Mange---mite infestations that cause itching, hair loss and sores---can lead to serious health problems, even death if left untreated. Veterinarians identify mange through skin scrapings or biopsies and treat most types with topical applications or oral medications. Treatment type and duration depend on the type of mite and severity of the infestation.
Several different types of mite infestations can infect horses, ponies, mules and donkeys around the world, according to the Food and Agricultural Organizations of the United Nations. Mange causes irritation, hair loss, scabs and sores, either from the infestation itself or from the animal scratching, rubbing and rolling. Mange can lead to infections, weight loss and make the animal susceptible to other diseases.
Sarcoptic mange, while rare in the United States, is the most severe type of mange found in horses, according to the Merck Veterinary Manual. Lesions appear first on the animal's head, neck or shoulders and spread to the rest of the body, leaving oozing or crusty sores and bald patches. Untreated sarcoptic mange can lead to emaciation, weakness and loss of appetite.
Psoroptic mange produces sores on parts of the horse's body with heavy hair, including under the mane and forelock, at the base of the tail, under the chin and between the hind legs. It is fairly rare in horses and can be identified through skin scrapings.
Chorioptic mange commonly infects large draft horse breeds with thick hair, known as feathering, on their lower legs. The infestation leads to hair loss and skin thickening on the animal's feet and lower legs. If untreated, it can be a chronic condition that lessens in the summer but returns in cold weather. Infected animals rub and bite at their legs, or repeatedly stamp them on the ground, according to the Equine Sciences Update website.
Demodectic mange, common in dogs, is rare in horses. The mites live in hair follicles and sweat glands, and can infect an animal's eyelids and muzzle.
Veterinarians treat sarcoptic mange with lime-sulphur solutions or organophosphate insecticides applied to the horse's skin, according to the Merck Veterinary Manual. Oral medications including ivermectin or moxidectin also are prescribed to treat infected animals and those in close contact.
Psoroptic mange is treated with the same oral or topical medications as sarcoptic mange. Chorioptic mange is treated only with the topical applications.
No oral treatment exists for horses with demodectic mange. A drug usually used in other animals can cause colic or death in horses, according to the Merck Veterinary Manual.
The stable area, saddle, harness or other equipment and grooming supplies should be thoroughly cleaned if they have come in contact with or are stored near an animal with mange, according to the Food and Agricultural Organizations of the United Nations. Some mange mites can also infect humans, so care should be taken to wash thoroughly after being around infected animals.