Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Clostridial Disease in Cria

The bad news that I mentioned in my last blog, is unfortunately bad news indeed. I have been waiting for the results of the postmortem before posting the events.

We received a phone call on Sunday morning from a distraught Robyn..."you are not going to like this" were her words of preparation...which allowed just enough time for all kinds of dreadful scenarios to go through my mind. I have to say that the source of the upset hadn't even crossed my mind...Kitten...lovely little black Kitten...always running around friendly and so inquisitive...had died suddenly that morning. Poor Robyn, poor Biba, poor Kitten.

Kitten had gone from pronking around on Saturday night, to being okay at 9am Sunday morning when she came in at feed time, to being found near death 2 hours later. All of the signs (or lack of them) pointed to clostridial disease, and this has been confirmed with pulpy kidney present on postmortem.

Clostridial disease is caused by bacteria that occurs widely in soil. Death is usually sudden and animals are usually found dead without any visable signs. Our vet said it was actually unusual to find them alive at all (as Robyn had) but Kitten had gone on to die very quickly.

There are vaccinations against Clostridial disease. We give Lambivac at 4 weeks of age and again at 8 weeks. This is a live vaccine, which means the first dose causes a reaction and thus when the vaccine is introduced again, antibodies are produced that protect the animal for 6-12 months (varies with product and animal species). Kitten was 6 weeks of age meaning that she had had the first vaccination but not the second, so was not protected.

I am keen to hear other breeders protocols for cria vaccination i.e how soon do you give your first and subsequent doses? Our vet agrees with our current practice of vaccinating the dams 6 week before birthing (although this is difficult to predict when gestation periods can go so far over expectations) and the cria at 4 and 8 weeks. He feels that we have just been incredibly unlucky, and will hopefully never see it again. But any other advice welcome.

Biba and Kitten

P.S just remembered reading about vaccinating the dam at 4-6 weeks postpartum to cover the young cria. Maybe this is something we should do, as I believe that very young cria do not have an immune system that is well enough developed to cope with vaccinations at a very young age?

My other thought is if the cria is dependent on some immunity from the dam until they are 8 weeks of age, should plasma donors be vaccinated at 6 weeks prior to donation. I am guessing the answer must be yes.


  1. So sorry to hear that. It sounds like you were very unlucky.

  2. How very sad, and very unlucky, poor you, all of you. I hope Biba is coping ok, poor girl.

  3. Oh, how sad for all of Beck Brow - kitten was indeed a cutie. I am certain you are doing everything you can in terms of vaccination - you are such an attentive alpaca breeder.

  4. Very sorry to hear that news Barbara.
    We vaccinate mums 4 weeks before due dates and cria at two weeks of age and again at 6 weeks. We used to give the first jab at 4 weeks but with extra long pregnancies etc we felt we should start the ball rolling earlier.
    Like the vet said just rotten luck.

  5. Sorry to hear this Barbara. We were advised to, and generally do vaccinate at 2 days, 4 weeks later, and then another 4 weeks later. Glad the Classic was successful.

  6. Barbara, so sorry to hear your horrible news. Poor Biba and poor you. We vaccinate our crias at a week old and then the second dose a month later, after which they join the herd routine. Before our last births we didn't vaccinate the dams during their last month as we had done previously; I've always been undecided about that one and remain so.

  7. Sorry to read your bad news Barbara - a bit of a shock for Robyn no doubt. Shirley & Robbie

  8. What sad news. I'm so sorry for you and for Biba - Kitten looked just adorable. Listen to the Vet - it was incredibly bad luck.

  9. Hi Barbara, just read your news and really sorry to read this ! Such a beautiful little girl. I also vaccinate mothers within the last 4 weeks of pregnancy and the cria again at 2 weeks of age. After a recent discussion with the vets just last week regarding plasma harvesting, it is highly recommended that you would vaccinate your donar animal 2 weeks proir to taking blood, to boost immunity in order to obtain the maximum protection in the plasma. Hope this might help, this is just me passing on the thoughts from my vet direct to you.... such a very sad and unfortunate experience ... hope Biba is coping and what a terrible shock ....for everyone .....Jayne

  10. Thank you everyone for your comments, Kitten does seem to have been very unlucky, but I think we will bring vaccinating forward to 2 weeks and 6 weeks ( so long as the cria are fit and well) and move dam vaccinations back to 4 weeks prior to birthing to try to narrow the window of opportunity for the disease to hit

    1. I have now been informed that there is no benefit to giving Lambivac to a very young cria, as their immune system is too immature to produce the required antibodies. The only way to protect the very young is to vaccinate the dam in very late pregnancy. This is exactly the same with humans, and is why very young babies have died of whooping cough during the recent outbreak,and is why mums are being enourage to get the vaccine during pregnancy.

  11. What a shock. I am so sorry - just bad luck though.
    We do our Lambivac at 1 month and then a month after. At the moment we do not do the mum's before birth but do give the cria a pump of Orojet as soon as they are born.

  12. Oh Barbara I am so sorry to hear you have lost Kitten - it is always a dreadful blow to lose a cria (or any alpaca), and so quickly. Thinking about you all.
    We have always followed Claire Whitehead's protocol with Lambivac, even though our vet doesn't see the point (!!)...... we do a healthy cria at 3 days old & 3 weeks old & do the Dam when we do the 2nd cria injection just before they go back to the male. As I understand it the only reason not to do the female 4 weeks before birthing might be the potential for stress related to handling but I guess that is personal choice knowing your animals & how they react. Take Care