Mites in Goats

Mites in Goats featured image

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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Chorioptes caprae

“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?

Lime sulfur dips or pour-on dewormers — ivermectin, moxidectin, or eprinomectin — can be used weekly for 4 to 12 weeks for treatment.

Psoroptes cuniculi

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.

Demodex caprae

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.

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31 thoughts on “Mites in Goats”

  1. I have a couple of goats with hair loss on theirs and occasional head shaking. I put lime dip, in the correct dilution, in a gentle ear cleaning solution and did a normal ear cleaning including the flap. I have Nubians. There’s a lot of ear there. It appears to be working. I have had drug resistant worms and so use things other than ivermectin or safeguard when possible. I’m curious what experience others have with ear mites in goats. Thanks for a great article!

    Reply
    • Milk withdrawal for ivermectin pour-on is 7 days for goats, according to FARAD.org.
      and Cydectin (moxidectin) pour-on is 1 day. Note that these are very different for cattle.

      Reply
  2. Thank you for another great article. I’m pretty new to goats ( three years) and always have lots of questions! This article made me think of a few:
    How can you tell if a goat has mites or lice?
    Could a spray on lime Sulphur work as well as the pour on?
    Is food grade diatomaceous earth something you use for external parasites on your goats – as in dusting them with it and in their bedding?
    Thanks!

    Reply
    • The list of symptoms is in the first paragraph of the article, although lots of goats can have a few lice that don’t seem to bother them. If they are not bothering the goats, you don’t need to worry about treating them.

      Lice and mites are different. This article ONLY address mites. I’ll be doing an article on lice soon. Lice are visible to the naked eye, assuming you have 20/20 vision up close. I couldn’t see them without reading glasses after my early-40s. You have to separate the hair and stare at the roots to see if there is anything crawling. Mites, on the other hand, may burrow, in which case you could not see them at all without a skin scraping by your vet. As mentioned in the article, there is a mite that can be seen with a magnifying glass. However, most of the same treatment works for both mites and lice.

      I’ve never heard of using a lime sulfur spray for mites on goats — only a dip, which is more intense than a pour-on. The pour-on dewormers can just be dribbled between the shoulder blades.

      Diatomaceous earth would do nothing for burrowing mites because it can’t come in contact with them. I personally have had zero luck treating lice with DE, so I would only use the treatments mentioned. One negative side effect of using DE with my goats years ago was that it dried out their skin terribly and actually made them more itchy. You could put it in their bedding though as some mites and lice spend a good deal of time OFF the goat, as mentioned in the article. It couldn’t hurt to sprinkle it in their bedding, although I wouldn’t do it when goats are around because you don’t want them inhaling the dust.

      Reply
  3. I know this sounds dumb, but how do I “dip” my goats? I don’t have a chute to swim them through… trough? What is the concentration of dip? How do you keep it out of their eyes? So many questions. Maybe you could do a post about “How to Dip?”
    Thanks… you are my go to for goats!

    Reply
    • No problem! I have not had to do this, but this is what I’ve been told … use one of those big sponges like you use to wash your car, and completely soak it, then rub it all over the goat to get them soaked all the way down to their skin. Obviously you’ll want to dress for the job, and I’d use rubber gloves because sulfur is stinky, and I would not want to be smelling it for hours.

      We have certainly bathed a lot of goats back in the day when we showed them, and you may already know that they are not fond of getting wet, so you’ll probably want to have a helper and put a collar on them with a lead so that they can’t run away.

      Hope this helps! And I’m so glad to hear that you find my info helpful!

      Reply
      • Great suggestion. I’m a little late getting the deep bedding cleaned out and my worst one (Spawn of Satan) is the one that I later found out spit out her bolus. Oy… Seems like everything on the farm needs to happen at the same time. Last week. When my helper comes will try and set up a pen away from their regular run in for a few weeks. Thanks.

        Reply
  4. For lice my aunt and I use seven (spelling?) powder you can get in the gardening isle. Just powder where you see lice avoiding eyes and it has worked well for us.

    Reply
    • Please, no! Do NOT ever do this! The label on Sevin Dust specifically warns against putting it on any animals. It is a known carcinogen. This is a VERY old practice from 50+ years ago before we had medications specifically labeled for goats and other animals. And if you used this on a milking doe, you would be getting this in your milk, which is even scarier. I have a copy of the label on this post:
      https://thriftyhomesteader.com/old-time-farm-remedies/

      Also, note that lice and mites are two different things.

