Preventing and Controlling Mange in Horses

January 2, 2006 (published) | April 20, 2015 (revised)

Everyone has heard of mange in dogs but horses can also develop it too, although not as commonly as dogs. Mange basically means a disease caused by mites, but there are many different types of mites. The most severe type of mange in horses is sarcoptic mange due to the severe itching and scratching it causes. The mites cause intense scratching and rubbing on objects like fences or stall walls, and initial lesions usually occur on the head, neck and shoulders. Hair loss and crusts develop on the skin followed by severe skin damage and thickening of the skin. If untreated, the skin disease will spread over the entire body and can lead to decreased appetite and general weakness. The mites can usually be found by scraping some skin tissue and looking for the mites under the microscope. A similar type called psoroptic mange can also occur but horses usually develop lesions in the fetlock and mane, around the tail, between the hind legs or under the front legs, and even the ears. Treatment of both types is the same including topical insecticides, lime sulphur dip, or oral ivermectin. These mites are contagious to other horses and humans so take precaution to decrease spread of mites and treat all contact animals.

Another type is chorioptic mange or leg mange, which affects the lower legs of draft horses or any horses with heavy feathers in the fetlock region. Secondary infection is common and in most cases, the hair will need to be clipped and topical insecticides applied to kill the mites as well as antibiotics to kill the infection. If your horse is itching or rubbing on objects or has a chronic skin condition, contact your veterinarian as mange is a possibility.

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