Alpaca Nutrition News                                                                      October 2007

Prevention, prevention, prevention

Recently, there has been a lot of discussion amongst alpaca producers about a disease unaffectionately called "Snots". This disease is highly contagious, especially to stressed alpaca, and is often lethal. It resembles a disease in cats known as Rhinotracheitis, a viral disorder that is also highly contagious, but usually only fatal to the old and young. It caused congestion of the upper digestive tract, usually accompanied by sneezing of globs of not of various sizes. Rhino is not curable, and because it is viral, antibiotics only work while they are being administered.

I was unable to discern whether Snots is a viral or bacterial disease. The fact that some alpaca were able to recover suggests it may be bacterial. Either way, there are things the alpaca producer an do to avoid this disease.

Prevention is almost always cheaper and less stressful on humans and animals alike, than treatment. If taking animals to a show, where unfamiliar alpacas come in contact and the stress level is high, use MSE paste or drench for a few days before traveling, during the show, and for a few days after. The alpaca that was exposed to unfamiliar animals should be quarantined for a month to make sure they do not develop symptoms.

Yes, flies feed on the quarantined animal as well as the rest of the herd, but many communicable diseases need actual contact or proximity to be transmitted. These pathogens do not survive very long outside of the host, and exposure to sunlight and the elements is often enough to kill them. If unable to quarantine or concerned about transmission by flies, make sure the rest of the herd gets MSE preventatively. Use of diatomaceous earth (DE) on poop piles and in the barn will also decrease the number of flies on the farm.

MSE increases immune response, not just because microbes present a physical barrier to opportunistic pathogens, which are always passing through. It increases the production of the important immunoglobulin, IgG. MSE paste also contains pectin, which increases both IgG and IgA. Stress makes animals move vulnerable to disease, and showing is stressful.

If Snots is viral, antibiotics will actually weaken the alpaca further. Antibiotics kill beneficial bacteria and punch holes in the gastrointestinal protective barrier that is the immune system's first line of defense.

If, despite these precautions, the alpaca develops Snots, give an increased dose of MSE drench or paste at the first sign of illness. MSE can help the immune system fight the pathogen, and provide energy for a stronger, and longer-lasting offensive.

Animals that were sick, seem to recover, and then are found dead may have suffered extreme rumen disruption. The ingestion of large amounts of feed after a lengthy period of abstinence can cause rumen overload. Gradually increase the amount of feed to allow the rumen to recover. This can be promoted by also giving MSE paste or drench.

Exposure to unfamiliar alpacas, especially when stressed, is a recipe for disaster. The unfamiliar animals do not have to be at a show, they can be at another farm where the alpaca is taken to breed or agist. Transportation and any change in location can cause stress. Stress opens the door to disease.

MSE paste and drench is available at Please contact Lark Burnham, Ph.D. with any questions or concerns,






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