John & Susan Merrell
41390 Hwy 226
Scio, OR 97374
503-551-7219 (cell)
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Sand Colic in Alpacas

Much of the United States is an ancient sea bed. This makes those areas, and the sand floored barn prime areas for the alpaca to ingest sand. Horses, cows, alpacas and probably goats and sheep can all suffer or die from sand ingestion. Sand colic is easy to control in the alpaca once the danger is acknowledged and the symptoms are recognized.

At the beginning of the growing season, those on natural pastures and dry lots, will notice everything turning green and the alpacas nipping the new shoots close to the ground and will pull up fragile roots full of moist sandy soil. This is how the alpaca gets a belly full of sand. Other ways they pick up sand is by the owner spilling salt or minerals on a sandy floor, debris in the hay and supplement, feeding on the ground or barn flooring or by pica (they just eat dirt usually due to mineral defiencies) or the alpaca is eating small leafy hay (alfalfa, clover or trefoil) off of a sandy feeding area.

How to tell if your alpaca is picking up sand is to check the bottom of the water source. Are they leaving sand from their mouth when they drink? Do they have a dirt lining on the side of their mouth after having access to plants growing in pens or fields? Do you have sand or gravel tailings as a barn floor? Do you have your minerals and salt where they leach on to sand, dirt or tailings?

Check their feces for sand by placing feces in a glove or Ziploc bag with water, smoosh it until it is dissolved, hold the bag or glove with your fingers on one side and run your thumb nail down the bag feeling for sand. Seeds also feel like sand but are visually identifiable.

Symptoms are only visible in cases of a severe sand load. Alpacas carrying sand will be the last in line leaving the barn to run into a field. They won’t run far. Their bellies bounce funny when they do run. Look for a sinking in of the high abdomen between the hips and the ribs. This will even show on heavy alpacas. It is the weight of the sand that causes this. An alpaca with a severe load will walk like their feet hurt and they will have soft stool. Always check for sand in the feces and check for foot problems. Older females are the most severely affected especially in their third trimester.

Bellies full of sand hurt. When this happens the alpaca will not drink cold water. Sand without water will stop moving through the gut. When the weather is cold carry warm water to your alpacas and keep them hydrated.

A sand load can also be diagnosed buy ultrasound and x-ray. The bag or glove is cheaper.

if you suspect sand colic, it is time to seek the advice of a vet.

Feed safe by keeping leafy hay off of sandy floors and the ground. Clean up all salt and mineral spills. Provide warm water in cold weather. Check often for sand and the sand symptoms. Be aware that well nurtured alpacas can ingest sand. May your alpacas always be well.

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