We had a scare yesterday with our 10-year-old import, Dawn. At breakfast, she was normal, wolfing down her pellets, etc. When we got back outside to scoop poop, she was standing with her head down, drooling and coughing. She was obviously miserable.
I called another alpaca owner who has many more years of experience than we do and asked her what she thought we should do. We decided it was probably a case of "choke" where a blob of food gets caught in the esophogus and the alpaca tries to cough it up. You are supposed to massage the neck to see if there are any hard lumps and then try to break it up with your fingers. I tried this, but I couldn't feel any lumps.
We finally called the vet after about an hour of Dawn alternately coughing or standing very still going "uhn, uhn, uhn," and then holding her breath. The vet told us to get her into the barn where it was probably cooler (it got up to 94 yesterday).
By the time the vet arrived, Dawn was much worse. She had cushed down and was looking more and more depressed. The excitement of shooing her into the barn had caused another coughing fit and she was exhausted. She didn't even get up to get away from the vet, although she spent the entire visit with him screaming as only Dawn can (this made listening to her lungs difficult).
Dr. MacGuire heard fluid on her lungs and decided that perhaps she was having an allergic reaction to something. He gave her an antihistamine, a diuretic, and a tranquilizer that acted as a mild cough suppressant. Within five minutes she was breathing better, coughing less, and within an hour (after the vet had gone) she was up and eating.
We don't know what caused this reaction, but we have a syringe of antihistamine in the fridge from now in just in case. I'm thinking that she may have been stung by a bee or something.
It's the weirdest thing.