Rickets & Phosphate Deficiency

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Rickets is a deficiency disease that manifests itself in the bony joints, causing swelling and bending of the joint. Symptoms include bowed or splayed legs, and distorted joints. It is an extremely painful condition. One of the causes of rickets is a lack of phosphate and/or Vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential for the absorption of phosphate, and most animals synthesise Vitamin D from sunlight. For some reason it appears that alpacas in New Zealand are unable to produce enough Vitamin D for their requirements, and as a consequence are at risk of developing rickets.

Other warning signs of the deficiency are: alpaca moves around less, walks slowly and/or with short choppy steps, sits around looking miserable, and feet begin to turn outward. Darker animals seem to be more at risk.

Prevention is simple: regular dosing with injectable, A ,D & E solutions (available from your vet). Over Autumn/Winter/Spring, your alpacas should be dosed every 3-4 months with 2 ml each of injectable A,D&E. This is particularly important for cria and pregnant females, but most breeders will dose all their stock at the same time. Stock should then be dosed again mid-summer. There are also dry forms available to add to feed, but of course then you may not know how much your alpacas are receiving. However, if you prefer this method of dosing, speak to your vet. Or buy a soluable product and drench your alpacas!

Another source of Vitamin D is lucerne hay, which can also be fed in the form of lucerne chaff. While this is undoubtedly a valuable addition to the diet, it is probably risky to rely on this source of Vitamin D only – play it safe, and inject regularly!

A word of warning: we know of one breeder who had a cria diagnosed with this deficiency despite regular dosing. It appears some animals may be more at risk than others, and require more frequent dosing than the standard 2 monthly injections. So keep an eye out for this syndrome even if you are dosing regularly.

Both vitamins A & E are essential in reproduction, and lack of these vitamins can lead to infertility, abortion, stillbirths and retained placentas. Vitamin E also aids the immune system and other body functions.

We have heard conflicting advice about lucerne and vitamin D: some authorities claim lucerne stores Vitamin D and is therefore a good natural feed additive, other sources state the opposite, that lucerne leaches Vitamin D from the animals cells! You might want to do further research on this.