Camel Health Index   Basic Camel Medicine Tips   Selenium Deficiency
 
 
 


Camel wings
 
Camels are very tuff and hearty animals, but like any other animal they still require care and maintenance. The articles here will help in keeping your camels safer and healthier.
It is very important to find a veterinarian that will treat your camel, because when a camel gets sick people often have a hard time finding a veterinarian willing to work on them.






 
 
 

 

Vaccinations

All camels -- Clostridium CD/T vaccine should be given annually. Animals vaccinated for the first time will need a booster one month after the initial shot.

Pregnant camels -- 1) Keep current with the Clostridium CD/T as above. Also give this vaccination 2 months prior to calving in order to have protective antibodies against these diseases in the colostrum. 2) Also give expectant mothers the Endovac Bovi vaccine on the same schedule as the CD/T. This will help to protect the calves from serious gram negative infections such as salmonella and E. coli.

Additional vaccinations, such as rabies, may be necessary in your area.

 
 
 

Worming

Camels are very susceptible to whipworms. These worms are the most common cause of diarrhea in adult camels in the US. Unfortunately, ivermectin, which is so commonly used, is not effective against whipworms, and camels can get a serious whipworm infection in spite of regular ivermectin use. However, ivermectin has good efficacy against many other types of worms which affect camels. Panacur is a safe, effective wormer for whipworms in camels. However, the whipworms may become resistant to Panacur over time. Using Panacur at double the horse dose may overcome or prevent some of this resistance.

Dectomex injectable wormer is effective against whipworms in cattle, and it has been used safely in llamas. As of yet I have not tried it in camels.

Levamasole is reported to have good efficacy; however, it has caused some toxicities in camels. I would avoid it.

A good deworming program is to alternate ivermectin and Panacur, routinely using Panacur at double the horse dose. Worming every two months is recommended; however, this must be tailored to the individual situation.

 
 
 

Miscellaneous Tips on Feeding

Camels are very sensitive to selenium deficiency. Have your feed checked for selenium levels any time you get a new source of hay, even if you live in an area that is usually adequate in selenium, as hay fields may differ depending on irrigation practices, etc. This feed analysis can be done inexpensively by your local agricultural extension agent. Look under State Government in the telephone blue pages. It is also a good idea to have your camels' blood selenium levels checked periodically, especially the youngsters and pregnant females. Selenium deficiency can be deadly in young camels, and can cause a wide range of symptoms in adults, from compromised reproduction and poor hair coats to muscle damage and possible immune suppression. If needed, selenium can be supplemented mixed with a small amount of grain or in a free choice mineral mix. However, monitor the amount consumed, as excessive selenium can also be a problem.

Camels are prone to bloat, which is caused by alfalfa hay. Even a grass-alfalfa mix can cause bloat. Straight grass hay is a better choice. Bloat is a painful, life-threatening condition that can strike quickly, unexpectedly and unpredictably. Just because you have never had a case of bloat on your farm doesn't mean you never will. Feeding straight grass hay is a safeguard against one more thing that can go wrong.

Excessive grain can also cause many problems. If you do feed grain, limit it to a couple of pounds a day. Overfeeding may be more harmful than under feeding. Camels are not designed to live on rich, concentrated feeds; they are superbly adapted to deriving nutrition from coarse forages. High carbohydrate, high protein diets are not in your camels' best interest, even of they are tasty to the camel and gratifying to you.

Camels who are always on hay and who never have access to green pasture will benefit from a complete vitamin-mineral supplement. Fat-soluble vitamins, especially E and A, are abundant in green grass but degrade quickly in dried hay. Natural vitamin E may be more effective than synthetic vitamin E. Blood builders, which may contain high copper and iron levels, are not recommended under normal circumstances.

Camels have a very high requirement for salt. Salt blocks are okay, but free choice loose salt is better. All camels should have access to salt at all times.

Never feed grains which are specifically formulated for cattle or chickens to camels. These may contain ionophores (coccidiostats and growth promotants such as monensin, rumensin or salinomycin) which are poisonous to camels. Use horse feed instead.

 
 
 

Other Considerations

Keep in mind that some medications which are safe and useful in other animals may cause problems in camels. An example is drugs which are processed by the kidneys. While the kidney of the camel is extremely efficient at conserving water, it is also very prone to damage by drugs which are hard on the kidneys such as banamine, phenylbutazone, some of the aminoglycoside antibiotics, and, to a lesser extent, tetracyclines and sulfa drugs. There are reported cases of kidney failure in camels following a single dose of banamine.

The time to find a veterinarian interested in working on camels is not when you are in the middle of an emergency. Have a relationship with a veterinarian well established beforehand. Discuss your health program and feeding practices with your vet. Know how you will handle or restrain your animals if they need to be treated. Have him or her visit your camels several times a year, even though you may think it's unnecessary. This relationship will be invaluable when it's your turn to have trouble.

If (heaven forbid) you ever do lose a camel, be sure to have a post mortem exam (autopsy) done on the animal. Although this may be very hard for you to think about at the time, it will help to protect your other animals in the future. If you skip it, you most certainly will regret it later. Although any veterinarian can do a post mortem, it is best to have it performed by a veterinary university or state agricultural extension lab. These people do this procedure far more often than the average veterinarian and so are better at it; the information you gain may be critical at a later date.

