We all know how important it is to keep our animals healthy. ‘Dr Google’ is most people’s favourite Go To for diagnosis and cures – we’re all guilty of it! But, there’s an underlining problem with Googling camel husbandry information, because, lets face the hard facts here, information found online can be extremely contradictive, in technical language you can’t understand or in a foreign language.
Read more below or if you like to do more than one thing at a time, listen to the audio…
Another hard fact is that most vets are not specialised with caring for camels so they mostly guess diagnosis and treat the camel based on their experience and knowledge with other animals (sidenote: veterinarians do a great job, we’re not knocking veterinarians here). It’s a painful truth that you buy a camel (that usually you’ve been saving up for a long time, especially in the U.S) and all is wonderful, BUT you cannot seem to get any straight answers from anyone on what to feed your camel so that they stay healthy.
A lot of camels get the ‘trail and error’ treatment to health. Now, don’t think that is such a bad thing as we (humans) do it to ourselves – you know that doughnut that tastes sooooo good but you know you’ll regret it latter on…. You get the point. The most unfortunate thing about camels is that they are a less common animal compared to cattle, horses, dogs, cats etc. therefore camels don’t get all those wonderful studies done on them like the more common ‘household’ pets or animals do. There are camel studies, but just not as many as we need.
So, without us being veterinarians or scientists specialising in camels and only camels what can we offer….? Well, to be upfront…Common Sense. Okay, maybe it’s not that simply, but the idea is simple: Giving where the camel originates from – Desert environments, for both Dromedary and Bactrian – What Would They Eat? Or WWTE, and how can we, as camel owners replicate that as much as possible?
One thing you might not know about me personally (Tara) is I tend to be a real nerd about food and health, some people say Commander Like, but don’t listen to them! In all our camel’s diet I replicate everything as best as I can from their originated desert environment. I really nerd over it! It keeps me up at night – truly! I’m lucky enough to see camels in their natural environment here in Australia. When we go out on camel treks and expeditions I’m out there with the camels while they feed doing my ‘field studies’, if you like. Seeing what they eat, why they eat it, why one day they’ll eat a load of something and the next day not even look at it and How often they drink in the winter compared to the summer – It’s all so interesting and incredibly insightful!
To narrow it down, and know that not everyone lives out in the desert or wants too for that matter, we’ve narrowed it down to some key ‘ingredients’, you could call it, for a camel to maintain good health. Now, full disclosure here, this does not mean that we haven’t had illness happen to any of our camels. We’ve had camels die from unknown and known causes. It happens, it’s devastating, but it is the cycle of life and with camels, I’ve noticed, it really has to do with genetics too.
So, with all that said, lets have a look at Prevention Before The Cure type clues to know if your camels is healthy and catering to it’s camel husbandry needs.
3 Signs That a Camel Is Healthy
1. It’s all about the humps.
As you may already know, a camel stores pure fat in its hump (not water). The fat, in short, can be used for H2o needs or nutrition (feed) needs. Camel’s are desert creatures, so this makes complete sense that they store food and water for more trying times. Also, the hump is the last resort to their survival. A Camel can starve and dehydrate if all their ‘stores’ have been used up. To us camel owners our job is to keep the humps healthy, but not overweight.
How to know if a camel is overweight? If you cannot clearly see and feel where the hump finishes and ends on the side of the camel – there should be a ‘dip’ where the hump ends – then they’re most likely overweight. Most pet (and Australian wild) camels are overweight – some of ours included! Like any species that gets overweight, it will eventually put strain on vital organs.
Without a hump a camel is not a camel. That’s not scientifically true, but it does speak volume for a camel on the unhealthy scale. When hump reserves are starting to diminish, like floppy humps in Bactrian’s or little to no hump in dromedary’s, the camel will feel the strain on their body and become more susceptible to illness and parasites. Anyone who has had a camel underweight will tell you how hard it is trying it is to get weight back on the camel. It’s a real challenge. So our job, as camel owners, is to maintain the hump reserves with good, nutritional feed and important and necessary minerals.
2. It’s the way they look – Skin Condition.
Skin is a great indicator on what’s going on inside the camels body. Things like unexplained lesions, missing hair (obviously not during shedding times), fungi and wart like growths are a camel owner’s guide to assessing where the camel’s heath is at. Often these things can be overlooked, but the signs are always there. Personally, in our experience, 9 times out of 10 any camel’s ‘skin condition’ is a mineral deficiency. Again, this makes complete sense, because their natural diet in the wild consists of so many different minerals they obtain from plants, trees, shrubs, even eating bark off trees. While on camel trek once we witnessed a camel pick up a marrow bone, off the desert floor, and eat it in full, just chewed it down – we thought surely a tooth is broke! But no, the camel needed the important minerals within that marrow bone.
3. Attitude is everything – Behavioural Changes.
This may seem obvious, but you’ll be surprised how many camel owners don’t pick on the initial signs. There are ALWAYS initial signs of unwell-ness and it’s often in a camel’s behaviour – maybe you wonder why we harp on so much as to why it’s so important to connect, bond and build trust with your camel… There is a reason to the madness, because it not only matters to the training and handling, but YOU will be the first to know if something isn’t right with your camel, because you will KNOW your camel.
Behavioural signs could be: isolation from paddock mates, won’t come up for greetings (if normally do) and won’t eat (that’s an obvious one). The behavioural signs are just as diverse as each individual camel, but those are the 3 main points, especially the isolation from their paddock mates.
I’m a very intuitive person, and a mother, so it can be easy for me to pick up if something ain’t right with a camel (they’re my babies after all). But, If I don’t know a camel too well and I distrust my intuition, I go for the camel’s eyes – the eyes always tell if something isn’t right there will be a dullness to their eyes and a sort of ‘sorry’ look playing out. Another way to tell besides the eyes is a camel’s upper lip. If the camel’s upper lip is slightly ‘kissed’ looking and protruding from their upper plate (given it’s not their natural form), this is a tale tail signs that they’re in discomfort and further investigation needs to take place ASAP.
Now before you rush out to take a look at your camel to check for the 3 signs to know if they are health, do you want to learn more about the nutritional and mineral requirements of a camel (one hump or two)? We’ve created an easy to read (and digest) guide to camel health. This is especially for your domesticated camel(s), because most of us don’t live in the desert. We’ll give you simple action steps that you can start to implement TODAY to maintain your camel’s good health.