for cattle/sheep, and these should be given according to label instructions.
3. Thiamine (Vitamin B1)
Although you can find a small amount of thiamine in your injectable B-complex, there are a few instances in which it is vitally important to have prescription strength, injectable Thiamine at a high dosage! ANYTIME I have a neurologic camelid (wobbly walking/ataxia, walking in circles, blindness/walking into things, tremors/shaking, mentally dull/”dumb”, staring/”zoned out”) I am sure to include at least one injection of Thaimine into my protocol, even if I’m convinced it’s meningeal worm.
The disease known as Polio encephalomalacia is a type of thiamine deficiency that causes a sudden-onset blindness, and can occur after a change in feed, an animal going off feed, or even from giving medications such as Corid/amprolium for coccidia. There is a wide range of dosing for Thiamine, and it’s ideal that your vet give the first dose of it IV. However, the sooner it’s given, the better chance you have at saving a neurologic camelid.
4.Sterile saline solution (0.9% sodium chloride/NaCl)
Saline can be purchased over the counter or from your vet, in a variety of forms – sterile bags, bottles, pre-filled syringes, eye drops/flushes/contacts solutions, and even squeeze bottles with flip tops. Saline can be used for a variety of things around the farm! It can be drawn into a large syringe, and squirted out under pressure to clean out a wound. It will help loosen blood, pus, and debris from the wound and cause less trauma than you picking at it with your fingers.
For eye infections, injuries, or pieces of matter stuck in the eye: use in a syringe under pressure to flush the mucus and debris out safely instead of touching the eyeball. This will also help lubricate the eye somewhat until your vet prescribes a medicated ointment or drop (if needed).
It is much better to use saline instead of water, because the salt content in it closely mimics the salt content of the body’s tissues. If you use plain water (no salt) or a high salt content solution (called hypertonic saline), they can cause tissue to either dehydrate or swell (think of your fingers pruning when you’re in the pool too long…in saltwater you would start to swell up and take on water).
The golden rule of using sterile saline is, keep it sterile! Use a clean needle to draw saline from a bag. If you have a saline eye flush in a bottle, be sure not to touch the tip of the bottle with your finger or touch it to the animal’s eye. Make sure you have a large 60cc syringe and some large gauge needles (16- 18 gauge) to be able to draw it out of the bag quickly. Sometimes, if I know I will be using an entire bag or bottle of saline to flush a wound for several days, I will add about 5-10cc of Betadine solution or povidone iodine to the bag. This can ONLY be done for wounds! Never flush Betadine or povidone iodine into an eye!
Penicillin is a thick, refrigerated, injectable antibiotic that can be purchased over the counter at your local farm store or from your veterinarian. When an animal gets an open wound or abscess, starting penicillin can potentially help the infection from worsening. Although it may not be the antibiotic that your veterinarian ends up recommending for the issue, it is better to have this on board than nothing at all until your vet can come out. You MUST shake penicillin well before using and you MUST refrigerate it.
You will need to use an 18-gauge needle, because it is so thick. It is very important that you give this medication SQ or IM, and NOT IV! Be sure that when you inject the needle into the animal, that you pull back on the plunger a little bit to make sure you don’t see any blood. If you do, move to another spot to give the shot. Most forms of penicillin are 300,000 units per mL/cc (sometimes it is 150,000 of procaine penicillin and 150,000 of benzathine penicillin, but the total = 300,000). I usually dose penicillin at 1cc per 20- 25 pounds SQ once a day for 5-7 days.
This is just a short list of some of the important medications you might want to include in your medical kit. Remember, it is better to be prepared than to scramble at the last minute for these items. Try to keep everything in a tote or bag that you can grab easily, and make sure you have enough needles and syringes on hand as well! Keep a watchful eye on the expiration dates of the medications you have in your medical kit also. These things do expire, especially “biologic” medications like antibiotics! Also you might want to learn about wound care for llamas and alpacas.