Basic Care: Llama Immunizations

llama immunizations

Just like the rest of us, llamas need to get some immunizations to keep those bugs away!

But unlike most of our vaccines (except flu), llamas receive their shots every year.  Initially, they are given two doses spaced about a month apart followed by yearly vaccinations after that either in the spring or fall.

Here are the most common llama immunizations:


Similar to most warm-blooded mammals (except opossums whose body temperature is too low to let the virus replicate), llamas are susceptible to the rabies virus.  Llamas can be exposed to rabies if they are bitten or scratched by a rabid animal, such as a skunk, fox or bat.  Once the virus is transmitted to the llama, the virus will replicate in the brain causing inflammation and death, usually over the course of days.  There is no treatment or cure for rabies and the animal will need to be euthanized to prevent suffering and spread of the virus.

There is no test to definitively determine if a farm animal has rabies.  Vets can only use a history of exposure to rabid animals and/or evidence of bites and symptomatology to determine if an animal might have rabies.  Symptoms include:

  • Agitation
  • Aggression
  • Foaming at the mouth/excess salivation
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Abnormal roaming, vocalizations or sexual behaviors
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Paralysis, usually beginning in the hind limbs

Although rabies vaccines haven’t been formally approved for any member of the camelid family, llamas are usually given a vaccine that is approved for use in large animals, such as cattle and sheep.

Overeating disease (Enterotoximia)

An important vaccine for llamas is the one that prevents overeating disease.  Clostridium perfringens strains C & D are bacteria that can multiple rapidly and release deadly toxins in the digestive tract.  There are many different types of C. perfringens. Some are found naturally in the animal gut and are benign.  But when an animal overeats on a new food, or eats a large quantity of food, particularly a rich one, then the harmful types of bacteria can overwhelm the natural flora of the gut.

Overeating disease is quick, swiftly progressing from severe diarrhea to death. Animals may show no signs of disease and be dead on the next trip to the barn. Crias are particularly susceptible to the disease.  Yearly vaccinations are highly recommended to prevent sickness.  In addition, dams should be vaccinated again 30 days before giving birth to provide protective antibodies for crias.


A vaccine that is given to humans and llamas alike is the tetanus toxoid vaccine.  The bacterium, Clostridium tetani, can infect animals through cuts or puncture wounds. This can even include shearing wounds.  C. tetani is around in the environment; soil contains spores and the bacteria live in the GI tract of animals.

Tetanus disease can cause painful muscle spasms and respiratory failure and the tetanus vaccine is highly effective (in other animals).  However, llamas don’t appear to be highly susceptible to tetanus; only a handful of cases have been reported.  Although tetanus vaccination is most likely not needed, the C&D toxoid vaccine usually also includes a vaccine against tetanus.

Other vaccines

Your veterinarian may recommend additional vaccines depending on where you live.  For example, leptospirosis, bovine viral diarrhea virus and West Nile virus  are endemic in specific areas of the country and can cause disease in llamas.  Cattle vaccines exist for all of these diseases and can also be administered to llamas.

As always, you should consult your vet for proper vaccinations and schedules.

Blogging my way from A to Z as part of the 2016 April A to Z Challenge!  My theme for this year:  Llama mama.  I for Immunizations.

Photo courtesy of AJC,

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