Llama and Alpaca Normal Vital Signs and Physical Examination Parameters

– Heart rate: 60-90 BPM, found by listening (ausculting) with stethoscope at fleece-free area under elbow. Heart rates can be increased due to exercise/exertion/excitement, stress, fever, or pain. Arrhythmias are common in SAC’s-generally no big deal.
-Temperature: Varies from 99.5 to 102F. Neonates are unable to thermoregulate and have a wider temperature range. Ambient temperatures can greatly influence body temps. SAC’s are prone to heat stress and care must be taken to ensure cooling systems (shade, misters, and fans) are utilized.
– Resting respiratory rate: Varies from 10-30 BPM, can be difficult to hear with stethoscope due to fleece. Watch for rise and fall of chest/flank area or place hand in front of nostrils to feel warm breath.
Respiratory rates can be increased due to exercise/exertion/excitement, stress, fever, illness (ex. pneumonia), obstruction, or pain
– Mucus membranes and capillary refill time: Check non-pigmented areas of the gums, should be light pink, moist and when pressed with the fingertip color should return in 1-2 seconds. Vulva may also be examined if pigment covers entire oral cavity.
– Temperament/attitude: Each animal will be different so your observations are vital! Be aware of “normal” behaviors for individuals as well as the herd. Watch for isolation, failure to compete at feeding, excessively quiet animals, sudden aggression…anything unusual
– Body condition: Ideally animals should be weighed throughout the year. Fleece can hide even a severely emaciated condition, so a thorough palpation of the body (esp. bony parts) should be performed as able.
– Gait: Is the animal moving all limbs normally in the walk, pace, trot and gallop? Failure to weight bear on a particular limb likely indicates pain or injury.
-Conformation: When evaluating for health pay close attention to head and neck carriage. A weak, sick or depressed SAC will hold the head lower (extended) or arch it back over the thorax.
– Eyes, ears and mouth: Eyes should be wide open and clear. The globe should be smooth. Squinting and tearing are signs of a problem. Ears should be in a normal position and move according to stimulation. A drooping ear (esp. with a head tilt) or foul odor indicates a potential problem. The mouth should be symmetrical and functional. Observe animals during feeding to ensure normal chewing and swallowing behaviors.
– NOTE: Everyone (!) should own a thermometer dedicated to animal use. Additionally know where it is, and be comfortable using it. An inexpensive stethoscope may also be handy. Always have basic wound care supplies on site (betadine or novalsan scrub, triple antibiotic ointment, vet-wrap, non-stick pads, saline eye irrigation, clean washrags or towels…) if you have multiple animals discuss common medications you may want with your veterinarian.

See also  How To Effectively Treat Mange In Dogs