The best book available on camel medicine is as follows:

Camels a Compendium
By Dr. G. W. Manefield and Dr. A. H. Tinson
Published by the University of Sidney Post Graduate Foundation in Veterinary Science
PO Box A985
Sydney south NSW 1235 Australia
Phone 02 9264 2122
Fax 02 9261 4620
May also be carried by WXICOF in Missouri -- 636-828-5100 (or on the net at wxicof.com).
Have a copy of this book on hand to show your veterinarian. Better yet, buy your vet a copy!

 
 
 

Some Hints on Medications (to be Used Only Under Veterinary Supervision)!

Sedation: Xylazine (Rompun) 200 mg. (2cc) in the muscle for a 1000 pound camel. Adjust this based on size of the animal and degree of sedation needed. The camel will be awake but drowsy. This is not a general anesthetic, but most procedures can be done with this sedation combined with a local anesthetic. Lay the camel down before or shortly after the injection is given. Full effect will not be seen for 15-20 minutes. The camel may be sleepy for several hours. Make sure the camel stays lying on its chest (to guard against bloat), keep its neck straight, and don't return it to the herd until fully awake.

Antibiotics: Baytril, Naxcel, ampicillin, and penicillin are all good injectable antibiotics. If an aminoglycoside is necessary, use amikacin instead of gentocin. Albon is a good oral antibiotic (dissolve in water and mix with grain) but should not be given to a camel who is dehydrated or ill (use for injuries, etc.), and should probably not be given for more than 5 days and not in conjunction with any other drugs that are processed through the kidneys.

Anti inflammatories: Avoid banamine and phenylbutazone if possible. If you must use these drugs, use only a single dose, not in animals that are ill, debilitated or dehydrated, and at no more than one third to one half of the regular horse dose. Dipyrone (if you can find any) and ketoprofen are okay if the camel is well hydrated. The best short-term anti inflammatories are steroids such as dexamethasone sodium phosphate (e.g. 20-30mg (5-8 cc) in the vein for 1000 pound camel) or Voren (10-15 cc in the muscle or vein for a 1000 pound camel). Do NOT give these steroids to a pregnant camel or to a breeding bull (they may cause abortion in the last trimester of pregnancy and may temporarily interfere with sperm production). I use a product called No Bute for camels that have to be on an anti-inflammatory for any extended length of time. This is a formulation from the devil's claw plant and is very safe, although its use in pregnant animals is not recommended. It is made by Emerald Valley Botanicals (888-638-8262).

Rumen conditions: For frothy bloat (caused by alfalfa), use DSS, 2-8 ounces orally (adult dose). In a pinch, if no DSS is available, use Tide laundry detergent (!), one heaping tablespoon mixed with a cup of water. For rumen acidosis (caused by too much grain) use 250-500 grams of magnesium sulfate (Epsom salts) and / or 500 grams (maximum) of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). This is the adult dose; adjust it accordingly for smaller animals. Repeat in 12 hours if necessary. One ounce equals approximately 30 grams.

Newborns: In addition to all the usual stuff (too extensive to be discussed here), all baby camels should have their IgG (blood antibody) levels checked by 24 hours of age. The babies get these antibodies from their mothers' colostrum. Once in a while the colostrum is inferior, or the baby doesn't suck enough, or the baby might drink plenty of colostrum but mysteriously be unable to absorb the antibodies properly. This IgG deficiency is called failure of passive transfer, or FPT. If this happens, the baby, having insufficient immunity, may get ill or die at 3 days to one month of age. Although FPT is not common, it is deadly enough to make testing all of the newborns worthwhile. Think of it as cheap insurance. Test kits can be purchased from Triple J Farms (425-868-6200; they are also on the internet). You or your veterinarian should have the test kits (which work for llama babies also) on hand well before the babies are due (keep in mind that these kits only last one season).

FPT, if detected early enough, can easily be treated by a plasma transfusion. Timing is essential; once a baby shows signs of illness due to FPT it can be very difficult and expensive to treat. That is why prompt diagnosis and treatment is so essential. A good practice is to have camel plasma on hand before the babies are born (it will keep in the freezer for two or three years), rather than having to scramble around at the last minute with the clock ticking. Have your veterinarian draw 4-5 liters of blood (from a couple of different camels) into some plasma collection bags and have it spun down (camel blood will not separate on its own like horse blood does) at a local blood bank or hospital. (You will have to call around -- not all of these facilities have the appropriate equipment, but they are usually very helpful). 4-5 liters of whole blood will make about 3 liters of plasma. You can draw blood from any of the camels; it does not have to be from the specific mothers. However, all of the blood donors should be vaccinated as described above for pregnant mothers in order to make the plasma more protective. Triple J farms has an excellent monograph (also available on the internet) on a simple technique for performing a plasma transfusion in llamas; this technique works very well in camels.

These are just a few of the basics. I hope they are helpful, and I will be happy to entertain further questions or comments. I am also interested in hearing about differing experiences. Good luck and enjoy these wonderful animals!

 
  Special thanks go out to Charmian Wright, D.V.M. and all of the other good folks that have contributed articles for helping all of us in keeping our camels healthier and happier.