For the Love of Goats

External Parasites in Goats

March 08, 2023 Deborah Niemann Episode 102
External Parasites in Goats
For the Love of Goats
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For the Love of Goats
External Parasites in Goats
Mar 08, 2023 Episode 102
Deborah Niemann

At one time or another, every goat owner will probably be faced with external parasites on their goats, which usually means lice or mites.

Dr. Michael Pesato, Assistant Clinical Professor of Food Animal Medicine and Surgery at Mississippi State University, joins us to talk about the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of mites and lice in goats.

While lice in goats are very common, and can be seen with the naked eye, mites are microscopic and thankfully not so common.

We are also busting myths about external parasites, such as goats getting mites or lice from fresh bales of straw or hay. And we talk about why diatomaceous earth does not kill goat lice although it can kill chicken lice.

See full show notes here >>

To see the most recent episodes, visit

Thanks for listening!

No one ever said raising goats was easy, but it doesn't have to cost a fortune or drive you crazy! You just need the right information. Click here to learn more about our Goats 365 membership.

Or see my other goat courses in Thrifty Homesteader Academy.

Show Notes Transcript

At one time or another, every goat owner will probably be faced with external parasites on their goats, which usually means lice or mites.

Dr. Michael Pesato, Assistant Clinical Professor of Food Animal Medicine and Surgery at Mississippi State University, joins us to talk about the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of mites and lice in goats.

While lice in goats are very common, and can be seen with the naked eye, mites are microscopic and thankfully not so common.

We are also busting myths about external parasites, such as goats getting mites or lice from fresh bales of straw or hay. And we talk about why diatomaceous earth does not kill goat lice although it can kill chicken lice.

See full show notes here >>

To see the most recent episodes, visit

Thanks for listening!

No one ever said raising goats was easy, but it doesn't have to cost a fortune or drive you crazy! You just need the right information. Click here to learn more about our Goats 365 membership.

Or see my other goat courses in Thrifty Homesteader Academy.

Introduction  0:03 
For the love of goats! We are talking about everything goat. Whether you're a goat owner, a breeder, or just a fan of these wonderful creatures, we've got you covered. And now, here is Deborah Niemann.

Deborah Niemann  0:16 
Hello, everyone, and welcome to today's episode! This is going to be super helpful for so many people, especially this time of year, because this is the time of year that most people seem to discover external parasite problems. And, I'm really happy to be joined again by Dr. Michael Pesato, a diplomate of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners with a focus of Food Animal Practice. He is an assistant clinical professor of food animal medicine and surgery at Mississippi State University with a special interest and focus on sheep and goat health. And, if you've been listening to us for a while, you know that this is not his first time here. So, welcome back, Dr. Pesato!

Michael Pesato  0:57 
Thank you so much, Deborah. Yeah, this is not my first rodeo, and, as always, I'm happy to be here again!

Deborah Niemann  1:03 
I love it, because you always talk about the things that are really problematic for people. And, we also get to talk about a lot of things that are misunderstood, and that is definitely going to be the case here today. So, we're going to talk about external parasites, and in goats, that generally means lice or mites. And, we're going to start out talking about lice, because not everybody listens to the whole podcast, and lice are really common in goats—

Michael Pesato  1:30 

Deborah Niemann  1:28 
—so I want to get to them first. I know in the early years, I had people, especially sheep people, who would be like, "Ugh, goats. They all have lice." So, let's just start right there. Like, do all goats have lice?

Michael Pesato  1:31 
That is a great question. It's definitely more common to find lice in goats rather than sheep. And so, that's, I think, why the sheep people often say that; it's actually pretty rare to have a sheep that has lice. I mean, it does happen. But with goats, it's extremely common. And, a lot of it's very seasonal. So, you brought up a really good point that this time of year is the time to have this external parasites talk, because it's winter for most parts of the country. That means it's relatively cold, and therefore, all of our animals are living indoors in a barn setting, or staying huddled close together in their shelter, wherever they're located. And, because of that—that close proximity—we see transmission of these external parasites much more commonly.

