We are located in the Southwest part of the United
States, and our climate is much drier than most. Because of this fact, we do not have some of the health/ care issues
that some llamas owners and breeders face in wetter parts of the country. We do, however, have some specific issues
which need to be understood, and these issues I will bring up and discuss here:
Heat Stress - Heat stress is a factor all
over the country, depending on the time of year, and we all need to deal with it at some point. Here in Arizona, specifically
in the hotter desert climates, heat stress can kill llamas. With this in mind, there are several things that we, as
responsible owners, can and need to do.
The best option is to remove the llama from the hotter desert climates for the
hot season. We have many mountainous areas in Arizona where the daytime temperatures are quite mild, if not even cold,
during the summer months. Llama boarding is offered by many llama ranches for the summers (as well as year round
if needed). Many llama breeders will not sell to someone who lives in a hot region unless there is a pre-arranged
contract for summer boarding. Heat stress IS an issue.
There are owners who keep their llamas in the hot regions with some success,
but it does entail some work on the part of the owner. Shearing is an absolute MUST, preferably a full body shear.
Swamp coolers work very well in a barn in dry weather. Air conditioners work well in dry and moist weather. Misting
systems have also been used by many. The first summer we had our first llamas, we used all three of these methods,
and we still needed to do an emergency transport from Scottsdale to a ranch in Flagstaff with a heat-stressed llama in July.
This is why I preach summer relocation so adamantly.
Valley Fever (Coccidiomycosis) - Valley
fever is known to cause health problems in the desert climates here in the Southwest, plus other parts of the world
which are arid (Central and South America regions).
What I have learned about the problem is that it results from exposure to a specific
mold that is stirred-up and made airborne during the summer monsoons. This mold is breathed in - in humans it makes
us very sick and can become a long-term problem if not treated. Dogs are also affected by this spore and many dogs are
on expensive treatment for the problem. Llamas are also specifically affected by valley fever, and it can lead to very
serious health problems and even death.
There are numerous llama breeders who insist on keeping their llamas out of desert
regions where the spore may be located, and even go so far as to not feed hay grown in those regions. However, I do
know of several llamas who have passed away who were not located in the desert and not eaten hay grown in the desert, and
the cause of death was said to be Valley Fever.
There are currently some llama and/or alpaca owners in the Southwest
who are trying a treatment of Fluconazole orally on camelids who have been determined to have a titer of Valley Fever (determined
Rattlesnake Bites - Snakes are an issue
in the desert regions, mostly in areas where there hasn't been complete blading of the desert. Llamas are susceptible
to snakebites across the country, mainly due to their inquisitive and investigative nature.
I have an entire page on snakebites and llamas (please see
Oleander - Oleander bushes are a common
landscape plant in the desert Southwest. Oleanders are extremely poisonous to llamas, as well as other livestock and
humans. There have been cases where death has resulted from a llama ingesting only a few small oleander leaves, so this
is not a plant that is welcome in your yard if you want to raise llamas. I would even be concerned if neighboring properties
contain some oleander, since cut leaves can blow into your property.
IF YOU HAVE OLEANDERS ON YOUR PROPERTY, GET RID OF
THEM NOW! They are DEADLY to llamas, dogs, humans and other livestock.