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see West Melton

Alpaca Articles

Nic and Linda keep up-to-date with the latest in alpaca information, by reading widely, being a member of the New Zealand, Australian, British and American alpaca associations, and attending conferences worldwide.

They share this knowledge with others through holding industry training days and workshops, writing articles for industry magazines in New Zealand, Australia, UK, and USA and also through articles on this website and other websites.

Click here for more articles  


By Linda Blake Southern Alpacas Stud

An umbilical hernia appears as a soft bulge around the umbilical cord area. There is a defect in the muscles and tissues of the abdominal wall, and this feels like a hole in a ring, which you can get your finger into. The intestines push some of the lining outwards, forming a hernial sac, in which there is usually a loop of gut.   



Development of Hernias 

Hernias can develop quickly, when the cria stands. You'll probably see it when putting iodine on the navel if it happens quickly.

herniaKeep checking your cria's navel area for the first few days, as a hernia can develop in the first 24-48 hours, probably by the strain of expelling the meconium.

Less common, is a hernia occurring within the first three months, usually after prolonged straining. 



ready to goThe risk of hernia is that a loop of the gut poking through the hole may get trapped, which is painful, and can even be fatal, if the gut gets strangulated. 

A small hernia hole, about the size of your little finger, may heal, and this can take a month or more. A larger one, which you can get your thumb into, will require vet attention. 



Surgical Fix 

ready to cutHernias used to be surgical operations, with full anaesthesia. Once the cria is restrained and sedated, the vet cuts through the skin and layers of muscle.

 Once open, the gut pokes up and through.


stitched up

The gut is poked back inside and smoothed out, any excess hernia sac is cut away, and then the now flat stomach is stitched up again. 



External Fix 

plastic hernia capSmall hernias can be fixed externally. The gut is poked back up into the body cavity. To keep it in there a plastic disc is stuck on to the cria's stomach.

Do make sure that the umbilical area is quite dry and any cord has dropped off, before covering an umbilical hernia.  This means the cria needs to be at least a few days old.

close-up patch



We cut a disc of 8-10 cm diameter out of an ice cream container. The glue used, a contact adhesive, dissolves over time, and by then the hernia hole should have grown over. (Do not put glue on the actual hernia part.)




belly bandageSticky adhesive tape is put across the disc to hold it to the fibre, and a bandage is initially wrapped right around the belly of the cria, to support the tissues.

After a couple of days the bandage is loosened, and then removed.  

plastic falling off


As the cria grows, the abdomen increases in size, the glue decays, and eventually the disc starts to come unstuck. It can then be cut off the fibre.

If you look closely, you'll see the disc hanging off under this cria


Choosing the Fix 

Always consult your vet when a hernia appears. They are the best judge of whether it will naturally heal over, or if an intervention is needed. Nowadays the external fix method is used mostly, with surgery only if the sac is large and the hole is small. 

Updated July 2009

Nic Cooper and Linda Blake
Main West Coast Road, West Melton, RD1, Christchurch, New Zealand
Phone 0064 3 318-1917 | fax 0064 3 318-1927 | email alpacasnz@xtra.co.nz