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November 7, 2007
Attention Llama Owners:

Barb Baker of ICI contacted the ILR office and asked that we forward this document, written by Dr. Jeff Lakritz, Director of the International Camelid Institute (ICI), to ILR llama owners. Any questions should be directed to the ICI at the numbers provided in the email. The ILR office personnel have no additional information about this situation.”

Although this problem has occurred more frequently in alpacas than in llamas, we thought you should be aware of the precautions that are being recommended.

In addition to the contacts listed in the document, you might also check the Alpaca Research Foundation website ( – although there is nothing on this topic on the site today, they will post any information they receive soon after receiving it.

 ILR Board


Infectious Camelid Respiratory Disease Affecting Major Areas of US Herd

Between the months of June and October 2007, an unknown number of respiratory cases have been seen across the US varying in severity from sub-clinical, mild to severe respiratory disease with fatalities. This recent occurrence of infectious respiratory disease has gone through most of the large camelid population areas in the US leaving many animals affected, some with fatal results.

In The Ohio State University Veterinary Hospital, the initial information we received came from telephone calls and referrals of some animals (mostly alpacas) with mild respiratory signs including nasal discharge, coughing and fever. We examined several animals here and submitted samples for serologic testing and virus isolation through our Ohio Veterinary Diagnostic laboratory and the Veterinary Diagnostic laboratory at Oregon State University. To date, most of the samples submitted for serology have come back negative. I have spoken to individuals from the West and East coasts and have read on the various listservs (Veterinary) that their testing has resulted in similar findings. In some of our cases we have had serologic positives for Adenovirus, (reported in association with pneumonia in llamas); however, this virus is reportedly a common finding in camelids. The possibilities of other agents are being investigated.

The demographics of the animals we have examined include: Older females (>10 years of age) who are in late pregnancy or early after giving birth (<3 weeks), who present after abortion, or after normal gestation length and delivery of healthy crias. Several llamas with high respiratory rates, fever, abnormal lung sounds and pleural effusion survived after extensive treatment and supportive care. Several older Alpaca females (>10 years of age) with healthy crias (~ 2 weeks of age) presented in respiratory distress, pleural effusion and severe lung consolidation. These animals died en route or were euthanized due to severe pneumonia. Their crias survived without evidence of respiratory disease.

Based upon our local findings, and those reports provided to me from other locations in the US, this possible viral respiratory disease can have serious consequences with secondary bacterial infections. The agent(s) is/are as yet unknown. Many groups are actively conducting tests and accepting samples for future testing once the causative agent has been identified. This is likely a multifactorial condition.

Recommendations for Those Owners Experiencing This Problem:

  1. Enforce strict bio-security protocols to prevent animals from bringing this agent to your farm. I would consider animals that return from shows/breeding farms as potential vectors even if not clinically affected. House these animals separately from the breeding stock for a minimum of 10-14 days before re-introducing them to the herd. As the identity of this agent has not been determined, longer isolation periods may be prudent.
  2. The quarantine facility should be separated in all aspects from the remainder of the farm. Separate personnel should tend to these animals during their quarantine period. Animal handlers, grooms, etc should be provided with disposable outer wear (including caps and shoe covers) to prevent the spread of infectious agents to other animals through contamination of clothing, footwear, etc. Clean equipment, bedding, feed, and all materials to be used in contact with these animals should be kept separate from the rest of the herd. Handle new animals after other animals on the farm.
  3. Maintain strict bio-security of bred females, especially older animals. In our experience these animals are the most severely affected. Limit the stress of handling of pregnant females by evaluation of respiratory rates in pasture (from a distance) and physically restraining only those with an unexpected rise or work in breathing.
  4. Have your Veterinarian examine all animals with clinical signs at an early stage. If deemed necessary due to fever, respiratory rates or other concerns, treatment should be initiated. If your Veterinarian needs information on or about this respiratory condition, please feel free to pass this information on to them. Contact information for experienced Veterinary personnel is posted at the bottom of this
  5. Obtain blood samples (for serum) from those animals demonstrating the common clinical signs (nasal/ocular discharge, coughing, fever, open mouth breathing) and submit these samples to a veterinary diagnostic laboratory for respiratory serology. Although we may not get information back on what is causing this problem soon, those individuals investigating this respiratory condition indicate that future testing of frozen (banked) serum, especially paired serum samples taken 2-4 weeks apart may be useful in gaining an understanding of this problem.
  6. Treatment of those animals with more severe symptoms (fever, pneumonia), should include broad spectrum antibiotics which are effective against gram negative and gram positive bacteria. Those animals we have examined have had a number of opportunistic bacteria isolated from their lungs.

Dr. Jeff Lakritz, Director, ICI
614-292-6661, ext.1

Contact Information for Respiratory Condition of Camelids

Barbara Baker or Nancy Medland, Co-Associate Directors, ICI
614-403-1016 or

Dr. Jeff Lakritz, Director, ICI
614-292-6661, ext.1

Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospitals: ask to speak with any veterinarian working with camelids

The University of California, Davis
Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital
Phone 530-752-0290

California Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory
Phone : 530-752-8700

Colorado State University
Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital
Phone : 970-221-4535

Colorado Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory
Phone: 970-297-1281

Oregon State University
Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital
Phone: 541-737-2859

Oregon Veterinary Medical Diagnostic laboratory
Phone: 541-737-3261

Washington State University Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital
Phone 509-335-0711

Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory
Phone 509-335-9696

Updated: November 07, 2007