Monday, 7 September 2009

Liver Fluke Forecast

I don't need to tell you we have had another wet summer.

For the alpacas this may mean a parasite problem in the shape of liver fluke . If you are on wet ground you really ought to consider it as a possibility.

Your Vet and the VLA
Talk to your vet and see what they think about your local conditions and risk factors. You could also ask your local Veterinary Laboratories Agency VLA what they are aware of in terms of fluke infections. The VLA is where your vet usually sends samples, if your vet does not do them in-house. They can therefore have a feel for trends in your area, though experience with alpacas may be patchy.

2008 a problem year
Last year we had major problems here because we did not start treating early enough and our girls were exposed to high levels of immature fluke which caused severe liver damage. The wet summer of 2008 brought the peak for acute liver fluke infection forward. We lost a breeding female in November from acute fascioliasis and have had to give extra care to the others that were exposed. We had another die in March with generalised bacterial infection and abscesses all over the place plus a funny heart lesion. Death was not directly attributable to liver fluke but the liver damage surely could not have helped.

The good news is that they can recover if the exposure to the immature stage is not excessive but it does take them a long time. Another one of our girls aborted in June most likely as a result of poor condition linking back to the problem last year. She has struggled since November with fluctuations in weight and health, with anaemia a constant factor. Thankfully she is currently in a good phase and starting to pick up.

We have therefore been trying to find lots of ways to break the life-cycle of the parasite, with improvements to land drainage, routine and regular treatment with a flukicide (just don't use the same one all the time to avoid creating a resistant strain), fencing off or restricting access to land when it has standing water etc.

More info on life cycle and treatment of liver fluke is available from the Scottish Agricultural College publication SAC Technical Note 557 (PDF 1MB). In addition, why not have a general browse of the Technical Notes section of their website which covers a wide range of topics.

The National Animal Disease Information Service produce a Parasite Forecast available as a PDF for download by region. The whole NADIS website is worth a browse and a bookmark too.

The forecast for us in South Wales says it is another bad year for liver fluke with a wetter July than last year which has got to be saying something.

Liver Fluke is another thing to keep looking out for and to add to the learning curve. We just need to avoid learning things the hard way where we can.

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