Mange Mites in Alpacas

Scarcoptic Mange Mite

Mange mites are gross little parasites that live on your alpaca. They cause hair loss and can even result in death. Treatment ranges from simple to complex. Is your alpaca going bald for another reason or does he/she have mites?

Alpaca skin problems were new to us. We’d not seen any in our herd until recently. We didn’t suspect mites at first when 3 of our alpacas started to loose hair. We first noticed a loss of hair on the back of one alpacas’ neck. For some reason this patch grew fleece back and we were unconcerned. We figured she just rubbed against something and pulled out the fleece.

Soon we noticed two other alpacas in the same field with what looked like trails of hair loss on their backs. One of the alpacas had several bald spots on her belly. A fourth alpaca in the same field has never developed any hair loss or other signs of mites.

We never saw any puss, but the skin was thick and scaly. This one alpaca was scratching a lot.

Not having a camelid vet near us, we usually do our own research to try and figure out what is going on. There could be a few reasons an alpaca develops hair loss.

  • Ringworm
  • Fungus
  • Mange Mite
  • Lice
  • Zinc deficiency

You can take a skin scraping to your vet to test to get a diagnosis, but sometimes these are negative when the alpaca actually does have mange mites.

Didn’t look like ringworm to us. Zinc deficiencies usually show with a loss of hair to the nose area. Apparently, zinc deficiencies are not as prevalent as once thought. We read that only 5-10% of hair loss issues are a zinc problem. Have your animals’ blood tested by a vet to see if they are deficient in zinc. Then you can supplement and fix the problem.

Our research lead us to believe we were dealing with mites, lice, or fungus. This particular alpaca with the balding has had lice before with no hair loss.

We could not find any nits and sort of ruled lice out but kept it in the back of our minds.

The most likely cause to us was mites. There are three kinds of mites that  could infect alpacas. Sarcoptic mange mites, chorioptic mites, and psortoptes mites.

Sarcoptic mites are serious in alpacas. These mites burrow into the skin. They like to burrow into hairless or short haired areas on the face or ears but can spread to all parts of the body. You may notice weight loss in your alpaca. Crusts will form on the skin which then becomes thickened and wrinkled. Soon the hair falls out.

Mange Mites

To identify these mites, a deep scraping needs to be taken and examined under a microscope. Even then, it might be difficult to spot the mites.

Chorioptic mites do not burrow into the skin. They usually infest in the lower legs. This type of mite does not seem to produce the skin thickening as does the sarcoptic mite. With this type of mite you might first notice lesions between the toes.

Psortoptes mites usually appear as head shaking in camelids. You may see a waxy exudate from the ears and your animal may lack coordination. An ear swab will reveal mites in the ears.There are so many mite treatments out there it could make your head spin.

We list a few here. There are others. Apparently, what works for one alpaca may not work for another and sometimes nothing seems to work.

Our research has not made it clear if the times nothing has worked the animals were too infected, immuno-compromised, or simply didn’t have mites and were getting the wrong treatment.

Below are some of the treatments which seem to work. Always consult with a vet for appropriate treatment (a camelid vet if you can find one).

1. Mike Saffleys’ “witches brew” – 2/3 pint mineral oil, 1/5 pint DMSO, 8ml ivermectin, 5cc gentamycin (50mg per ml). You must get this from a vet.

2. Ivermectin SubQ injection. Give the injection and then give the same dose again in 10 days. Or many are suggesting ivermectin once a week for

3 weeks to rid the alpaca of mites. Check with a vet for dosage. If they have mites in their ears, you can dilute ivermectin in saline and drop in the ears (again check with a vet for doseage).

3. Amitraz – An antiparasitic drug used on other animals to control ticks, lice, and mites. In some cases it has worked on alpacas.

4. Atroban – Used to control mites and mange on swine. Has been used with success in alpacas.

5. Fipronil (Frontline) – An insecticide used on smaller animals with success on alpacas. Expensive to use.

6. Spot On (Cypermethrin) – Be careful using this product or others with permethrin in it. Has had some adverse reactions (collapse and severe agitation).

We used Ivermectin and it seems to have taken care of the problem so far.

Some of the mites become more active in the fall and winter so, we will be watching.

Another tip is to get rid of the crusty, dead skin that these mites feed on and that will help reduce the mites. Some people like calendula cream to speed healing of the skin. Bag balm is effective. Try a tea tree oil salve. It seems to work well, too, and is thought to smother the mites.

Mange mites are not to be taken lightly. If you suspect this nasty little parasite, treat and keep treating until they are gone. Consult a vet for appropriate diagnosis and treatment.