Diseases / List of Parasitic Diseases / Disease description:

Sarcoptic Mange 

Sarcoptic mange in a fox. Click image for full page view Loss of spines hedgehog. Click here for full-screen view Sarcoptic mange in a hedgehog. Click here for full-screen view Sarcoptic mange lesions rabbit ear. Click here for full page view with caption Sarcoptic mange lesions rabbit feet. Click here for full page view with caption










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General and References

Disease Summary

Parasitic infection of the skin by burrowing mites Sarcoptes scabiei. causing intense itching, skin changes and hair loss.
HEDGEHOGS A parasitic skin disease which can cause hair/spine los and skin thickening.
BEARS A rare parasitic disease of the skin causing pruritus, hair loss and skin changes.
  • Sarcoptes scabiei var. cuniculi is reported to occur in the rabbit causing an intensely pruritic dermatosis but it is rare. (B601.13.w13, B609.2.w2, B610.23.w23)
  • "Mange has been reported in association with Notoedres cati and Sarcoptes scabei infestation in laboratory or commercial rabbits". (B600.9.w9)
  • In the UK and North America, sarcoptes mange is rare in rabbits. However in other areas of the world, e.g. Africa and India, it is common. (B600.9.w9, B608.21.w21)
  • This infection may occur in both the pet rabbit and laboratory rabbits. (B602.19.w19)
GREAT APES A parasitic disease causing intense pruritis, alopecia and weakness and weight loss.

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Alternative Names (Synonyms)

  • Mange
  • Scabies

See also other mite infections: 

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Disease Type

Parasitic Infection

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Infectious/Non-Infectious Agent associated with the Disease

Mites, Sarcoptes scabiei. Varieties ("strains") named according to the host, e.g. fox mange mite Sarcoptes scabiei var. vulpes. (B46, B208.5.w5)
  • Sarcoptes scabiei  is distributed worldwide. (B46)
  • The mite has a rounded body, up to 0.4 mm diameter, with short, scaly legs scarcely projecting beyond the margins of the body. (B46)
  • The numerous transverse ridges and triangular scales on the dorsum are characteristic of this species. (B46)
  • Development from egg to adult takes about two weeks: eggs hatch within three days after laying; mites develop from larvae to protonymphs in 3-4 days, and to tritonymphs in a further three days. Tritonymphs develop to adults after 3-4 days. (B208.5.w5)
  • Fertilised females lay three to four eggs per day. (B208.5.w5)
  • Mites can survive for several days off the host, and are infective for about a half to two thirds of that time. (B208.5.w5)

Infective "Taxa"

Sarcoptes scabiei - Sarcoptidae - True itch mites (Family)

Non-infective agents


Physical agents

-- Indirect / Secondary

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Disease Author

Debra Bourne MA VetMB PhD MRCVS (V.w5); Nikki Fox BVSc MRCVS (V.w103); Gracia Vila-Garcia BVSc, MSc, MRCVS (V.w67)
Click image for main Reference Section


Anna Meredith MA VetMB CertLAS DZooMed (Mammalian) MRCVS (V.w128); Richard Saunders BVSc BSc CertZooMed MRCVS (V.w121)

Major References / Reviews

Code and Title List

B22.32.w8, B46, B208.5.w5, B272.1.w1

B284.6.w6, B291.12.w12
J15.21.w1, J167.40.w1

B16.9.w9, B64.26.w5, B338.23.w23
J1.23.w7, J417.20.w1

B208.5.w5, B600.9.w9, B601.13.w13, B602.19.w19, B604.5.w5, B608.21.w21, B609.2.w2, B610.23.w23, B614.11.w11
J15.29.w1, J213.4.w4

Bonobos/Great Apes
B336.39.w39, B644.3.w3

Other References

Code and Title List


J64.11.w8, J476.16.w2, J476.18.w1

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Clinical Characteristics and Pathology

Detailed Clinical and Pathological Characteristics

General Pruritus and skin lesions, with hair loss and skin scaling in chronic cases.

