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November 22, 2011  

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Update on Camelid Medicine and Research at the Morris Animal Foundation

Two short articles provided by Karen Conyngham, the ILR Representative to the US Animal Health Association, for camelid owners.


Your Morris Animal Foundation (MAF) Donations at Work For Llamas / Alpacas

Charging Ahead Against Disease
By Kelley Weir

Just like humans, animals can be born with congenital diseases. Choanal atresia is one such congenital disorder, where the back of the nasal passage (choana) is blocked, usually by abnormal bony or soft tissue formed during fetal development.

Llamas and alpacas can suffer from this disease, and the abnormal nasal passage forces them to breathe through their mouths, predisposing them to fatal aspiration pneumonia.

Recent scientific evidence indicates that choanal atresia is similar to CHARGE syndrome in humans, for which the genetic mutation CDH7 has been identified. Humans affected with CHARGE syndrome are often born with life­threatening birth defects, including heart deformities and breathing problems.

With Morris Animal Foundation funding, Dr. Anibal Armien, from the University of Minnesota, tried to determine whether CDH7 is also associated with choanal atresia in alpacas and llamas. She learned that complete sequencing of the CDH7 gene will be needed to determine whether other mutations in the gene are the cause of choanal atresia in llamas and alpacas. Preliminary data also indicated that nine of 10 alpacas with choanal atresia have cranial and/or internal organ malformation. Researchers identified patterns of malformation that are associated with choanal atresia in these animals, and the findings will help veterinarians diagnose choanal atresia and differentiate it from other diseases. 

Continued research is needed to help us understand the full scope of choanal atresia, but this study provides information that will help lead the way to interventions and therapies for camelids suffering from this problem.


Tests Prove Limitations of Deworming Drugs
Dr. Lisa Williamson, University of Georgia

Many llamas and alpacas (camelids) suffer from sometimes fatal worm-related illnesses because they receive ineffective doses of dewormer medications. Dosing protocols are generally extrapolated from doses given to other species, such as sheep and cattle. Yet these doses may not be effective, and veterinary parasitologists now recognize hat the use of inadequate doses of dewormers promotes parasite resistance.

Researchers from the University of Georgia tested two drugs, moxidectin and morantel tartrate, on an alpaca farm in Georgia. Alpacas were randomly assigned to treatment groups. The study showed that injectable moxidectin is less suitable for treatment of camelid worms than oral moxidectin. Because insufficient dosing promotes parasite resistance, this information could contribute to efforts to decrease the rate of infection. Further, the research identified the limitations of morantel tartrate as a sole therapeutic agent.

This research will enable owners and veterinarians to make more informed decisions when deworming llamas and alpacas.


Both articles reprinted with permission from Morris Animal Foundation, AnimalNews 11.3 August 2011.

Note: to see more information on camelid research studies funded by MAF, see:

Use the search tool next to ‘Animal Species’ to select “Llamas/Alpacas/Other Camelids.”