Osteodystrophy (Big Head) in Camels: Treatment Recommendations

camel health camel husbandry & care
Osteodystrophy (Big Head) in Camels: Treatment Recommendations

Disclaimer: These suggestions & recommendations are for educational purposes only, please consult an experienced veterinarian for advice & treatments on this disease.




The most common camel disease in Australia and USA is Osteodystrophy, a non-contagious dis-ease, but can be fatal if not diagnosed and managed correctly.


Osteodystrophy is any dystrophic growth of the bone. It is defective bone development that is usually attributable to disturbances in calcium and phosphorus metabolism in the camel, meaning: The inability to absorb calcium & phosphorus therefore the body compensates with Fibrous facial growths of long bones in the cheek area of the camel (pics below).


CAMEL OWNER WITH Osteodystrophy (Big Head) Camels


Unfortunately, I (Tara) have had too much experience with this awful disease in some of my camels, now having lost over 8 camels due to Osteodystrophy. It's a disease that isn't often talked about in camels, nor diagnosed soon enough for early intervention. 


Osteodystrophy is commonly occurring more and more in camels as time passes, often misdiagnosed as tooth abscess amongst novice or amateur camel owners.




Causes can be hereditary and or nutritional deficiencies - the latter being the more common. This expresses the importance of feeding domesticated camels the correct nutrition for the biological makeup. 


Diagnosis & early intervention are crucial and will be a matter between life and death (and suffering on the camels part). 


If you suspect your camel has osteodystrophy your local vet will be able to formally diagnose. If you already see significant growths in the sides of camels' upper cheeks and you’re experienced enough to know the signs of ‘OD’ then this can be a cause for diagnosis also.

 Pictures: Young camels with Osteodystrophy cellulose growths inside top of cheeks.


The good news is that it can be prevented (see additional resources & references at the base) and managed if diagnosed.


Osteodystrophy (aka Big Head) Treatment Recommendations: 



1. Get well informed about the disease and how it occurs so you can better understand and therefore treat camels accordingly to the severity of their condition. Listen to or watch the Camel Vet Talk on this disease in the Camel Connection Academy (see reference below).


 2. Purchase Feed Grade, Calcium Phosphate: P > 18%, Ca > 21%, F > 0.18% to compensate the malabsorption:  


Feed the camel 2 tablespoons morning and night, in a feed mix, until symptoms/growths ease. This can take several months depending on the camel’s health and severity of the disease. 


3. Along with the Calcium Phosphate, make sure the camel is getting a camel friendly mineral mix as a supporting supplement (see resources & references for Camel Mineral Mix Recipe). 


Add 2 tablespoons, to morning & night of this mineral mix to the daily feeding regime (can be added with Calcium Phosphate).


4. Additional supplement: Anitone® (or similar product). 


This is an Australian product but can be shipped all around the world. See references & resources.


5. Conduct a strict and non-compromising Parasite (worm) Control Program for diseased camel:


Parasites are exactly that - parasites sucking the life from the camel - and if a diseased camel has parasites (which 99.9999% of domestic camels have a parasite load) then their condition then will worsen by tenfold. 


Regularly (& correct) tests must occur to give the camel the best chance of survival and disease suppression (see reference below for more info).


Managing and treating Osteodystrophy (Big Head) in Camels requires hands-on husbandry & commitment, especially in the early diagnosis & treatment, but I want to say, I had an OD camel very close to death and now all his symptoms and fibrous growths have fully suppressed and he is healthy and happy, although, keep in mind the ongoing effects on Osteodystrophy:


Once a camel has this disease they will always have it, at this stage it is incurable, BUT manageable with the right treatments. 


A camel that has Osteodystrophy (Big Head) is not suitable as a working camel:


Bearing weights like riding and packing will be very limited due to the camel’s bone density and the permanent effects this disease will have on the camel.



For more detailed information & treatments on Osteodystrophy (Big Head) in Camels like:

  • What is Osteodystrophy (also known as "Big Head") in camels
  • What causes Osteodystrophy (Big Head) in Camels
  • How to prevent Osteodystrophy (Big Head) in Camels
  • What a camel with Osteodystrophy future looks like
  • Necessary supplement feeding required,  


Listen or Watch the Camel Vet Talk in The Camel Connection Academy

RESOURCES & REFERENCES For Osteodystrophy (Big Head) in Camels:





  • Parasite (worm) Control Program for camels: Outline, treatments & preventions (Located in the Camel Connection Academy)




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