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Susan J. Tornquist, DVM, PhD, Dip. ACVP, Professor, Clinical Pathology
College of Veterinary Medicine, Oregon State University
Alpacas seen by veterinarians are often anemic in addition to other medical problems they have. Anemia refers to a decreased number of circulating red blood cells. With anemia, the oxygen-carrying capacity of the alpaca is decreased and signs such as lethargy, lack of interest in exercise, and a depressed attitude may be noticed. There are a variety of causes for anemia, but in many of these sick and anemic alpacas, the underlying reason for the anemia is not apparent.
In this study, we tested whether one of the most common causes of anemia in hospitalized human patients could be causing anemia in alpacas. It is known as anemia of chronic disease, and accompanies a wide variety of diseases. It' s important to distinguish anemia of chronic disease from other causes of anemia, such as iron deficiency, because the treatments are quite different and treatment for iron deficiency could actually be detrimental to alpacas with anemia of chronic disease. It is also important understand the underlying cause of anemia so that potentially useful new therapies can be developed.
This study compared two alpaca populations — 22 anemic and 22 non-anemic alpacas by running a panel of laboratory tests and comparing the results between the two populations. The results of the tests were used to classify the underlying cause for each anemic alpaca. We did not find a significant correlation between indicators of anemia (packed cell volume or PCV) and the indicator of inflammation (hepcidin) in the population we tested.