The Camelids - Llama

Llamas can quickly become distressed by excessive heat. If your llamas are subjected to hot conditions combined with high humidity levels, steps need to be taken to make the animals more comfortable.
Probably the easiest way to ensure llamas do not become overheated is to shear them. Plan your shearing so that the animals are free of their heavy coats during the hottest part of the year. Llamas can be part shorn with just the belly and armpits being clipped. This will allow maximum perspiration and the animals can then adjust their own body heat. Leaving an inch or so of fleece will protect against sunburn and insect bites. A good grooming occasionally will help clear the fleece of accumulated dirt and fibres. Any tangles can be removed and the result will be better air flow through the fleece to the body. The massaging effect of a thorough grooming is also beneficial to the general wellbeing of the llama.

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To prevent heat stress, it might be necessary to place fans in barns for the llamas. Use as many as possible. Llamas will quickly learn to position themselves in front of the fans to gain the benefit of a cool breeze. Barns should be built with vents and exhaust fans in the roof. A high roof will allow hot air to rise and escape through the vents. Providing some feed in the barn, maybe in the form of hay, will save the animal having to forage through a hot day.

> Some llamas will make use of a wallow. Even a child's wading pool may suffice as a cooling source for a hot llama. Some llamas will line up to be sprayed or hosed on hot days. The blood vessels are close to the surface inside the back legs and in the armpits and directing water at these areas will result in more rapid cooling.

Access to shade and to cool, clean water should always be available. Watering troughs should always be under cover. Electrolytes can be added to drinking points. Troughs need to be thoroughly cleaned from time to time to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. The water in troughs which are in full sun on a hot day will soon become warm and unpalatable.

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A llama will exhibit heat stress by panting, dropping the lower lip, salivating and opening its mouth to breathe. They become very lethargic, will be disinclined to move and, if forced to move, their movements may be stiff. A temperature over 103oF, a respiratory rate over 20 and a heart rate over 90 are all signs that the animal is in danger from heat stress. They may begin to stagger and eventually become unable to stand.

Heat stress in llamas should not be taken lightly. Call your veterinarian immediately if the animal goes down and can't stand. While you are waiting for the vet, spray cold water on the legs and belly, and place ice packs in the arm pits. This will help reduce the body temperature. The vet may administer electrolytes or tube the animal. The animal's temperature needs to be lowered to at least below 107oF. Complications can result if such high temperatures are maintained over more than a couple of hours.

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If a llama stays down, it will require special attention. The area should be padded with thick straw. Turn the animal from side to side every few hours. Massaging and moving the limbs will help prevent muscle wasting and will improve circulation. The vet will need to replace electrolytes and fluids which have been lost. Pain and inflammation control will also need to be addressed.

Prevention is always better, and cheaper, than cure so think ahead and work out how you will keep your llamas cool during periods of high humidity.

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