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Editorial Information

Phil Scott DVM&S BVM&S CertCHP DSHP DipECBHM FRCVS

Published 2010

Reviewed byMarch 2017

Skin Conditions in Cattle - Ectoparasites - Lice and Mites


Lice (Pediculosis)

Cattle infested with heavy lice infestations experience up to 10 per cent production losses due to reduced feeding time and damaged hides.

Louse populations are highest in cattle kept indoors during the winter months and those in poor body condition rather than the reverse situation where lice cause debility.

Five species of louse infest cattle: the biting or chewing louse. Spread occurs by direct contact with increases in population size during housing and cooler weather.  The life cycle, egg, three nymph stages, and adult is three weeks and spent entirely on the host.

Clinical presentation

Heavy infestations cause irritation leading to rubbing against feed barriers etc. resulting in hair loss most often over the neck and shoulders and disrupted feeding patterns.

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Fig 1 Rubbing has caused hair losses over the neck and shoulders in this cow

1 skin conditions cattle heavy louse infestation

Fig 2 Heavy louse infestations cause irritation leading to rubbing against feed barriers and hair loss most often over neck and shoulders

2 skin conditions cattle heavy louse infestation

Fig 3 Heavy louse infestation present at pasture in the spring - this calf should have been treated at turnout

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Fig 4 Severe louse infestation affects this Limousin bull. Click here to view video

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Fig 5 Severe louse infestation affects this Charolais bull

Careful inspection of the skin using a magnifying glass will identify adult louse populations and eggs adherent to hairs. Further examination under a microscope at x100 will differentiate the particular lice species present.

4 skin conditions cattle adult louse population eggs

Fig 6 Careful inspection of the skin will identify adult louse populations and eggs adherent to hairs

Treatment/Control

Treatment uses a pour-on synthetic pyrethroid preparation such as deltamethrin. Injectable group 3-ML anthelmintics (ivermectin, doramectin and eprinomectin) will remove all sucking lice and >98 per cent of biting lice, and all lice when used as pour-on preparations. All cattle in direct contact must be treated.

5 skin conditions cattle louse infestation treatment

Fig 7 Treatment of the louse infestation using a pour-on synthetic preparation

Sarcoptic mange

Disease is caused by infestation with Sarcoptes scabiei (bovis) but is rare in the UK.

Clinical presentation

Infestation causes severe rubbing (pruritus) with serum exudation and gross thickening of the skin particularly over the neck.  The intense pruritus can lead to disruption of feeding patterns, and weight loss progressing to debility in neglected cattle.

Diagnosis

Skin scrapings collected by a veterinary surgeon with microscopic demonstration of mites.

Treatment

Potential treatments include a pour-on synthetic pyrethroid or organophosphate preparation, and injectable or pour-on group 3-ML anthelmintic.

Management/Prevention/Control measures

Biosecurity measures should prevent the introduction of infested cattle.

Psoroptic mange

Definition/Overview

Psoroptic mange is caused by infestation with Psoroptes ovis but is rare in cattle in the UK.

Clinical presentation

Clinical signs include serum exudation and thickening of the skin particularly over the neck and dorsal midline. Diagnosis is based upon microscopic demonstration of mites in skin scrapings.

6 skin conditions cattle psoroptic mange

Fig 8 The Simmental bull above developed psoroptic mange after being housed in a barn which had recently housed scabby sheep. Photo: Courtesy of Andrew White

Treatment

Potential treatments include a pour-on synthetic pyrethroid or organophosphate preparation, and injectable or pour-on group 3-ML anthelmintics but the response is poor.

Chorioptic mange

Definition/Overview

Chorioptic mange, caused by infestation with Chorioptes bovis, is commonly seen in adult cattle in the UK towards the end of the winter housing period.

Clinical presentation

Infestation with C. bovis causes serum exudation and thickening of the skin characteristically at the base of the tail. Infestation may spread to the udder, scrotum and limbs.

7 skin conditions cattle serum exudation chorioptic mange

Fig 9 Serum exudation and thickening of the skin at the base of the tail are characteristic of chorioptic mange

8 skin conditions cattle chorioptic mange

Fig 10 Tail head of a dairy cow with serum exudation and thickening of the skin caused by C. bovis infestation

Diagnosis

Skin scrapings with microscopic demonstration of mites.

Treatment

Treatment for chorioptic mange is rarely undertaken and lesions resolve spontaneously when cattle are turned out to pasture in the spring.

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