Clinical Characteristics

Affect mainly SKIN and associated structures:
  • Acute: intense pruritus, erythematous eruptions, formation of papules, seborrhoea, alopecia (B208.5.w5).
  • Chronic: crusting (exudation of body fluids), hyperkeratosis, hyperpigmentation, lichenification, skin thickening, foul aromatic odour. (B208.5.w5, B22.32.w8)
  • Lesions may be localised or generalised, and may spread to cover most of the body (B208.5.w5)
  • Hair loss may occur over muzzle, neck, shoulders, back, head, tail. (B208.5.w5); ears, nose, eyes, neck, tail, feet (B22.32.w8)
  • Subcutaneous oedema may be present, and may be seen to cause narrowing of eyes prior to death. (B208.5.w5)
  • Lymphadenopathy in severe cases. (B208.5.w5)
  • Chronic localised lesion (well demarcated, hyperkeratotic) has been described (B208.5.w5)
  • Hair loss, formation of scabs, seborrhoea. The whole body may be affected in advanced cases. (B272.1.w1)
  • Note: lesions result from hypersensitivity reactions of the host. In experimentally infected Vulpes vulpes - Red fox type I hypersensitivity reactions have been demonstrated (J1.34.w3). In domestic dogs both Type I and Type IV hypersensitivity reactions have been demonstrated (B208.5.w5).

General signs:

  • In advanced infection, emaciation, staggering, and greatly reduced flight distance (easy to approach). (B272.1.w1)
  • Listlessness, emaciation, loss of fear of humans (B208.5.w5)
  • General debilitation (B22.32.w8)
  • Pruritus may affect ability to hunt. (B208.5.w5)
  • Emaciation and debility in advanced cases (B208.5.w5)
  • Death from emaciation and dehydration. (B208.5.w5)
  • Skin thickening, scabs and loss of spines was reported in Hemiechinus auritius and Erinaceus europaeus with Sarcoptes scabiei infection in Israel. (J167.40.w1)
  • Skin lesions in a juvenile with sarcoptic mange in the UK. (J15.21.w1)
  • Generalised erythema and alopecia; may be fatal. (B284.6.w6)
  • The clinical signs reported include pustular dermatitis, pruritus and alopecia. (B16.9.w9, B64.26.w5)
  • In three wild Ursus americanus - American black bears, severe alopecia, lichenification of the skin, a thick greyish crust over the skin, and emaciation. In an adult female examined closely, areas of skin which would normally be loose had formed folds. A classic musty odour was noted. There was no indication of scratching (no suggestion of pruritus). (J1.23.w7)
  • Pruritis, localised alopecia, thickening and crusting of the skin may occur. (D315.3.w3)
  • Clinical signs: 
    • Yellow to tan, scaly, crusty, pruritic dermatitis. (B600.9.w9, B608.21.w2, B602.19.w19, J213.4.w4)
    • May have alopecia, erythema and excoriation. (B608.21.w21)
    • Secondary bacterial infection is common. (B614.11.w11)
  • Distribution of lesions: 
    • Head and neck. (B604.5.w5, B609.2.w2, J213.4.w4)
    • Common areas affected are the muzzle, lips, eyelids, bridge of the nose, and external genitalia. (B600.9.w9, B608.21.w21, B614.11.w11)
    • Other areas that may be affected are the margins of the pinnae, neck, forehead, face, paws and occasionally the external genitalia. (B600.9.w9, B608.21.w21)
    • Trunk. (B602.19.w19, J213.4.w4)
  • Severe infestation:
    • May result in lethargy, anorexia, emaciation and death. (B608.21.w21)
      • there may also be anaemia and leukopaenia. (B614.11.w11)
GREAT APES In Great Apes
  • Sarcoptic mange causes intense pruritis with localised to generalised alopecia, thickening and scaling of the skin. (B336.39.w39, B644.3.w3)
  • General signs include anorexia, weakness and weight loss leading to emaciation. (B336.39.w39, B644.3.w3)
  • Haemorrhage and secondary bacterial infections may develop due to self-trauma in response to the intense pruritis. (B644.3.w3)


Data from canids indicates incubation periods of 10-30 days. (B208.5.w5)

Mortality / Morbidity

  • Morbidity may be high. (B208.5.w5)
  • Mortality may be high, e.g. 70-80% in some wild mammal populations.(B208.5.w5)
  • Reproduction may be affected (e.g. reduced ovulation and pregnancy rates with severe mange in adult female coyotes during an epizootic in southern North America). (B208.5.w5)
  • Sarcoptic mange may be of serious concern as a threat to endangered populations of some mammals. (B208.5.w5)


Gross pathology
  • Skin lesions:
    • Exudate, often crusted and matting of the hair;
    • Skin thickened, hyperkeratotic and hyperpigmented; thickened skin may be wrinkled.
    • Alopecia; in severe cases, large areas of skin may lose hair.