      Reply
  5. Currently dealing with a mites nightmare. We’ve tried everything (in consultation with now two farm vets): Pyrethrin dust, ivermectin injections, fipronil, eprinex pour on, NuStock. Just now adding lime sulfur dip (using a spray bottle but getting their skin completely soaked). Going to now alternate the sulfur sips with fipronil one week and Cleanup2 (basically cyclence) the other week and TWO dips a week. I clean their bedding regularly and dust their bedding with DE and lay add spraying their house with bleach or Lysol after the cleaning. This has been so so awful. Lost one goat already (I euthanized because she seemed so miserable and I hate suffering) and another looks pretty bad. Just hoping being more aggressive will work. Second vet doesn’t want to do more ivermectin because she’s not sure the ultra-sick goat’s liver could take it. Currently waiting for skin scraping results. Sigh. Just saying…mites are bad news. Would love to know how to prevent these once/if I finally get them through this!

    Reply
    • This does not sound like mites. They are not that hard to kill. I was shocked to get to the end of your comment and learn that you are just now doing a skin scraping. That should have been done ages ago.

      And you don’t need to waste time with bleach and Lysol, which do NOT kill mites. Those are disinfectants.

      What exactly are you seeing in symptoms? Did you buy the goats like this, or when did the symptoms start? I have never heard of anyone putting down a goat due to mites.

      Reply
      • sorry, just now saw your reply when I revisited this page. I wish I could send you a photo. Basically tell-tale signs of mites, but the one who is worse off has scabs all over her body. Scraping results showed “no clear organism, lots of debris” according to the vet and “some dead mites.” I suspect, after taking your copper course, that the goats had some copper deficiency as well. Possibly zinc too. I switched out the minerals and added a protein tub at vet’s recommendation, which they have zero interest in so that was a waste of $40! The one I euthanized probably just wasn’t healthy enough to survive (or I gave up too soon because I just couldn’t tolerate what I saw as suffering). Second vet took a blood sample (for nutritional panel” and we are still waiting on he results.

        Reply
        • I’m sorry to say that you wasted your money on that serum mineral panel. Blood is NOT a reliable indicator of copper in the blood, although selenium will be accurate. I have seen quite a few cases where people had both blood and liver biopsies done, and there is no correlation at all. In fact, one person had liver biopsies done because the blood looked like the goats were borderline toxic on copper, but the livers showed that they were actually very deficient.

          A protein tub is also a bad idea, so smart goats! Protein tubs usually don’t have much minerals. Since they are made to be a source of protein, the goats are meant to consume a LOT, which is hard for them to do because they have very soft, small tongues. Here is an article on goat minerals that will help you find one that has a good amount of minerals. Sadly, most do NOT have enough real minerals in them. https://thriftyhomesteader.com/goat-minerals/
          Also, goat minerals should always be loose — never blocks or tubs.

          If the skin scraping only showed dead mites, it sounds like you’ve killed the mites and are now dealing with something else, such as a mineral deficiency or a skin infection due to the mite infestation.

          If you are within driving distance of a veterinary teaching hospital, that might be your best bet because they actually have specialists there — like a veterinary dermatologist — who might figure this out very quickly. I have to drive two hours to get to a university vet hospital, and it’s totally worth it.

          Reply
          • Thanks! Yes, I started reading your posts AFTER the second vet came so I knew the protein tub and blood panel was a waste of money. I have since gotten them a mineral with the copper sulfate ppm you’ve recommended. Good thought on teaching hospital. I think both of the vets I saw were trained at the one closest so I’ll investigate if there are others within driving distance I can consult. Thanks for your help! I’ll let you know if (when!) I get this resolved.

      • I should also add that I’ve had the goats since they were born here almost two years ago. The first vet said she’s seeing lots of lice and mites this year because of the wonky PA winter we had. I’ll be honest, I probably didn’t do a good enough job of cleaning out their building for a spell while life was particularly hectic!

        Reply
  6. I have two 14 week old kids that are new to me 2 weeks ago. One has developed bumps with small scabs from its jaw line to its front feet and some on its sternum/chest area. Should I treat these as mites and give them both treatment? Is it safe to do so at this age? The breeder said she dewormed them the week I got them. Should I wait to treat them? My local veterinarians are busy and booked out. They’re only available for emergency visits for a few weeks.

    Reply
    • All of the treatments here are safe for kids, and it doesn’t matter that they were dewormed a couple of weeks ago. However, this doesn’t exactly sound like mites. The location is really odd. But you could try treating for that while you’re waiting to get in to see the vet.

