On-Farm Emergency Treatment of Alpacas

On-Farm Emergency Treatment of Alpacas

by David E Anderson, DVM, MS, Diplomate ACVS
International Camelid Institute
College of Veterinary Medicine
The Ohio State University

Unfortunately, emergencies occasionally occur on the farm. The successful resolution of any emergency depends upon our ability to recognize and effectively deal with the crisis. The typical “on-farm” emergencies include soft tissue injuries, choke, obstruction of breathing in new borns, and birthing difficulties.

Many owners have dealt with lacerations, abrasions, and other injuries caused by fighting, becoming entangled in fencing, falling, or malicious attacks by animals or people. Their are some rules-of-thumb we try to follow when dealing with these injuries. If the injury has resulted in debilitation of the animal or the animal is unable to ambulate (e.g., a tendon laceration), the injured alpaca should be made safe from continued trauma and the nearest veterinarian consulted. Sometimes, the best action is to not move the patient until the veterinarian has examined him/her. Moving can increase the severity of the injury and may result in a wound that is far worse than the original injury. If the animal is traumatizing itself by thrashing, then he/she should be moved to shelter or an area that has deep bedding. If you can keep the animal calm you should do so, but remember not to get yourself injured in the process! You should consult your veterinarian for all wounds that are full thickness through the skin (you can see muscle or fat through the wound). These injuries may be completely or partially restored if the veterinarian can treat the wound within 12 hours of injury. After this time, treatment becomes more complicated because bacteria have time to establish an infection in the tissues adjacent to the wound. While waiting for the veterinarian, you may rinse the wound with clean water to flush out any debris, but you do not want to put any antiseptics or ointments into the wound. Water soluble ointments (e.g. Furacin) are O.K. to use because they are easily washed out of the wound. However, lanolin or petroleum based antiseptics may not be able to be cleaned out of a wound, thus preventing suture closure of the wound.

If the wound is bleeding and is located on a limb, you may place a pressure wrap on the wound. This is done by applying a non-adherent dressing to the wound, wrapping a thick pad around the limb, wrapping the bandage with roll gauze using firm pressure, and wrapping over this with a non-adhesive wrap using more firm pressure. If the wound is located on the body, a similar bandage may be placed. Direct pressure may be applied to wounds on the head, but you should be careful not to apply excessive pressure. If the animal violently resists your efforts, the best thing to do is to put him/her into a quiet stall and wait for the veterinarian.

Wounds can be easily dealt with by planning ahead. A “First Aid” box should be kept on the farm and contain necessary emergency medical supplies. A large tackle box, tool box, or plastic storage box are ideal for holding items in a clean dry place. The box should be examined every six months to be sure that appropriate supplies are still in usable order. The following is a list of supplies you may want to keep on the farm.


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Ask your veterinarian to discuss the best methods to utilize your first-aid box so that it can be customized to your farm. Remember, your ability to handle emergencies is only as good as you are prepared to be.

Reproduced from www.vet.ohio-state.edu with permission of Dr. Anderson. Copyright © Dr. David Anderson

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