Scabies is a parasitic skin disease caused by tiny mites resulting in skin irritation. These mites are spread from animal to animal by direct contact. The mites puncture the skin and feed on the body fluids released from the wounds. These fluids ooze from wounds and dry to form scabs. Hence the name “scabies.” This disease costs the cattle industry millions of dollars each year.
Cattle with scabies lick, rub and scratch themselves to relieve the intense itching. They often lose weight and are more susceptible to complications such as pneumonia. As the number of mites increase, the animal’s hair falls out or is rubbed off and lesions spread. If not treated, large areas of the body may be covered with thick, rough crusts.
Scabies is a year-round problem. However, in warm weather skin lesions may disappear because mites are less active. This improvement is only temporary; and, as environmental temperature gets colder, the mites become active and lesions return.
Under normal conditions, mites will survive for a maximum of 3 days off the host animal. It is possible for mites to spread from fences or trucks that have been in contact with infected animals. However, the greatest possibility of spread is directly animal to animal.
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Department of Animal Science, Agricultural Experiment Station, South Dakota State University
Bailey, J.; Kuhl, G.; Miller, H.; and Shave, H., "Scabies Research with Injectable Ivermectin" (1981). South Dakota Cattle Feeders Field Day Proceedings and Research Reports, 1981. 11.