As with many of the gastrointestinal parasites that affect camelids (eg Haemonchus, the “barber pole worm”), the tepid wet summer and autumn that we have had appears to have allowed liver fluke to flourish as well. This parasite loves wet ground. Although it may seem odd to talk about this now while temperatures are below freezing in many places and there is snow is on the ground, it is historical conditions that are of concern. Recently an alpaca owner has lost 4 animals despite routine 6 monthly preventative treatment.
There are reports of acute, chronic and fatal forms of liver fluke in camelids. Clinical signs of disease include reduced appetite, generalised weakness, recumbency and anaemia – these are not particularly specific clinical signs unfortunately! Diagnosis may be difficult as detection of fluke eggs is a bit challenging – for Fasciola hepatica, the main parasite of concern, a sedimentation procedure is usually done as a regular faecal examination will not normally detect fluke eggs.
Furthermore, because a negative test result is not always definitive, the test is probably better reserved for animals with a clinical suspicion of fluke rather than as a routine testing tool. In areas where fluke is known to be a problem, prophylactic treatment is worthwhile at intervals reflective of the extent of the problem in the area. In clinical cases, blood work may be helpful. Biochemistry results may show indications of liver impairment or damage, especially evidence of bile duct obstruction as indicated by increased GGT concentrations.
Claire E Whitehead BVM&S MS MRCVS
Diplomate ACVIM (Large Animal)
Camelid Veterinary Services