There is more to llamas than long eyelashes and a smug expression. They are surprisingly smart, friendly, and quirky.
Five interesting facts about llamas:
- Llamas make excellent guards for herds of small animals. They are very social and will ‘adopt’ a group of sheep or goats as their own herd. Then they will protect the herd by chasing off coyotes and other predators.
- Llamas are smart. They can distinguish between the neighbor’s dog and a predatory coyote.
- Llamas are the camel’s hippie cousins. They belong to a group of animals called camelids that also includes alpacas. All camelids spit or stick out their tongue when they are annoyed.
- One of the ways llamas communicate is by humming.
- Llamas are diabetic — sort of. The OSU College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) is using their herd of 30 llamas and alpacas to study how certain hormones affect blood sugar. Because the metabolism of llamas is very similar to that of a human diabetic, the results of this research may provide insight into human diabetes treatment.
Pacemakers made for humans are adding years to dog’s lives thanks to an ingenious non-profit agency founded by OSU Professor David Sisson. Unsold human pacemakers that are past their shelf date and due to be thrown out can now be used in dogs. The Animal Companion Pacemaker Registry provides a clearing house for pacemaker manufacturers to donate the devices. Veterinary cardiologists can go to the registry’s website and order them online.
There are strict rules about how long pacemaker manufacturers can keep a unit sitting on the shelf; the lithium batteries eventually wear out and pacemakers in people often need to last for decades. But when you put a pacemaker in a 11-year old dog, it is okay if the battery dies in ten years.
The medical devices are often implanted to speed up a slow heart rate in dogs with disorders such as heart block and sick sinus syndrome. A donated pacemaker from the registry costs about $500 compared to $5,000 or more for a brand new one.
Sisson, who is head of the cardiology department at the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital, says several thousand dogs have gotten the lifesaving implants over the past two decades.