alpacas

     
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Tooth care is an important part of an alpacas general health.  When one considers that proper functioning of an alpacas teeth is the first stage of a healthy digestive process.  So it is important to know when your alpaca is having a problem and to have a qualified veterinarian knowledgeable in dental anatomy to care for the alpaca having the problem.

Alpacas generally have all their adult teeth by the time they have reached age six.  The total number of teeth varies between male and female from 30 to 32 teeth.  The male alpaca has two additional teeth exposed and those teeth are called fighting teeth.  The female does not have, except on rare occasions, visible fighting teeth.


Alpacas have six lower incisors and no upper incisors.  The lower incisors are used to bite off plants and for chewing.  They line up with the dental pad (roof of the alpaca's mouth) making their eating ability a highly efficient method for grass, hay, and plants.

If something should interfere with this process, as with our alpaca, your alpaca may require some dental assistance from your vet.  The process requires minimal restraint of the alpaca and/or a sedative, which is what Dr. Ty McConnell from Santa Cruz, used to help our alpaca get through this trauma.

In our alpaca's case she retained deciduous incisor (baby tooth) that was preventing her adult teeth or permanent teeth, from taking their normal placement.

Our alpaca under went this procedure because she had retained deciduous incisors and intervention was required.  Understand that this is not a common procedure.  But is one that is necessary when it is determined that the baby teeth have remained under the gum line surface and is preventing the proper placement of the adult teeth. However, it is important for every alpaca owner to maintain a periodic check of their alpaca's teeth in order to prevent health problems.

Warning Signs of an existing problem:
bulletIf you alpaca takes a long time to chew grass or hay or, while eating, spills grain.
bulletAnother obvious sign is a poor body condition.  If the diet is more than adequate but the body condition does not exemplify this then there could be a tooth problem.
bulletIf your alpacas cheeks are pushed in, making contact with the teeth and the alpaca reacts strongly, then the cheek teeth could be too sharp.  If you are new to owning alpacas it is wise to ask your vet to check this.  Some alpacas will react simply because they are high strung animals already.  If the cheek teeth are too sharp the vet can easily blunt the edges of the teeth.

Click Photos to enlarge   
Photos taken by and provide by Kathy Porter.

Pik 1 - View of Baby Teeth-a.jpg (45435 bytes) Here our alpaca is having her teeth checked.
Pik 2 - Sedative takes eff-a.jpg (48369 bytes) Dr. Ty McConnell, veterinarian from Santa Cruz, administer a sedative.  The alpaca rests her head as it begins to take effect.
Pik 3 - Loosening Gums Aro-a.jpg (47426 bytes) Before extraction of the teeth causing the alpaca  the problem, Dr. McConnell loosens the gum line around the teeth.
Pik 4 - Loosening Gums-a.jpg (48651 bytes)

Pik 8 - Loosening Gums Aro-a.jpg (49409 bytes)

Pik 8 - Loosening Gums Aro-a.jpg (49409 bytes)

Pik 9 - Loosening Gums Aro-a.jpg (47871 bytes)
Loosening the gum line around the effected teeth can take some time.  Dr. McConnell continues his efforts before extracting the problem teeth.

Loosening the gum line makes it easier to extract the tooth or teeth that must be removed.  Dr. McConnell spends some time making certain the gum line is loose so the extraction is not a traumatic event for the alpaca.
Pik 10 - Extracting Tooth-a.jpg (46693 bytes)

Pik 5 - Extracting Tootha.jpg (47763 bytes)
With the sedative taking hold, Dr. McConnell removes the baby teeth causing the problems.
Pik 6 - Extracted Tooth1.jpg (49920 bytes)

Pik 11 - Surgery Complete-a.jpg (49785 bytes)
One tooth extracted.  Next one to be removed.




Two teeth extracted, surgery over.
Pik 12 - Belinda Recovers-a.jpg (47028 bytes) It wasn't just work for Dr. McConnell, but the alpaca as well.  Here she rests her head as she begins to recover.
The following pictures are of an alpaca transitioning from baby teeth to adult teeth. It is not abnormal to see a double row of teeth or, one or more teeth retained while the new set of teeth come in. In fact, the symmetry of the teeth and the entire bite can get quite gnarly during this time, yet no worries. Once the alpaca gets through this process, their adult teeth align nicely. Alpacas can go through this process up until they are about 4 1/2 years of age.
Peach's Teeth1a.jpg (41892 bytes) Peach's Teeth2a.jpg (45080 bytes)
Peach's Teeth3a.jpg (61228 bytes) Peach's Teeth4a.jpg (45263 bytes)
Peach's Teeth5a.jpg (46887 bytes) Click photo to enlarge.
 


Alpacas By The Sea
P. O. Box 371628
1162 Tamarind St.
Montara, CA 94037
(650) 728-LUCK
Fax: (650) 515-3000

For further information on Alpaca farms, alpaca husbandry and alpaca sales,
write to:  Hibbits@alpacasbythesea.com