Health and Welfare Bulletin 45 : Liver fluke and Winter Update

Claire Whitehead, President of BVCS, has asked us to distribute the following warning about Liver Fluke:

    As with many of the gastrointestinal parasites that affect camelids (eg Haemonchus, the “barber pole worm”), the tepid wet summer and autumn that we had in 2012 appears to have allowed liver fluke to flourish as well. This parasite loves wet ground. Although it may seem odd to talk about this now while temperatures are below freezing in many places and there is snow is on the ground, it is historical conditions that are of concern. Recently an alpaca owner has lost 4 animals despite routine 6 monthly preventative treatment.

    There are reports of acute, chronic and fatal forms of liver fluke in camelids. Clinical signs of disease include reduced appetite, generalised weakness, recumbency and anaemia – these are not particularly specific clinical signs unfortunately! Diagnosis may be difficult as detection of fluke eggs is a bit challenging – for Fasciola hepatica, the main parasite of concern, a sedimentation procedure is usually done.
    If you have concerns about fluke affecting your animals, it is important to specify that you want a fluke test since a regular faecal examination will not normally detect fluke eggs. Furthermore, because a negative test result doesn’t necessarily mean that your animal does not have fluke, the test is probably better reserved for animals with a clinical suspicion of fluke rather than as a routine testing tool. In areas where fluke is known to be a problem, prophylactic treatment is worthwhile at intervals reflective of the extent of the problem in your area. In clinical cases, blood work may be helpful. Biochemistry results may show indications of liver impairment or damage, especially evidence of bile duct obstruction as indicated by increased GGT concentrations.
    Please consult your regular vet for information about local conditions if you have any concerns about your fluke control plan.

    Claire E Whitehead BVM&S MS FHEA MRCVS
    Diplomate ACVIM (Large Animal)
    Camelid Veterinary Services

      A number of more senior camelids are not keen on drinking freezing, or very cold, water. Please make sure you keep an eye on all your animals during this bad weather and make sure they are all drinking. Normally camelids obtain water through the grass but during the winter, when they are fed hay, they tend to need more water due to the dryness of their hay.

        Last year was exceptional for rain. Due to the amount we had, some ground is still saturated even under the snow. This has caused various foot problems. Don’t just leave foot problems and think it will get better. Call your vet if your camelid is lame for any length of time. Try to keep the animal in the dry until you get advice from your vet.

        I have asked a vet from BVCS to write an article on foot problems for Llama Link.

          Schmallenberg Virus has not gone away. If you have any abnormal births, early abortions or difficulties in giving birth, call your vet. Please look at the BLS web site at H&W Bulletin dated 22 September 2012 and remind yourselves of the symptoms and what to look out for.

            As we start a new year, I would like to remind you all about the BLS Welfare Fund. This is donated money, ring fenced especially for welfare. Think how you could raise money for the fund, coffee mornings, Bring and Buy sales, a ‘bad language’ box! Every bit helps. We are finding more and more of our wonderful animals needing help. BLS is now being contacted by both the RSPCA and Trading Standards asking for our help in rehoming animals or advice on how to care for camelids. Our web site has been complimented by Trading Standards as a source of very useful information and a great help.

            A past member of BLS has donated a number of llama packs to the Welfare Fund. If anyone is interested in seeing them, please send me an email,
   and I will send details. All donations will go straight to the Welfare Fund.

            LIZ BUTLER
            Vice Chairman BLS & Health & Welfare Representative
            British Llama Society
            Nutfield Park Farm, South Nutfield, REDHILL, Surrey
            Tel: 01737-823375

            With thanks to Axel Bührmann, orazal, lucianvenutian, Veronique Debord, quinn.anya for creative commons use of pictures