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Giant Alpaca with funny mouth - please help

Discussion in 'Diseases & Injuries - Llamas and Alpacas' started by trampledbygeese, Aug 8, 2014.

  1. Aug 8, 2014
    trampledbygeese

    trampledbygeese Loving the herd life

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    Wondering if you can help give me ideas how to diagnose what's wrong with my alpaca.

    We have a few rescue animals on our farm, including two very large llamas (1/2 again as large as the ones at the local agricultural fair) and two alpacas. One alpaca would be considered large, and the other is ... well, how to describe it. Think of the largest llama you've ever seen and add 20%. This thing is a good 8 to 10 inches taller than our llamas. Both the local camelid gurus say it's an alpaca, but ... I don't know... something about it being castrated too young. Being rescues, it takes 3-5 people to catch and handle them - we've really tamed them, the first year it took 12 people.

    The problem: Last night his cheek was suddenly all swollen and flabby one one side. About 5 or 6 times regular size and only on one side of his face. He's still eating his Text and hay, though he isn't as assertive as normal. No pain behaviour, nothing wrong with walking, just a massively lopsided face.

    I don't know if it's related, but he's been starting fights the last 5 days. He never usually starts fights, but every now and again, he tries to bite the llamas' faces.

    Any thoughts on what else I can look at to figure out what's wrong with him? Some good search terms to start with? Still waiting for a reply from my llama lady, so I'm really lost as to what to do.

    Catching him is a real pain and we don't have any local vets that deal with alpacas. However, if I can identify what is wrong and how to treat it, I can buy the meds for him.

    Thank you in advance.
     
  2. Aug 8, 2014
    Parsnip

    Parsnip Loving the herd life

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    Does he still have his fighting teeth?
     
  3. Aug 8, 2014
    trampledbygeese

    trampledbygeese Loving the herd life

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    nope, no fighting teeth. He's pretty old. The llama lady estimates 14 to 20 years, but it's hard to tell because he's so unusual.
     
  4. Aug 10, 2014
    purplequeenvt

    purplequeenvt True BYH Addict

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    Do you have a picture of him? If he's as big as you say, there is no way he is pure alpaca. With swelling on one side of his face, I'd be concerned about an abscess.
     
  5. Aug 11, 2014
    trampledbygeese

    trampledbygeese Loving the herd life

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    I double checked and according to his history he is alpaca, or at least going back 4 generations. He has no llama characteristics except his size. The local experts and vet all say it was because he was castrated far too early, his body never made the hormone to stop growing (testosterone). He will keep growing for the rest of his life, and has grown at least 3 inches at the shoulders in the last 4 years. He's in his mid to late teens.

    No change for better or worse, still eating and pooping. Still bright and lively, maybe slightly more so than the first day.

    My llama lady says it doesn't look like a tooth abscess. Her opinion is that it could be an allergic reaction to something. But uncertain either way. But like I said, this alpaca is a brute to catch so we had to assess him from a slight distance - he lets us get about 3 feet away before he bolts.

    Next step is to ask the Alpaca Lady (the expert that taught the llama lady and who was involved in rescuing this alpaca). Since the vets consult these two people for advice when dealing with camelids, I thought to save a few dollars and skip the vet for now.

    Besides, the nearest vet who does camelids (reluctantly) is over an hours drive and a ferry trip away. And I don't think he does camelids for anyone but the llama lady and alpaca lady, so I would have to get one of them to sweet talk him into letting me see him. Also, the van is in the shop till the end of the month so I have no idea how to get him to the vet. For some reason city people won't lend you their mini-van for transporting alpacas. Sheep, sure, but not alpacas, not even regular size ones. City people are weird.

    But like I said, the local farm vet will sell most meds if he can confirm the diagnosis (depending on what meds of course, there are some restricted ones he can't sell without a hands on assessment).

    Any thoughts now you've seen the photo?
     

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  6. Aug 11, 2014
    goatgurl

    goatgurl Herd Master

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    city people, no sense of adventure. I'd let you haul him in my rav4, lol. have you thought about snake bite or wasp stings? i had an adult full sized goat who had swelling on the side of her jaw/neck and it appeared to be a snake bite. i know you said he is a bugger to catch so have you felt his face? is it hard or soft? warm or cool to touch?
     
  7. Aug 11, 2014
    Parsnip

    Parsnip Loving the herd life

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    Don't know if this would work for catching him, but to catch our young feisty male alpaca we cornered him in the barn, threw a towel over his face and basically grabbed him and haltered him when he couldn't see anything for a few seconds. Definitely a 3 person job, gotta be quick, they're smart and can get angry real quick.
     
  8. Aug 11, 2014
    trampledbygeese

    trampledbygeese Loving the herd life

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    Thanks for the replies. Yeh, city people... :hu

    The snakes here seldom bite - and when they do they have no venom, just possibility of infection. Though we do have hornets this year.

    I managed to brush my hand against his cheek this evening, while bribing him with treats, and there is no heat to the swelling. So, if it's infection, it's not horrid. Pretty flabby and puffy, not hard lumpy - at least as far as I can tell with a half second of touching it.

    No puncture marks.

    Here's what the top expert on our island says:

    ...Very mysterious;-) Your description of "flabby and swollen" is very appropriate. It looks very much like a jaw/tooth-root abscess, but they are usually more swollen and less flabby. Even an insect bite would usually be more swollen with tight skin over it. His behavior suggests that he has been in pain and cranky with the others, but his eyes don't suggest pain or illness.

    There is probably nothing to be done except to "wait and see", particularly if he is eating, peeing and pooping and moving around normally. In my experience, jaw abscesses either get better or they don't. I've had them last for days, or weeks, or even years. ... just leave it alone. ...
    She also says if there is any change, get in touch. Which is great because I know no-one with more experience than her.

    If anything his eyes are a bit brighter tonight, he took guard duty when I haltered my old toothless llama. Toothless Max needs extra feed this time of year to get up to weight for winter, so I take him for a walk so he can eat some yummy treats without being bullied. Of course, the others think this is terrible and they should have the treats instead.

    Beau, the alpaca, is far too smart. At some point in his life he learned that he is stronger than humans, so if he kicks, bucks, and head buts enough then he can get his own way. Getting the rope around his neck is the easy part, the halter on him... manageable for two people. Keeping him under control...impossible. On shearing day, I can see why someone tried to send him to the dogfood factory. But the other 363 days a year, he's lovely.

    Now to play the waiting game. Either he will get worse and we will know what it is, or it will get better and we'll be happy. Wish I knew what it was though.