  • Skin: 
    • Pronounced hyperkeratosis and acanthosis, some parakeratosis, extensive accumulations of exudate and red blood cells in the stratum corneum;
    • Stratum germinativum hyperplastic and with a cellular infiltrate of neutrophils, lymphocytes and plasma cells.
    • Hair follicles and sebaceous glands usually hyperplastic, with a mild inflammatory response, and often plugged at the surface. 


  • Histopathology: Marked hyperkeratosis, tunnels in the epidermis and numerous mites (morphologically similar to Sarcoptes scabiei) and ova. (J1.23.w7)

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Human Health Considerations

  • N.B. ZOONOTIC. (B208.5.w5, P23.1999S.w8)
  • Zoonotic disease in humans is usually seen affecting the trunk, arms or abdomen.
  • May be intensely pruritic.
  • Zoonotic disease is usually self-limiting and relatively short lived (days to several months).
  • (B208.5.w5)
  • Sarcoptes scabiei var. cuniculi  may produce transient lesions in humans. (B608.21.w21)

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Susceptibility / Transmission

General information on Susceptibility / Transmission

  • Transmission by direct and indirect contact. (B208.5.w5)
  • Highly contagious between individuals of the same host species. 
  • May also be transmitted to individuals of another species. 
  • Transfer of sarcoptic mites from lion to bear (species not specified) has been reported. (B272.1.w1)
  • Three Ursus americanus - American black bears with severe infection, an adult female with placental scars indicating she had borne twins, and two yearlings, were found within one kilometre of one another in Michigan over a period of several months. It was suggested the bars might be mother and daughters and than the female may have infected her offspring. (J1.23.w7)
  • N.B. ZOONOTIC. (B208.5.w5, P23.1999S.w8)
  • Vulpes vulpes - Red fox may not develop protective immunity against reinfection: individuals experimentally infected then treated were fully susceptible to reinfection and their infection did not appear different to that of naive animals. However, the infecting dose was high and it was considered possible that lack of resistance may have resulted from overwhelming challenge (J1.34.w3).
  • Clinical signs are thought to be due to both Type I (immediate) and Type IV (delayed) hypersensitivity reactions of the host. (B208.5.w5)
  • --
  • Sarcoptes mange is often immune-related with many rabbits apparently carrying some mites and the disease recrudescing when the animal is stressed. (J15.29.w1)
  • Rabbits may become resistant to reinfestation. (B208.5.w5)
  • Transmission of Sarcoptes scabiei among wildlife can occur both by indirect and direct contact. Nymphs and larvae of this mite frequently leave their burrows to wander on the skin surface. (B208.5w5)
  • Experimentally, Sarcoptes scabiei has been successfully transferred from dogs to New Zealand white rabbits; however, Sarcoptes scabiei from swine and humans failed to infect New Zealand white rabbits. (B208.5w5)

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Disease has been reported in either the wild or in captivity in:

Further information on Host species has only been incorporated for species groups for which a full Wildpro "Health and Management" module has been completed (i.e. for which a comprehensive literature review has been undertaken). Host species with further information available are listed below:

Host Species List



(List does not contain all other species groups affected by this disease)

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Disease has been specifically reported in Free-ranging populations of:

Further information on Host species has only been incorporated for species groups for which a full Wildpro "Health and Management" module has been completed (i.e. for which a comprehensive literature review has been undertaken). Host species with further information available are listed below:

Host Species List


(List does not contain all other species groups affected by this disease)

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General Information on Environmental Factors/Events and Seasonality

  • --

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Regions / Countries where the Infectious Agent or Disease has been recorded

  • Sarcoptes scabiei is distributed worldwide. (B46, B208.5.w5)
  • In bears: Europe, North America. (B208.5.w5, B338.23.w23, J1.23.w7, J345.3.w2, J417.20.w1, V.w93)
  • In lagomorphs: Europe, North America, Africa and India. (B600.9.w9, B608.21.w21)

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Regions / Countries where the Infectious Agent or Disease has been recorded in Free-ranging populations

  • Sarcoptes scabiei is found in a wide variety of wild mammals worldwide. (B208.5.w5)
  • In bears: Europe, North America. (J1.23.w7, J345.3.w2)

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General Investigation / Diagnosis

