The Kansas State University assistant professor of anatomy and physiology said there are roughly 300,000 llamas and 30,000 alpacas in the United States and it is difficult to find sufficient drugs for the animals.
"As far as drug companies are concerned, they aren't even a blip on the map," Hunter said.
He has been investigating how medications administered to other cud-chewing animals can safely be used to relieve llamas and alpacas of intestinal worms. Hunter began the study in September 2001 and is just now finishing the last of his data samples.
All of the research Hunter conducted was performed in the K-State animal research facility. He poured a deworming drug down the backs of llamas and alpacas and then took blood samples to find how much of the drug was absorbed into the bloodstream. Previous studies using a lower dose of the drug showed that the medication was not being absorbed, Hunter said.
"I felt that they were underdosing the animals, so I decided to find out for myself," he said. "Essentially what I have found so far is that llamas and alpacas are easy to treat for parasites using anti-parasitic, or deworming, drugs such as doramectin and moxidectin."
Morris Animal Foundation provided Hunter with a grant for his research. He is currently in the process of writing another grant to the foundation to study what drugs will treat heat stress in llamas and alpacas.
"These animals are very sensitive to relatively high temperatures," he said. "They are used to the mountains, not the plains of Kansas."