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Mites are an external parasite. In common with many alpaca health issues, they are not common, but they are not rare either. Typically, one or two members of a herd may be infected with mites, the rest being unaffected.

The life cycle of mites: The adult mite tunnels under the skin to lay eggs, which hatch into larvae, and these in turn hatch into adult mites to continue the burrowing/egg laying cycle. This life cycle takes around 2-3 weeks to complete.

Front leg showing effect of mite infestation Rear leg mite infestation

The external evidence that your alpaca has mites is the fleece falls out at the affected area, leaving scaly, unhealthy looking skin. Most alpacas do not appear to notice any irritation or itching from this. Mites tend to attack areas where fleece is shorter, ofter appearing first just above the feet – left untreated they will advance up the legs, also affected the ears and face.

Treatment: Ivermectin – we use Dectomax as there is no “sting” when administered. This is an “off label” treatment – there is no recommended dose for alpacas, so you should consult your veterinary surgeon before use. We have found 3ml for an adult alpaca is an adequate dose. As Ivermectin only kills adult mites, treatment must be repeated twice at 10 day to 2 week intervals to break the life cycle.

Further reading: The Mighty Mite – an Alpaca World article