- The gastrointestinal parasite Haemonchus spp. is better known as the barber’s pole worm (BPW) because the adult female worm has a white tubular uterus that winds around their blood-filled tubular gut, giving the look of a barber’s pole (Figure 1). This parasite is a blood sucker of domestic livestock, causing anaemia and illthrift and can kill alpacas (and sheep, cattle and goats) quickly and in high numbers.
- Alpacas and llamas are susceptible to many of the gastro-intestinal nematodes or “worms” that infect sheep and cattle, including barber’s pole worm (Haemonchus spp) and the scour worms. The behavior of worms in alpacas is not well described and is currently being studied at the University of Melbourne. The project is identifying worm species, worm behaviour, methods of diagnosis/monitoring of worm burdens and worm control in alpacas. In the interim, camelid farmers need to extrapolate from sheep research on how best to control worms.
- Llamas and alpacas are host to several internal and external parasites. Few published studies exist on the incidence, prevalence and pathogenic effects of many parasites reported in these animals. Treatment and control is further complicated by a lack of licensed antiparasitic products or specific guidelines on their use, nor recommended dose rates based on efficacy and pharmacokinetic studies.
- Gastrointestinal worms are by far the most prevalent of the internal parasites that can affect alpacas. Stomach worms are common place, and it is likely that the majority of animals in your herds will have a number of worms and worm eggs, particularly if you have other classes of stock sharing the same paddocks. A regular worming program will reduce the numbers of worms present and will prevent the problems associated when the numbers multiply and become too great a burden for an animal. There are, however, a few other internal parasites that are less common but can adversely affect alpacas and other classes of stock. To date we have discussed intestinal worms and there is one more parasite of note that can on occasion reside in the intestinal tract of an alpaca and that is the Tapeworm or Cestode. Like all ruminants alpacas are susceptible to a wide range of internal parasites of varying degree of concern to the breeder. Some minor infestations often may go unnoticed for months, if not years, whereas others, if left unchecked, can and do all too often, prove to be fatal.
- One of the major advantages of keeping alpacas is the low maintenance required in their upkeep. In comparison to other classes of stock, alpaca come out head and shoulders (not to mention neck) ahead. One particular area of advantage is the alpaca’s comparatively low parasitic burden. That is not to say, however, that alpacas are not affected by internal parasites. Like all ruminants alpacas are susceptible to a wide range of internal parasites of varying degree of concern to the breeder. Some minor infestations often may go unnoticed for months, if not years, whereas others, if left unchecked, can and do all too often, prove to be fatal.