Sheep Diseases: Scabies

Updated November 21, 2016

Sheep scab or sheep scabies, is a highly contagious skin infection caused by a mite infestation. The disease most often affects domesticated sheep. It causes significant losses in livestock to the sheep industry in countries where sheep scabies is endemic.


According to Dr. Lyle G. McNeal from the Navajo Sheep Project, sheep scab is caused by the Psoroptes ovis mite, a parasite that lives on the surface of the skin and bites the animal to feed on its skin fluids. Several other types of scabies infections include foot mange, itch mange, follicular mange and head scabies.


The symptoms of sheep scabies include scaly, crusted, yellowish sores, hide damage and wool loss. The Iowa State University Center for Food Security and Public Health explains that infected mothers give birth to smaller lambs that die quickly if they become infected. If left untreated, secondary bacterial infections and severe weight loss can occur.


Sheep scab has been eradicated in Scandinavia, Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand, but it is still a problem in many other countries. The disease is treated with ivermectin injections or with mite-killing dips and sprays. Most sheep make a full recovery after treatment.

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