Sheep Scab: The Disease, Diagnosis, Treatments and Current Legislation for its Control in the UK


Summary written by Alasdair Nisbet BSc, PhD
Taken from Moredun Foundation News Sheet Volume 5 No. 12



  • sheep-scab-miteSheep scab, a disease caused by mites infesting the skin of sheep, is a major animal welfare concern for UK producers with economic consequences resulting mainly from the costs of treatment and prevention.
  • The Sheep Scab Order 1997 addresses the movement and treatment of sheep affected by sheep scab in England and Wales.
  • New Legislation is now in place in Scotland regarding the reporting and control of sheep scab. Producers in Scotland should make themselves familiar with the contents of the Sheep Scab (Scotland) Order 2010.
  • It is vital that all flocks that are suspected of being infected with sheep scab be examined by a veterinary surgeon and a definite diagnosis reached. Flockowners should bear in mind that sheep may be infected with more than one ectoparasite (e.g. scab and lice) at the same time as effective treatments may be selected based on this.
  • Good biosecurity can prevent the introduction of sheep scab into a flock. Good well maintained fencing will also control the introduction of sheep scab by preventing contact with neighbouring flocks.
  • Quarantine all incoming stock for at least two weeks (three if possible) and observe for signs of infestation (nibbling, rubbing, scratching, deranged wool, areas of wool loss etc).
  • Sheep scab mites can survive off the host for up to 16 days. Because infested animals seek relief from the irritation by scratching and rubbing on fence posts, trees, bushes, farm equipment etc., these can also be a source of infection. Vehicles and trailers used to transport sheep are also a potential source of infection and should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected after use.
  • Treatment options are currently limited to organophosphate plunge dipping or injection with macrocyclic lactones.
  • All treatments should be administered strictly according to the manufacturers’ instructions. The selection of a suitable treatment for scab may depend on integration into the flock’s current worming strategy. Dip-baths must be accurately calibrated and where injections are considered sheep should be accurately weighed.



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