July 2015 Issue



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If your goat has irritated skin that has formed crusts that have wrinkled, thickened, and/or lost hair on or under its legs, scrotum, udder, genitals, anus, hooves, ears, face, or other areas without a thick hair coat, it may have mange mites.

Sometimes called "scabies," from the Latin word that means "to scratch," this ectoparasite (parasite that largely lives on the surface of its host) should not be confused with "scrapie," which is an incurable brain disease. Mites belong to the arachnid subclass Acari, hence the other term describing mite infestion is Acariasis. Transmission from goat to goat is through direct body contact and is contagious.

There are three types of manage mites that can affect goats: scarcoptic, psoroptic, and chorioptic. The mite hardest to eradicate is the scarcoptic mange mite (Scarcoptes scabei) because it burrows into the skin, making tunnels in which it lives and lays eggs, feeding off skin cells and sucking lymph fluid. The goat body parts mentioned above are starting points for these mites because they can spread over the goat's entire body. Psoroptic and chorioptic mites don't burrow into the skin but still damage the goat.

Confirmation of mite infestion requires that a skin plug be taken by a vet and examined under a microscope. Skin scrapings are seldom sufficient because the mites burrow deep into the skin. A plug must be pulled to the point of drawing blood. Sometimes mites or their eggs can be found in fecal samples, but examining a skin plug under a microscope is the most accurate method of diagnosis. All skin diseases require vet examination and diagnosis because it is easy to mis-diagnose visually, decide to treat for one condition, then it turns out to be another. Example: Mis-diagnose fungus as staph infection, use steroids as part of the treatment, and the fungus rapidly gets worse.

The mite spends its entire life cycle either on or under the goat's skin. This parasite cannot survive off the goat for more than a few days. Intense itching follows the development of lesions, thickening of the skin, and formation of dry crusts. Itching is the body's inflammatory response to the mites' fecal pellets. Zinc deficiency may coincide with mite infestation, and a secondary bacterial skin infection can occur, requiring antibiotics. Mite infestation is more common in winter but can occur in summer. Sometimes mite activity will regress in summer and actively reappear in winter. Environmental conditions affect mite activity. Mite infestation spikes in periods of heat and drought, in areas where goats live in close quarters and are intensively managed, and when the mites' normal hosts are in short supply in nature (deer, rabbits, etc.). However, the year 2015 has brought dramatic climate changes from drought to rain in parts of the USA, along with a resurgence of mites. Immune-suppressed goats are more likely to have the worst cases of mite infestation, but healthy animals can be infested when the mite population is high. A group of bucks in rut can be sufficiently stressed that their immune systems are compromised enough for mites to attack them.

The most serious problem caused by mange mites on bucks is poor semen production. Semen production must be done at temperatures lower than the goat's body temperature. The scrotum's design permits heat loss so that semen can be produced outside the main body of the buck. Scab formation on the scrotum prevents this heat loss, concentrating heat inside and impairing semen production. While the buck's sex drive (libido) is not reduced, his body cannot produce sperm capable of inseminating female goats. Once the mites are killed, quality semen production usually returns. I cannot find any documented evidence that the doe's ability to become pregnant and carry to term is affected by mite infestation.

Human reaction to these mites is normally limited to superficial skin irritation which usually clears up on its own. Sometimes topical anti-itch medications are needed.

Aggressive treatment is necessary to kill mites on goats. No one-time-use treatment will work. Hair must be re-growing on the goat's body parts before treatment can be considered effective. Long-haired goats may have to be sheared for mite eradication to be successful. Since mites can live for several days off the goat and in the environment before they die, sheds and bedding areas must also be frequently cleaned and treated. All goats in the herd must be treated -- not just the ones with obvious mite infestation.

There are several different products that can be used to kill mites on and under the skin of goats. The dewormer Ivermectin can be injected SQ, dosing at one to two cc's per 50 pounds bodyweight weekly for at least three consecutive weeks. Use the 1% strength Ivermectin and inject SQ over the ribs with an 18 gauge needle to minimize discomfort because this product stings when injected. Topical application of Lime Sulphur Dip must be done at the same time. Buy Lime Sulphur Dip (97.8% strength) concentrated form and mix according to label directions. Lime Sulphur mix is applied by spray or dip and must be done every week for at least three weeks and sometimes weekly as long as six weeks if the skin isn't clearing up. Topical application of 1% Ivermectin weekly for three or more consecutive weeks is an alternative to Lime Sulphur Dip. Jeffers carries Lime-Sulphur Dip concentrate.

The product which I have found that works best to kill mange mites is Pierce's All Purpose Nu-Stock. It is a sulphur, mineral oil, and pine-oil-based cream in a tube that should be applied using disposable gloves (because it is messy and smells bad). I think it works best because (a) it stays on longer, and (b) it "suffocates" the mites. Apply at least once a week for minimally three consecutive weeks. Nu-Stock also has lots of other uses. Jeffers carries Nu-Stock.

Livestock guardian dogs (and all other dogs) are also subject to mite infestation and may have to be treated. There is some confusion about the species specificity of mange mites; some research indicates that certain mites are specific to a single species and other literature implies that mites may not be species specific after all. So I think it is wise to check out and possibly treat your livestock guardian dogs. Remember that Ivermectin is toxic to some dog breeds and should not be used on them. Note: Mange mites and "hot spots" on dogs are two entirely different problems. "Hot spots" occur at areas of heavy flea infestation, and dogs usually lick the areas repeatedly. First treat the entire dog for fleas, then apply Gentocin Spray (vet prescription) to the "hot spot" until it clears up.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto, ONION CREEK RANCH, Lohn, Texas 7/10/15

Subscribe FREE now! Monthly issues with new articles and other educational information on meat goat health, nutrition, and management written by Suzanne W. Gasparotto of Onion Creek Ranch and Pat Cotten of Bending Tree Ranch. In all cases, it is your responsibility to obtain veterinary services and advice before using any of the information provided in these articles. Neither Suzanne Gasparotto nor Pat Cotten are veterinarians. None of the contributors to this website will be held responsible for the use of any information contained herein.


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