What is Psoroptic Mange?
The psoroptes mite is a parasite that causes psoroptic mange in horses and other animals such as sheep and cattle. There are several types; the psoroptes equi is only found in England, psoroptes cuniculi lives in New Zealand, and the psoroptes ovis can be found anywhere. The most prominent sign of psoroptic mange is the intense scratching and thick crusty scales. The bites are what cause the crusty scabs and the mites move on after damaging the tissue so they can feed on new tissue.
Psoroptic mange is a skin disorder caused by either the psoroptes ovis, psoroptes equi, or psoroptes cuniculi mite. The lesions from these mites begin as itchy spots in areas such as the udder, chin, tail, mane, and forelock, and turn into bloody and crusty thickened areas. These mites are easier to find than others (sarcoptic and leg mange, forage and harvest mites) because the thickened hemorrhagic papules are easily visible. Psoroptic mange is highly contagious as well, which means if one of your horses have it, the other ones need to get treated as well, even if they have no symptoms.
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Symptoms of Psoroptic Mange in Horses
The symptoms of psoroptic mange are similar to other types of mange and skin conditions such as dermatitis and fungal infections. The most obvious symptom caused by the psoroptes mites is extreme itchiness and agitation. In general, the symptoms that are reported most often are:
- Scratching and biting at affected areas
- Rubbing against walls, fences, posts (to scratch areas that are not reachable)
- Raw inflamed patches in areas with a lot of hair such as between the legs, under the mane, and the base of the tail
- Hair loss
- Scaly skin
- Anemia (tiredness, weakness)
- Psoroptes cuniculi
- Psoroptes equi
- Psoroptes ovis
Causes of Psoroptic Mange in Horses
Psoroptic mange is primarily caused by psoroptes mites. There are some risks that you can avoid, which include:
- Crowded living conditions
- Lack of proper grooming
- Lowered resistance to illness from age or chronic disease
Diagnosis of Psoroptic Mange in Horses
Just as with any veterinary visit, the veterinarian (preferably an equine veterinarian) will need your horse’s medical history and will do a thorough physical assessment. In some cases, it may be obvious that your pet has psoroptic mange because the patches of irritated skin may be visible to the naked eye. However, this is not always the case so the veterinarian will still need to do the diagnostic tests as well. In fact, even if it is obvious, the veterinarian will still run tests to make sure there are no underlying conditions that need attention. First, if you do not have your horse’s medical records and immunization papers, you should provide the veterinarian with as much information as you can remember. Some of these things should be previous injuries and illnesses, abnormal behavior, change in appetite, and what symptoms you have noticed. You should also be sure to tell the veterinarian if you have given your horse any medications (prescription or over the counter) because this could interfere with diagnosis and treatment.
The physical examination should include respiration and heart rate, breath sounds, body temperature, height, weight, body condition score, reflexes, and conformation. After this, the veterinarian will ask you to walk, trot, and canter your horse while assessing stature, behavior, attitude, and lameness. Diagnostic tests include a skin scraping and examination, complete blood count (CBC), urinalysis, fecal exam, serum biochemistry profile, blood cultures, and packed cell volume (PCV). The veterinarian may do some x-rays as well to check for other conditions that may be hidden.
Treatment of Psoroptic Mange in Horses
Treating your horse for psoroptic mange is similar to other types of mange such as clipping and cleansing, medicated shampoo, topical ointment, and oral medication.
Clip and Cleanse
The first step is to clip the hair away from all of the areas that are infested. The veterinarian will clean the area with warm water and then disinfect with an antibacterial liquid to make sure the area is clean before treating.
Some of the medicated shampoos include lime sulfur dip, rotenone liquid, and organophosphates.
Ivermectin cream, benzyl benzoate lotion, sulfiram, fipronil, and diazinon are some of the topical medications.
There are many oral drugs that can help get rid of psoroptic mange such as ivermectin, amitraz, milbemycin oxime, bromo cyclen, and moxidectin. The veterinarian may also give your horse antibiotics to prevent infection and corticosteroids to help with itching and inflammation.
Recovery of Psoroptic Mange in Horses
Your horse’s prognosis is good as long as you see an equine veterinary professional to get the proper treatment. Be sure to follow the instructions and follow up with the veterinarian as directed. If you are concerned that the irritation to the skin is not healing, contact the clinic without delay. Secondary infection may result if your horse continues to itch and scratch the skin.