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Acquired cervical scoliosis attributed to Parelaphostrongylus tenuis infection in an alpaca

Amy L. JohnsonDepartment of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853.

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Catherine G. LammDepartment of Biomedical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853.

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Thomas J. DiversDepartment of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853.

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Abstract

Case Description—A 2-year-old alpaca was evaluated because of acute onset of cervical scoliosis.

Clinical Findings—Physical examination revealed severe scoliosis of the caudal portion of the cervical vertebral column with a C-shaped curvature to the right side. No gait deficits were observed. Cervical radiography confirmed severe curvature of C4 to C6 but did not reveal any bony changes. Cerebrospinal fluid had high total protein concentration and extremely high nucleated cell count with a high proportion of eosinophils, suggesting parasitic infection.

Treatment and Outcome—The alpaca was treated for suspected parelaphostrongylosis with ivermectin, fenbendazole, flunixin, vitamin E, thiamine, physical therapy, and a custom-made neck brace. The alpaca's condition continued to deteriorate, and it developed tetraparesis and ataxia and was euthanized after approximately 1 month. Microscopic evaluation of the cervical spinal cord revealed marked vacuolar changes in the left medial portion of the ventral funiculus, mild lymphoplasmacytic infiltration, and multifocal granulomas. The lesions were continuous from C1 to C7 and were compatible with parasite migration.

Clinical Relevance—To the authors' knowledge, this is the first report of acquired scoliosis in an alpaca, which appears to represent an unusual manifestation of parelaphostrongylosis that was reported in horses.

Abstract

Case Description—A 2-year-old alpaca was evaluated because of acute onset of cervical scoliosis.

Clinical Findings—Physical examination revealed severe scoliosis of the caudal portion of the cervical vertebral column with a C-shaped curvature to the right side. No gait deficits were observed. Cervical radiography confirmed severe curvature of C4 to C6 but did not reveal any bony changes. Cerebrospinal fluid had high total protein concentration and extremely high nucleated cell count with a high proportion of eosinophils, suggesting parasitic infection.

Treatment and Outcome—The alpaca was treated for suspected parelaphostrongylosis with ivermectin, fenbendazole, flunixin, vitamin E, thiamine, physical therapy, and a custom-made neck brace. The alpaca's condition continued to deteriorate, and it developed tetraparesis and ataxia and was euthanized after approximately 1 month. Microscopic evaluation of the cervical spinal cord revealed marked vacuolar changes in the left medial portion of the ventral funiculus, mild lymphoplasmacytic infiltration, and multifocal granulomas. The lesions were continuous from C1 to C7 and were compatible with parasite migration.

Clinical Relevance—To the authors' knowledge, this is the first report of acquired scoliosis in an alpaca, which appears to represent an unusual manifestation of parelaphostrongylosis that was reported in horses.

Contributor Notes

Address correspondence to Dr. Johnson.