What is Leg Mange?
Chorioptes bovis mites feed on the surface of the horse’s skin. Draft horses and horses with long feathering, on their legs are more susceptible to leg mange. The Chorioptes bovis can also be transmitted to cattle, goats and sheep.
If your horse is excessively scratching, have him seen by an equine veterinarian. Leg mange is painful and can be a very uncomfortable condition for a horse to experience. Left untreated, Chorioptes bovis mites can cause lameness, and secondary bacterial or fungal infections.
Leg mange is the most common form of mange in horses, it is a parasitic infestation caused by the Chorioptes bovis mite. Leg mange is also known as Chorioptic mange. The Chorioptes bovis mites are usually found below the hocks and knees of the infected horse.
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Symptoms of Leg Mange in Horses
- Rubbing against posts and stalls
- Open lesions
- Scaly skin
- Swollen limb
- Inflamed skin
- Hair loss
- Stomping feet
- Weight loss
- Secondary bacterial and/or fungal infection
Causes of Leg Mange in Horses
Leg mange is caused by the parasite Chorioptes bovis mite. Chorioptes bovis can live off a host for up to three weeks. Chorioptes bovis can be transmitted by:
- Direct contact with an infected animal
- Walking through high grass which is infested with mites
- Stalls may be infested with mites
- Chorioptes bovis mites may be present in a trailer used for transport
- Sharing of infected blankets, grooming or riding equipment
- Rubbing up against infected objects, such as a scratching post
Diagnosis of Leg Mange in Horses
The veterinarian will do a close examination of your horse’s skin, paying attention to the lower legs which is where the leg mange can be found at it’s worst. She may find secondary infection present as well. Swelling and deterioration of tissue may be seen if the condition is advanced. Further diagnostic testing may include:
- A complete blood count which, checks the count of platelets, red and white blood cells; a complete blood count will help determine if the horse has a bacterial infection or if he is anemic
- Skin scrape - The skin scrape is placed on a slide and examined under a microscope; the skin scrape will help identify the mites
- Skin culture - To rule out a secondary infection or the invasion of bacteria, yeast, or fungus
Treatment of Leg Mange in Horses
Once leg mange is diagnosed, your horse should be quarantined away from other animals. The veterinarian may suggest clipping the horse’s feathers at the back of the legs. This will make treating the infestation much easier. When handling or caring for your horse, it is recommended that you use gloves. This will avoid the transmission of mites to other animals.
The veterinarian may recommend washing your horse with a medicated shampoo every 3-4 days. The horse will need to be pat dried. His skin may be very painful and sore, so it is important to be gentle with him. It is imperative to keep horse flies away from the sores. Horse flies can lay their eggs in the sores, which may lead to a maggot infestation.
Topical corticosteroid and antibiotic ointment, will help the skin to heal. The veterinarian may prescribe oral anti-inflammatory and antibiotics. In some cases of leg mange, the veterinarian may recommend the oral de-wormer ivermectin. Ivermectin is usually administered twice, 14 days apart.
Your horse’s stall, bedding, blankets, riding, and grooming equipment must be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. Any animal that has come into contact with a horse with leg mange should be examine and treated for the condition. The pasture should be maintained and sprayed regularly with insecticides. The treatment plan usually will take 2 – 3 weeks in order to ensure that there will not be a re-infestation.
Recovery of Leg Mange in Horses
The horse will need follow-up visits to monitor his progress. The veterinarian will want to make sure the mites are gone and that your horse’s skin is healing properly. A second skin scrape will be necessary to make sure there are no more mites. Recovery from leg mange has a good prognosis for most horses.
If there was a bacterial infection, the patient will need to have another complete blood count. Patients with a secondary fungal infection will have a second skin culture done to make sure the fungus has been eliminated.