• Open Access

Neurological Causes of Diaphragmatic Paralysis in 11 Alpacas (Vicugna pacos)


  • This work was performed at Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital, Fort Collins, CO, and at Washington State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital, Pullman, WA. Part of the material was presented at the 2010 ACVIM Forum as a research report.

Corresponding author: Stacey R. Byers, Livestock Medicine and Surgery, Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523-1620; e-mail: stacey.byers@colostate.edu.


Background: Diaphragmatic paralysis is a relatively uncommon medical condition in animals not reported in alpacas.

Objectives: Describe the signalment, physical examination, diagnostic testing, clinical, and histopathologic findings related to diaphragmatic paralysis in alpacas.

Animals: Eleven alpacas with spontaneous diaphragmatic paralysis.

Methods: A retrospective study examined medical records from a 10-year period and identified 11 alpacas with confirmed diaphragmatic paralysis admitted to Washington State University and Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospitals between September 2003 and October 2009.

Results: The 11 alpacas ranged in age from 2 to 12 months. Fluoroscopic imaging confirmed the presence of bilateral diaphragmatic paralysis in the 7 alpacas that were imaged. Arterial blood gas analyses showed hypercapnea, hypoxemia, and low oxygen saturation. Seven alpacas died or were euthanized between 2 and 60 days after onset of respiratory signs. Histopathologic examination of tissues found phrenic nerve degeneration in the 6 alpacas that were necropsied and additional long nerves examined demonstrated degeneration in 2 of these animals. Two animals had spinal cord lesions and 2 had diaphragm muscle abnormalities. No etiologic agent was identified in the alpacas.

Conclusions and Clinical Importance: The etiology for diaphragmatic paralysis in these alpacas is unknown. A variety of medical treatments did not appear to alter the outcome.