General Information on Investigation / Diagnosis

  • Clinical signs may allow presumptive diagnosis e.g. in individuals of a species and population in which the disease is known to occur.
  • Recovery and identification of mites in deep skin scrapings. (B208.5.w5, B22.32.w8)
    • N.B. skin scrapings may not include mites. (B208.5.w5, B22.32.w8)
    • Mite visualization may be increased by stimulation of scrapings with heat (place under a lamp for an hour) or by clearing skin scrapings with potassium hydroxide solution. (B208.5.w5)
    • Soaking in potassium hydroxide solution for at least two hours, or boiling with potassium hydroxide solution for a short time, may be required for visualization of the mites. (B291.12.w12)
  • ELISA of sera may be used to support diagnosis by demonstration of specific antibodies to the mites. Useful particularly in cases with atypical or very small skin lesions. (B208.5.w5, B22.32.w8)
  • Diagnostic treatment: response to treatment with ivermectin. (B22.32.w8)
  • Diagnosis by skin scraping. (J15.21.w1); several sites and deep scrapes may be required (B284.6.w6)
  • Deep skin scrapes and view under the microscope. (B608.21.w21, B609.2.w2, J213.4.w4)
    • Clearing the epidermal debris with a drop of 5 - 10% potassium hydroxide may be necessary. (B614.11.w11)
    • Adult Sarcoptes scabiei are small round mites with short legs. They are slightly larger than the similar Notoedres cati and the anus is located terminally rather than dorsally as in Notoedres. Both Sarcoptes and Notoedres, have bell-shaped suckers on the non-segmented pedicels of the first front two pair of legs in both females and males and then in addition to this, the males also have suckers on the fourth pair of legs. Both these mites also have dorsal dentate spines but these spines are much larger in Sarcoptes. (B614.11.w11)
  • These mites may be difficult to demonstrate and so response to therapy is an often used diagnostic test. (B608.21.w21)
GREAT APES In great apes:
  • Ivermectin at 0.2 mg/kg orally or subcutaneously, repeated after two weeks. (B336.39.w39)
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Similar Diseases (Differential Diagnosis)

Other mite infections. (B208.5.w5, B22.32.w8)

Other mange mite infections: 

BEARS Other mite infections: 

Other skin problems:

Note: bears also may rub and cause alopecia and skin abrasions if maintained in too small an enclosure and without appropriate facilities for bathing.

  • Fur mite: Cheyletiella parasitovorax: Cheyletiellosis.
    • Distribution of lesions: intrascapular or tail base region.
    • Clinical signs: Profuse amounts of large, white scale.
    • Diagnosis: Mites can be identified in acetate tape preparations or skin scrapes under low magnification.
  • Fur mite: Leporacarus gibbus Fur Mite Infection in Lagomorphs
    • This mite is not a very common cause of dermatitis in the rabbits. (B609.2.w2)
    • Distribution of lesions: back, groin and the ventral abdomen. (B 602.19.w19)
    • Clinical signs:
      • moist alopecic dermatitis which is sometimes pruritic. (B 602.19.w19)
      • alopecia, seborrhoea and an abnormal moult. (B 601.13.w13)
  • Ear mites:
    • Psoroptes cuniculi
    • Usually very pruritic.
    • Distribution: The inside of the pinnae, the surrounding ears, face, and the neck.
    • Clinical signs: Intense pruritus. Chronic infection- skin thickening, and exudative crusts. 
    • Diagnosis: Mites visible with the unaided eye or may see them under low magnification.
  • Flea hypersensitivity dermatitis: (Flea Infection in Mammals).
    • Clinical signs: patchy alopecia and pruritus. Sometimes see a secondary pyoderma.
    • Diagnosis: fleas or flea dirt found in coat.
  • Other parasites:
    • Notoedres Mange: Notoedres cati
      • Rare in the rabbit
      • Distribution: head and neck.
      • Clinical signs: very pruritic lesions.
  • Bacterial Dermatitis in Lagomorphs
  • Lack of grooming:

    • Caused by obesity or an underlying musculoskeletal or dental disease.
    • Clinical signs: scale accumulation.
  • Injection Reactions:

    • Occurs particularly with irritating substances, e.g. enrofloxacin.
    • Distribution: intrascapular area is the common area for subcutaneous injections.
    • Clinical signs: alopecia and crusting.
  • Sebaceous adenitis:
    • Distribution: often starts around the head and neck.
    • Clinical signs: copious amounts of white flakes and scale. Alopecia. Usually not pruritic.
    • Diagnosis: skin biopsy and histological examination .



