Mastitis in alpacas, not to be missed!

Mastitis in alpacas, not to be missed!

Although not an overly common problem in alpacas, prompt attention is required should mastitis be suspected.

Detection will depend on the type of mastitis. Detection of subclinical mastitis requires the testing of all quarters. Chronic mastitis may only show up as periodic changes in the milk composition while acute mastitis is most often associated with the period around unpacking.

Mastitis is characterised by heat, swelling, hardness and pain on palpation of the affected gland and the secretion will vary in consistency, away from normal. Acute mastitis may first be picked up when the cria fails to thrive or the mother is observed not allowing the cria to suckle.

Careful observation of the nursing behaviour of the cria together with observation and palpation of the udder will allow early detection of problems.

Treatment will require the use of systemic antibiotics and/or anti-inflammatory. Use of standard cattle intramammary treatments is not practical; the streak canal openings are very small and each teat is associated with two non-communicating glands therefore both streak canals would need to be infused which is very difficult to achieve properly. It is therefore necessary to use injectable (systemic) antibiotics. It is important to remember however that no antibiotics are licenced for use in alpacas and choice of drug should be at the guidance of your vet.

Culture and sensitivity testing of the milk from affected glands is recommended. Samples should be taken and frozen prior to treatment commencing. Stripping of the gland should also be done on a daily basis in conjunction with treatment.

Providing it is seen and actioned early, mastitis responds well to antibiotic therapy with the outcome being a return to normal milk production levels and normal gland attributes within a few days of the start of treatment. So, take home message... if you observe mum refusing to let the cria suckle or the cria not trying to suckle, check out the udder!

And if you have any worries... call your vet

Peter Aitken BVSc MACVSc MRCVS

25th April 2014

Back to news