South American Camelids are susceptible to Vitamin D deficiency. In growing animals, this manifests clinically as rickets: affected animals exhibit stunted growth, angular limb deformities and lameness. They may also be lethargic, have depressed appetites, and may walk with a hunched back due to pain and are typically smaller than age-matched herd mates.
Vitamin D is made in the skin by the action of UV light: it can also be consumed in the diet. During the winter time there is little possibility of vitamin D production in the skin since the amount of UV light is greatly reduced at locations away from the Equator and at low altitudes (eg Europe, North America, Australasia). This results in most animals becoming deficient in vitamin D and this has the most obvious effect on growing animals. Therefore supplementation during the winter months with Vitamin D is vital. Vitamin D is also involved in immunity as well as improving foetal growth and mammary development so adults can also benefit from Vitamin D supplementation.
You can use either injectable or oral products to supplement your alpacas or llamas with vitamin D.
For prevention of rickets in growing alpacas and llamas, the following dosing programme is recommended:
- Using Injectable Vitamin D Products
- Dose at 1000-2000 IU of vitamin D per kg of bodyweight. This is given subcutaneously (SQ). Darker animals may benefit from the higher 2000 IU/kg dose.
- Injectable vitamin D lasts for 6-8 weeks at this dose, so repeat dosing every 2 months.
- Start in October and continue until March/April (Northern Hemisphere). If August has been dull, start dosing in September, especially for darker animals.
- No injectable vitamin D products are licensed in the UK currently. A new product will be available in September 2022, available via Vetsonic UK Ltd.
- An example for dosing for Belavit AD3E, the formerly available product and also the new product that has just been imported (Bioveta ADE-vit): this contains 100,000 IU/ml: so dose for 10kg is 10,000-20,000 IU – the volume to dose is 0.1 ml for 1000 IU/kg or 0.2ml for 2000 IU/kg.
- Using Oral Vitamin D Products
- Dose at 1000 IU of vitamin D per kg of bodyweight, but give orally every 4-6 weeks.
- Take care to dose based on body weight and not per cria since there is a large weight range for crias!
- Comes in large tubes: commonly containing 100,000 IU of vitamin D per 10ml (CHECK YOUR TUBE!): at this concentration, 1ml doses 10kg (5ml is the dose for a 50kg animal).
For treatment of rickets or vitamin D deficiency:
- Dose at 2000 IU of vitamin D per kg of bodyweight using either oral or injectable products. This dose can be repeated one month later.
NOTE: Dosing above these recommendations can induce vitamin D toxicity and is not advisable. Different products have different concentrations, so always check before dosing!
Availability of Vitamin D Products in the UK
You can buy oral pastes containing Vitamin D from various places including camelid product retailers without a prescription. The injectable products need to be bought through your vet in the UK (any other source is illegal) as it is a prescription-only medicine. It is necessary for your vet to apply for a free Special Import Certificate from the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) in order to obtain injectable vitamin D products. However, this is a simple process to complete.