• Ruth

July- Rio the Alpaca

Our geriatric patients are just as important as anyone else, and we have chosen this month’s case to demonstrate that not every animal that calls us for some veterinary attention needs complicated work ups and fancy diagnostic tests.

Rio, is a 20 year old alpaca! Alpacas usually live for 15 to 20 years, so we are amazed at how well Rio is doing. Jackie, owner of Semerwater Alpacas Ambles, rang us with concerns about Rio. Jackie explained that Rio was struggling to go to the toilet and was shivering – he really was not his usual happy self.

We went to examine Rio and found that he was in good nick for an old bloke, but his stomachs (all three of them!!) were quieter than normal. He was also a little un-comfortable on his hind legs. Jackie mentioned she was finding unchewed bits of hay laid about in the feeding pen.

Alpacas have teeth very similar to sheep – they grow for the animals life-span, but if they reach a grand old age, then there are sometimes no more teeth to grow! We suspected this might be the case for Rio. As a consequence he was struggling to chew his food, therefore he was struggling to digest it properly, hence he was getting constipated!

We decided to pop some acupuncture needles into Rio’s back. This helps stimulate gut movement, as well as help ease the pain of his likely hip arthritis. After a chat about food, we concluded Rio needed some special treatment – twice daily feeds of sloppy sugar beet with his usual alpaca pellets all watered down in a yummy alpaca ‘minimal chewing required’ feast to help him pile on some pounds and kick start his guts into action.

At Semerwater Alpacas, all the animals are used to the daily TLC that they get, and Rio is a resounding example of the owner’s hard work and affection. He is doing amazingly well on his new diet, and he was soon leaping around the paddock after his acupuncture session.

Well done to Rio – we would like to think you all agree, he does not look his age!

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