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Treatment and Control

Specific Medical Treatment

  • Acaricidal drugs, used topically, orally or parenterally. (B208.5.w5)
  • Avermectins are recognised to be effective and may be protective for 9-18 days, preventing reinfection during this time.(B208.5.w5)
    • e.g. Ivermectin, 400g/kg subcutaneously, two treatments two weeks apart. (J1.34.w3)
  • In-contact animals should all be treated at the same time. (B208.5.w5)
  • Inadequate treatment may result in subclinical infection. (B208.5.w5)
  • Two treatments with an avermectin. (B433)
  • In zoo carnivores in general, treatment with 0.4 mg/kg ivermectin subcutaneously once, or 0.2 mg/kg ivermectin orally every other day for two weeks is recommended. (B22.32.w15)
  • Ivermectin (Ivomec, Merial Animal Health) has been used successfully. (J15.21.w1, B284.6.w6)
    • 0.2-0.3 mg/kg by subcutaneous injection. (B284.6.w6)
  • Amitraz washes may be used (1:400 dilution applied to the skin every three days). (B284.6.w6)
  • Amitraz 50 g/litre concentrate, diluted 1 in 250 in water, applied as a bath or sprayed onto the hedgehog. (B337.3.w3)
  • Note: The cage must be cleaned out thoroughly and the bedding changed during treatment. (B284.6.w6)
  • A series of dips or sprays with malathion (2% emulsion in water). (B16.9.w9, B64.26.w5)
  • Paramite (Vet Kem). (B16.9.w9)
  • Ivermectin may be used, 0.2-0.4 mg/kg by subcutaneous or intramuscular injection; repeated injections may be needed and it may be used in conjunction with bathing with an ectoparasicidal wash. (B407.w18)
  • Ivermectin could be used, or appropriate topical sprays/dips etc. as used in dogs. (D315.3.w3)
LAGOMORPHS As for other mites, treatment is with ivermectin. (B600.9.w9, B601.13.w13, B608.21.w21, B610.23.w23)
  • Ivermectin
    • There are Ivermectin spot-on products (Xenex Ultra; Genetrix) that are licensed for use in rabbits and should be given in preference to unlicensed products under the prescribing cascade, at an initial dose of 0.2 mg/kg. If these products are not effective ivermectin injection may be used or selamectin. (J15.29.w1)
    • 0.2 - 0.6 mg/kg by subcutaneous injection every 14 days for three to four doses. (B609.2.w2, J15.29.w1)
    • 0.4 mg/kg repeated at ten to fourteen day intervals. (J213.4.w4)
  • Selamectin:
    • Topically at 6 mg/kg. (J15.29.w1)
      • This can be used under the prescription cascade in the UK if licenced ivermectin products
    • In one study conducted on Angora rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus domesticus), a single application of 30 mg of selamectin topical spot-on solution (0.25 ml of a 120mg/ml solution) was completely effective in the treatment of natural infestations with this mite. Clinical signs were resolved ten days post treatment and recovery was complete (no live mites or clinical signs) by the 28th day of the study. No live mites were found at the end of the trial on day 56. Depending on their weight (range of 2.5 kg to 3.0 kg), the rabbits received doses that ranged from 10 to 12 mg/kg. (J476.18.w1)
  • Doramectin
    • 1% injectable solution at a dose rate of 0.2 mg/kg bodyweight was effective in treating the clinical signs and clearing mite infection in five Angora rabbits with sarcoptic mange. (J476.16.w2)
  • Note: 0.2 mg/kg moxidectin injected subcutaneously gave clinical improvement but did not clear infection in five Angora rabbits, as shown by continued presence of live mites in skin scrapings. (J476.16.w2)
Treat all in contact animals. (B609.2.w2)
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General Nursing and Surgical Techniques

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Preventative Measures

Vaccination --
Prophylactic Treatment


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Environmental and Population Control Measures

General Environment Changes, Cleaning and Disinfection --


Population Control Measures
  • Control of sarcoptic mange in wild animals by killing infected animals may increase movement into the areas in which animals have been killed, and be counter-productive. (B208.5.w5)
  • In small, isolated, threatened populations, it may be useful to catch, treat and release infected individuals. (B208.5.w5)
Isolation, Quarantine and Screening Quarantine should be in place to prevent animals becoming infected/re-infected. (B208.5.w5)
  • Quarantine newly-arrived bears. (D270.VII.w7)
  • Bears should be checked for mite infections while in quarantine and any infection eliminated before they are translocated, reintroduced or introduced to a new enclosure or collection. (B407.w18, B433)
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