Skin problems in goats are fairly common and can be quite confusing. Mites cause mange, which is just one of the reasons that a goat can suffer from hair loss, dry skin, thickening of skin, scabs, and pustules. Some of these symptoms can also be found in goats with lice, as well as a zinc deficiency.
Like many parasites, most mites are host-specific, meaning they are unique to goats. While you might find a couple of related mite species on deer or sheep, they are a completely different species than what is found in chickens and other poultry. That means goats and poultry cannot infect each other with mites.
There are four main types of mites in goats. Because they cause different symptoms and have different treatment protocols, they will be discussed separately here.
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“Chorioptic mange appears to be the only common mange mite in small ruminants in the United States and is very common in the United Kingdom,” according to Sheep, Goat, and Cervid Medicine (2021).
It is specific to goats and cannot be transmitted to humans. Although sheep can also get chorioptic mange, it is caused by Chorioptes ovis in sheep.
Goat with chorioptes usually have lesions and hair loss on the legs and abdomen. If left untreated, it can lead to a staph infection in the skin lesions. Unlike many mites, these do not burrow and can be seen on the skin with a magnifying glass.
What is the treatment for chorioptic mange in goats?
Treatment with lime sulfur dip usually works, but since this mite can live off the goat for a few days, you also need to clean out all of the bedding or move the goats to alternative housing for a week at least. The life cycle of chorioptes is two to three weeks.
Sarcoptes scabiei var caprae
This little bug is found in most countries throughout the world. It is zoonotic and can infect humans who have direct contact with infected goats, causing scabies, but “is not known to be present in the United States,” according to Sheep, Goat, and Cervid Medicine (2021). If it is diagnosed, it is reportable, which means it must be reported to the government.
This mite usually causes problems around the eyes and ears but can wind up affecting the entire body and ultimately causing weight loss, enlarged lymph nodes, and decreased milk production. It has a life cycle from 10 to 17 days, and it is not known how long it can survive without a host.
What is the treatment for sarcoptic mange in goats?
Although psoroptes cuniculi are not zoonotic, they are highly contagious to other goats and can live off the goat for up to 3 weeks. This mite can also infect sheep and deer.
Merck Veterinary Manual estimates that when this is found in a herd, it is likely that 80-90% of the goats are infected, even if some of them have no symptoms.
It usually affects the ears and can cause itchy skin, scaling, crusting, hair loss, ear rubbing, and head shaking.
What is the treatment for psoroptic mange in goats?
Pour-on macrocyclic lactone dewormers (ivermectin, moxidectin, eprinomectin) can be used for treating psoroptes when used at least twice, 5 to 7 days apart. Be aware that resistance to these drugs has been found in the United Kingdom. Lime sulfur dips can also be used for this mite.
This type of mange “is characterized by 2- to 12-mm diameter nodules in the skin along the face, neck, shoulders, and trunk, although there appears to be a predilection for the eyelids,” according to Sheep, Goat, and Cervid Medicine (2021). “These nodules exude a thick exudate.”
Merck says it is most common in kids, pregnant goats, and dairy goats. Sheep, Goat, and Cervid Medicine (2021) says that a severe infestation can indicate a compromised immune system and possible nutritional deficiencies.
What is the treatment for demodectic mange in goats?
Macrocyclic lactone pour-on dewormers, including ivermectin, have been shown to kill these mites.
Lime sulfur dips do not kill this mite.
Merck says that historically nodules were cut open, expressed, and infused, but that is no longer recommended.
Additional treatment options
Since most mites can live somewhere between a few days and three weeks off the goat, it’s a good idea to completely clean out the bedding in their housing after treatment. If alternative housing can be arranged for three weeks, that might be an even better option.
What about permethrin?
“Certain formulations of permethrin sprays are labeled for mange in sheep and goats,” according to Merck. “As with cattle, permethrin is generally not considered the compound of choice, but if used, the animals should be thoroughly wet with the product and re-treated in 10−14 days.”
Using pour-on dewormers for mites in goats
Pour-on dewormers made for cattle are not recommended for treating worms in goats because their bodies are different and the dewormers only kill about 50% of the internal worms in goats (compared to almost 100% in cattle).
Do not assume that your goats have been dewormed after you’ve used a pour-on dewormer to treat them for mites or lice. It will kill some worms, but if your goat has an overload of worms, you should use an oral dewormer from a different class, such as Safeguard or Valbazen to treat the worms. It is safe to use dewormers from two different classes when used sequentially (one right after the other). Pour-ons are all macrocyclic lactones while Safeguard and Valbazen are not.