What is that?: Mange

Have you been noticing some skin issues on your animals? Are they experiencing hair loss, red spots, crusty or scaly skin? Then this might be all signs that your animal has contracted mange and needs treatment right away.

What is Mange?

Mange, as defined by Cornell University Wildlife Health Lab, is a skin disease that affects mammals caused by microscopic mites that burrow into skin. Oklahoma State University defines mange as: a contagious disease characterized by crusty or scaly skin, pruritus, and alopecia. Now, there are many different species of mites that cause mange and the clinical signs of infection very depending on the type, however hair loss is the most common sign across the board. Mange is a general term for cutaneous acariasis and is the result of infestation with one of several genera of parasitic mites, including Chorioptes, Demodex, Psorobia (formerly Psorergates), Psoroptes, Sarcoptes, and others. The term “scabies” most appropriately refers to infestation with Sarcoptes sp mites (ie, sarcoptic mange); however, this term is commonly misused to refer to any type of mange.

Transmission occurs when a host becomes infected by direct contact with an affected animal or by coming into a contaminated environment like burrows or nests where free-living mites can survive for several weeks in high humidity and low temperatures.

Mites can be identified by examining skin scrapings from affected animals under a microscope. Differences in appearance can help determine the type of mite.

How to Treat Mange

Successful mange treatment is a multifactorial process, including treatment of the affected animal(s), treatment of contact animals, and environmental control. Isolation of affected animals for 2 weeks is often recommended to prevent or limit spread of contagious mites. Care should be taken to prevent contact of native animals with potentially infested fomites (eg, animal bedding, feed and water buckets, tack and other equipment).

General treatment will often involve a medication such as Ivermectin for most livestock over several weeks however, for pets there is special bath soaps and topical treatments that can be used as well. Topical treatments are also available for livestock but will often need multiple applications as well to ensure that it doesn’t get affected by the elements and that it has the desired affect on the infection. Some animals such as sheep will need a series of shoots or if you have the ability for some livestock you can use a hot lime sulfur dip or spray as a treatment.

During a mange brake out it will be best to take skin scrapings of the animals who you suspect to be affected and send them in to your vet to find out what kind of mange mites you might have as some have been know to just clear up on their own or might be ones what need a much more aggressive treatment. Isolation and heavy cleaning will be the largest keys of success in getting rid of this problem though. Ensure that after each contact with affected animal you dispose of all gloves used, wash all clothing, sterilize all equipment, and refrain from touching anything or anyone before the cleaning is done.

Treatment will be the most affective when caught early and started as soon as symptoms are noticed. Animals that have any kind of underlaying condition, such as recently given birth, already sick, or young can find mange as a fatal condition to contract. So, this potential for loss of life as well as how fast it spreads is why routine inspection, care, and prevention is all key to ensuring the best outcome of your animals. The best prevention method is to have health animals, good sun exposure, access to free minerals, good quality feed, and most importantly limit close confinement as much as possible. This last step is to make sure that when something does happen you limit the amount of animals affected and can better isolate the problem.