- South American camelids kept as zoo or farm animals often display skin lesions, the aetiology of which remains unresolved. Mostly, only a few individuals in a herd are affected. The empirical treatment consists of oral doses of zinc (Zn), and lesions usually improve over two to three months. It is unclear whether the syndrome is a Zn deficiency or a disorder that responds to supra-physiological systemic Zn concentrations (Rosychuk,1994). Although it has been mentioned that males and animals of dark fleece colour might be more susceptible (Fowler, 1989; Rosychuk, 1994), no systematic evaluation of factors that predispose animals to the condition has been published.
- How can we uncover any emerging or re-emerging disease in New World camelids unless we look for the cause of death when we lose an alpaca? This dilemma ultimately faces all owners at some point when raising alpacas. Finding the reasons for a death is good for our camelid medicine, and it is good for each owner, even if just for curiosity reasons, not to mention to ensure we are not dealing with a contagious disease. For me, the most important reason to determine cause of death is to add to the body of medical knowledge on alpacas. The cost is well worth it. There could be diseases emerging in the alpaca, diseases seen in other species, but not yet seen in the camelid. This is a case report about a well-known disease, and a not-so-well-known disease. As you will see, even when the cause of death is determined, you can be left with more questions than answers.
- The vitamin thiamine plays a critical role in alpaca health. Thiamine depletion can happen rapidly from a large number of causes and will lead to death unless promptly remedied by the immediate administration of injectable thiamine. Thiamine is inexpensive, but only available by prescription (in the United States) – and every camelid owner should have a bottle from their vet on hand at all times.