      Reply
  7. I just bought two does – one is pregnant. They act itchy – I feel some bumps on them here and there, but I’m not seeing anything moving (I’ve been out there parting hair and looking at the skin). If we determine it’s lice/mites, is it safe to treat the pregnant doe with a pour-on?

    Reply
    • If you are not seeing any hair loss, it could be nothing other than normal itchy skin. Some goats just love to rub on fences and such. Ivermectin is safe during pregnancy, but it is also a dewormer, and you should avoid using it unless you know you have a problem.

      Reply
  8. I noticed last night one of my 7 month old ND doelings shaking her head and scratching her ear. I’ll go out with a light to check this morning if I see anything in there. I can swab it and look at it under a scope to check for mites. Would anything else be causing her to shake her head? We have two backyard goats so they aren’t exposed to other animals…but there are the neighbor’s dogs on the other side of the redwood fence. How did we get mites (if we have mites)?
    Researching this leads me to a question about withdrawal time. We are not yet milking obviously, but we do use their manure in our veggie garden beds. Should I withdraw from collecting their manure for use in our food forest while I am treating with any drug…in any form – pour on, oral, injectibles? If so, can I put the manure in the compost pile for aging to breakdown the drugs?
    Thank you for your assistance.

    Reply
    • If you only saw it once, I wouldn’t worry about it. It could have been something totally random that went away.

      Reply
      • Yup, alot of shaking and scratching one day. Swabbed and examined under scope next morning…plenty of debris but no mites. No head shaking the next day and I was out there all day working on the garden so I would have noticed. Thank you!

        Reply
  9. Hello,
    I have been trying to figure out if I have lice or mites. I could see lice on my goats and used some sulphur powder on them after wetting them down with an essential oil mix that works well for the tics and flies. I figured it would help keep the sulphur on them if nothing else.
    . I do not see any postules, however my doeling and a buckling who have been in seperate spaces have been scratching on the back of their necks. The doeling has scabs from scratching. I am trying to heal them up since she is going to a new home. Can lice cause them to scratch like that? My husband was convinced she hated her collar and that was why she was scratching. These are Saanens. We change the bedding in the sheds every day. I have sprayed them with the essential oil spray and dusted them with sulphur every few days. I think the scabs themselves are itchy ( I know mine get that way). I have not seen any lice on the animals since I started the routine but the scabs are still on the doeling. How fast should a scab heal? Would some Vitamin E oil help?

    Thanks, Kristen

    Reply
    • oops- I should be clearer.
      I have sprayed down the sheds and dusted them every few days. I find it interesting that I ever had lice on the mothers when we were NOT cleaning out the sheds regularly. With 5 goats we started cleaning everything out every day. I don’t think it caused it. I just wonder how much worse it would have been.

      Reply
    • You can definitely see lice with the naked eye — assuming you have 20/20 vision. I was able to see them without reading glasses until my early 40s. Years ago my mentor said that once she was in her 60s, she started using a magnifying glass. Usually lice congregate around the shoulders, so while the goats are on the milk stand or otherwise eating, I pull the hair back at the shoulders and stare at a single spot for at least 15 seconds. Then move on to another spot if I don’t see anything moving. I check at least 5 places before believing that there are no lice. Shaving goats is a great treatment for lice, if it’s warm enough outside, which is unlikely in most parts of the US right now.

      Considering the time of year, mites are more likely because lice don’t usually get that bad unless it’s really cold outside. But it’s not impossible for them to have lice.

      Cleaning the barn without killing the mites on the goats is an act in futility. Mites on the goats will not get better or worse based on that. Goats are the mites’ buffet. You have to kill the mites on the goats.

      You never mentioned treating with pour-on ivermectin, so that would be my next move, and I would be sure the problem is solved before selling the goat.

      Reply
  10. Question on the dip- how many times and how long in between does the animal need to be treated with the dip? Course hair, dandruff in coat and around eyes and ears are all symptoms of mites and mineral deficiency correct? I have a few wethers that have constant symptoms that never seem to disappear completely. Hoping I can dip them before the temps drop but curious if once will be enough as winter is fast approaching.

    Reply
    • It depends on which type of mite it is. Dip does not kill all of them. And you need to be sure that you deal with the environmental issues, as described in the article. Ideally if you can keep them out of their stall for the required amount of time, that will help a lot. Otherwise, the mites will just keep re-infecting the goats if you just keep putting the goats back into the same stall after treatment. Pay attention to how long the different mites can live off the goat.

      Reply

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