Cattle, Pig, Sheep & Goat Mange (Scabies)
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What is Mange?
Mange, also known as scabies are and sarcoptic mange, is caused by a animal’s reaction to mites that invade the surface, or burrow into your animal’s skin. Despite what you may think, mites are not insects; they are more like a microscopic spider that cannot be seen with the naked eye. There are several varieties of mites (sarcoptes scabiei), each with a different name and preference for a specific host animal (cow, pig, sheep, goat, etc). For information about Cattle Mange, Bovine Mange, Ovine Mange, and Caprine Mange, please see specific descriptions at the base of this page. Once a mite gets into or onto an animal’s skin, the motion of this little "bug" makes the animal’s skin extremely itchy. Actually, the mite itself isn’t responsible for most of the skin damage that results from sarcoptic mange. In an effort to scratch their hides, animals rub themselves fiercely against rough surfaces, causing hair loss, lesions, blisters and, most likely, infection. So, in order to effectively treat mange, you must simultaneously manage the animal’s itch, their wounded skin and potential healing complications. Animal mite problems are most common in the autumn and winter (when animals are typically housed for long periods of time), but can happen year round. Tell-tale signs of sarcoptic mange are itch, rash and areas of thickened skin, especially is there is not evidence of lice. If you suspect that your cow, sheep, goat or pig has sarcoptic mange, the diagnosis can easily be confirmed by any veterinarian. Your vet will take small skin samples and examine them under a microscope to look for mites.
About Cattle Mites & Common Symptoms:
There are three main species of mite that affect cattle: the surface mite (Chorioptes bovis), the burrowing mite (Sarcoptes scabiei) and the sheep scab mite (Psoroptes ovis).
The surface mite is usually found on the neck, legs, and tail head. Its bites produce itchy lesions, which cause cattle to rub their skin against hard surfaces, thus causing hide damage and hair loss.
The burrowing mite is attracted to the neck and tail of the cow, thus giving it the nickname “neck and tail mange.” The burrowing mite can also be spotted in the loin area. These bothersome mites burrow into and out of skin, producing a wildly irritating reaction that causes animals to rub their hide vigorously against rough surfaces. This rubbing results in large lesions and thick crusty skin areas. Unfortunately, due to the severity of wounds and prevalence of bacteria in stall or field areas, infection is a near-certain side effect of mite bites.
The sheep scab mite prefers a cow’s flanks, tail, head and anus. This mite feeds on the skin’s surface, but its mouth can also pierce the skin, causing irritating, itchy and reddened blisters.
Mite infection is mostly spread by direct cattle-to-cattle contact because the sheep scab mite and the surface mite cannot survive away from the skin of their host. However, the burrowing mite can survive for a short time in bedding and stalls, and then transfer to an uninfected animal that shares these living quarters.
About Sheep (Ovine) and Goat (Caprine) Mange, Including Common Symptoms:
The most well known and destructive mite is the sheep scab mites, which feed on the skin’s surface of goats and sheep. As if the motion of this tiny “bug” were not enough to irritate your herd, this mite can also pierce the skin, causing extreme itching and reddened blisters. Once the sheep begins to rub, scratch or bite their skin, these blisters can progress into serious lesions. Lesions usually appear on the shoulders and flanks. On rams, symptoms are also likely on the chest and neck; sometimes this infection transfers to the rump and hip of the ewe while they are mating.
Sheep and goat mite problems are most common in the autumn and winter, when animals are typically housed for long periods of time and the moisture level of wool increases, causing the mites to thrive and spread.
About Pig (Porcine) Mange & Common Symptoms:
A tell-tale sign of pig (bovine) mange is consistent itching and areas of thickened skin. You may notice that your pig is rubbing itself against rough surfaces or biting its skin to relieve the irritation. In severe cases, a pig may shake its head or ears.
Some pigs develop an allergic reaction to the mite protein, and show a rash of tiny red pimples. If untreated, systems can persist and worsen to include large lesions on the ear, neck, elbows and the front part of the hocks.
How to Prevent or Deter Mange and Scabies from Spreading:
If you have an animal that is infected with mites, try to separate them from other animals as much as possible during the healing period. Most mites cannot live away from their host and only spread when an infected animal has direct contact with another. Diligently clean any shared living areas (stalls), and add fresh bedding before reusing the stalls for new animals. Additionally, disinfect share grooming tools before using them on uninfected animals.