Five and a half years ago we bought our first three alpaca; Oak, Chris and Pointer. Chris died of liver failure only 8 months later, a sad and somewhat traumatic introduction to owning camelids! But we had lots of fun with Oak and Pointer, taking them on walks all over the place (up and down the valley, beach walks, forest walks, into town).
But for the last few years we have not done much with them. As numbers grew we found that all our time was taken up taking other alpaca (and now llamas) out for walks. Oak and pointer were consigned to living on the back hill with the main boy-mob, and while I saw/checked them daily, interaction was minimal. We were actually thinking of selling them along with the next batch of pet boys. It would be wonderful to see them go to people who would have a small herd, and have the time to put into them- taking them out for walks again.
Then Oak started to have joint problems. We first noticed in January, but thought it was just a sprain. Then it started getting worse. I noticed he was spending more time kushed than any other ember of his mob. When we brought them in a month ago it was heartbreaking. He could barely walk (jumping the stream coming off the back hill made him collapse). He had lost 10 kg in just a month, probably due to the pain and the inability to stand and graze enough. We kept him and Pointer in the paddock next to the house. He got his AD&E jab along with everyone else. I started talking to the vet, as in that state we would probably have to have him put down soon.
But the vet is always flat-out busy, so she did not get a chance to come out and see him immediately (as this was a progressive disorder, it was not an emergency). And over those weeks, he stopped getting worse, and maybe, just maybe, he was a bit better.
Talking about this on various forums, a vet & alpaca breeder in Australia suggested it might be Rickets (hypophosphatemia). We wondered how this could be, as he first started showing symptoms in summer after he had been shorn- the time when he should be getting the most VitD from the UV of our powerful southern sun. Her thought was that his massive obesity might be playing a role- all the fat-soluble VitD is partitioning into his adipose tissue, leaving the serum level too low. So we started treating him- more VitD (being careful not to overdose, we are giving low-dose weekly injections), plus some phosphate supplement injections.
He is still not right, but he is not as bad as he was. I donâ€™t know if he will make a full recovery or not, but it is nice to see him up and grazing more (and hopefully not is so much pain anymore, with camelids being so damn stoic, it is really hard to tell). We will weigh him again this weekend.
But having Oak and Pointer down by the house, and interacting with them every day, has been a joy. Pointer is an amazingly groovy dude. Sure, he is really pugnacious to other alpaca (as neighbors who hear his frequent “fight! Fight! FIGHT!” screaming can attest), but he will let me walk right up to him in the paddock, rub his neck, and give him a hug. He doesn’t step away if you rub his neck from across the fence. That is really quite rare/unusual in a camelid. I am hoping Oak’s legs improve to the point where we can take them on fun walks again. They both enjoy the adventures, and it is fun to rediscover old friends that have been neglected too long.