Alpaca Articles : Health & Husbandry
Who Has Worry Wrinkles Besides Me?
The term stress or "worry wrinkle" is used to describe the wrinkle of skin that occurs beneath the eye when an alpaca or llama tenses their facial muscles. Normally it is formed around ½ to one inch below the lower eyelid. Occasionally, an alpaca or llama will show wrinkles well below the eye. Tensing of the facial muscles can range from slightly noticeable to the extreme of actually pulling down the lower rim of the eyelid exposing the red area of membrane beneath the eye.
Caused by the tensing and tightening of the facial muscles, this skin wrinkle by definition indicates "a state of mental, emotional or nervous strain". As a behavioral indicator, it important to note the context in which it occurs. The mere presence of a human can cause some alpacas and llamas to exhibit stress wrinkles.
This condition is serious. If you are training, end the session immediately. If you are traveling or at a show or fair, do what you can immediately do to remedy or at least significantly mitigate the circumstances. If you would see this stance out in your field, know there is a problem of some sort. Immediately consider the surroundings and call your veterinarian. With each and every situation, it is important to consider the "look" you feel expressed in their eyes. Review the photos of each of these animals paying deliberate attention to their eye expression. What additional information comes to you about their personalities or their interest in what is going on around them? Is it possible to consider that their expressed tension and concern might seem more from an outside stimulus as opposed to within them - a reaction to their surroundings as opposed to illness? Perhaps it is both.
Consider the possible stories for each of these animals and what course of action you might chose to best assist in a mitigation or remedy. Would you take their temperature or take them for a walk? Would you stop what you are doing with them or perhaps do something differently? Would you call your veterinarian? Is the level of stress appropriate for the surroundings and personality of a particular animal at this given time? Could it be something more? Learning what might be expressed through the eyes of each of your alpacas and llamas will be a valuable aide in determining how they may be feeling. As with people, though we may individually express a bit differently, our eyes and faces can tell quite a story.