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March 20, 2019: Ginger’s Story

Dentition Issue Left Lower Jaw (the bright white circle is from the halter)

This is an X-ray of a 16 year-old alpaca nicknamed Ginger. I wanted to share this story such that it might help others. One of the things that I do every morning when I feed and make my rounds, is to do a cursory look-over of each of my animals. One morning, I noticed that Ginger had a large “mass” on the left side of her jaw. It would come and go, and it was not an abscess. It was hard as could be. She was pregnant at the time and I was leery of upsetting her too much and so kept an eye on it. I have lost alpacas who have been too upset while pregnant or after getting antibiotics, so I was a little gun shy about taking her to the vet. This lump continued to come and go after the cria was born, but Ginger never appeared sick or in pain and it seemed to be associated with chewing her cud. Once she was done lactating, I finally got brave enough to take her to my vet. Let me make it clear, my vet is awesome and works closely with the Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital (http://Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital). The fears were all my own. He took this radiograph and this is what we found. There is an infection (osteomyelitis) within the jaw where one of the roots of the molar is actually broken, as can be seen in the dark areas within the red circle. There is not much bone in the area to work with, so this was a pretty scary diagnosis. Sadly, it gets worse. My vet gave a dose of long acting antibiotic and planned to show this radiograph to the University vets and get suggestions for treatment. The University vets told us that the prognosis was quite poor. They have found that this type of infection extremely difficult to cure. Even with long-term antibiotic treatment. On a few cases they had tried to remove the offending molar to help the infection resolve and the jaw subsequently broke and would not heal; on a few other cases the main artery in the lower jaw tore and the alpaca bled to death. They ultimately suggested humane euthanasia so that she would not suffer trying to eat, or starve. My vet and I are not sure if early intervention would have made a difference, ultimately; but if I had to do it again, I would have had assessed much sooner and I might have had an opportunity to save her.

Ginger with the “mass” on left lower jaw, which turned out to be a wad of cud that she would stash while trying to chew.

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak WaltonIMG_0893

Lucky says “Hi there, do you have any cookies for me?”