Michael Pesato  2:28 
And, I would say there's no proof that 100% of goats have lice. And, in fact, it's probably a much lower number than we think out there in terms of percentage. But, I have found that the vast majority of farms that end up having issues with, let's say, an animal that is starting to scratch or is showing signs of having maybe a rougher-looking hair coat, less shiny, maybe a little bit more dry appearance, and I check and look at their skin, I am definitely on the hunt for some lice in our goat patients, Because, it is—although not 100%—it is common enough that it is a fairly common occurrence on a daily basis.

Deborah Niemann  3:09 
Okay. And so, there's not just one kind of lice. I think that's interesting. There's sucking lice, and there's biting lice. So, can you explain the difference between those two?

Michael Pesato  3:19 
Yeah, for sure. So, there are two different kinds in different species. So, the biting lice are a different species than the sucking lice. And, the biting lice are interesting, because they feed on the external kind of surface of the skin—so dead skin cells—and they bite the skin with these large, chomping jaws. If you look at them under a microscope, they have this kind of big head with these big teeth—and they don't take any blood. They don't go any deeper than the surface of the skin with their feeding behavior. And, they are going to solely kind of eat that surface. Whereas the sucking louse—or sucking lice—it's a bit different in its appearance. Again, it's a different species. So, it has a pointed nose, which looks more like kind of a needle that's going to inject into the skin and suck blood. So, it's going to actually penetrate the surface of the skin and access the capillaries that are under the skin to suck the blood. So, both lice are visible to the naked eye, which I think is something that some people don't realize.

Michael Pesato  4:24 
And, the other thing that's really important to realize and remember is that both lice species are incredibly species-specific. So, that means you're probably not going to get lice from your goat, right? So, being so highly species-specific, your dog and your cat and your cow and your horse, they're all pretty safe when it comes to exposure. So, the lice should stay on the host for the most part; the actual lifecycle of the lice, both biting and sucking, happens completely on the host. So, there's no external lifecycle components, where they have to get off of the hosts to go through different stages; they stay always there. So, the eggs are laid. They hatch on the host. They become these little baby lice on the host. And, within 1 to 2 weeks, they become adults, and start either biting the skin if they're the biters, or sucking the blood if they're the suckers.

Michael Pesato  5:16 
So, all of my students and clients, every time I say, "Hey, guys, come over here. I want you to see some lice," they panic. Because, they're like, "Ew! Oh, my gosh, my skin is crawling. They're all over me! They're getting into my hair!" No, no, no. They will not stay on you. They have no interest in you. They want that goat, because that goat has what they need to take in to survive.

Deborah Niemann  5:36 
Yeah. I always tell people: It sounds weird to us, but parasites are actually very picky eaters.

Michael Pesato  5:42 

Deborah Niemann  5:42 
They won't just eat anything.

Michael Pesato  5:44 
That's a great way to look at it. You're absolutely right. They are very picky eaters.

Deborah Niemann  5:48 
I know, when I first got goats, the person I bought my first goats from had had goats for, like, over 20 years. And so, I thought she was a great resource. And, when she found out that I was getting chickens, she was like, "Oh, they're gonna give your goats lice." That was such a common belief back then. And, I still hear it.

Michael Pesato  6:07 

Deborah Niemann  6:07 
You know, there are people who think, like, "Oh, my goats got lice from the chickens"—or vice versa. But, usually, they're blaming the chickens for giving the goats lice.

Michael Pesato  6:17 
Exactly. And, that's interesting, because even when it comes down to—and we'll talk about treatment a little later. But, when it comes down to treatment of, let's say, the louse of a chicken versus the louse—and "louse" is just individual lice. But, when it comes down to treatment of these individual parasites, it's slightly different. So, we have to consider that these highly species-specific—that only attack the species that provide them with their very picky palate—it's going to be potentially affected by different products or different management methods.

Michael Pesato  6:49 
And so, we can't look at a chicken and say, "Oh, it's the same as a goat. We're going to manage it the exact same way. We're going to treat it the exact same way, with the products made for chickens." Because, that's actually what I see a lot of, are people going, "Well, I put diatomaceous earth on my chickens," right? "I feed it to them, and it works for the lice," or the mites or whatever. And, we know that diatomaceous earth is actually not very effective against lice in the ruminant species, and a lot of it has to do with just the outer coating of the body of the parasite. So, it's different. And, there's a lot of differences. And, you're right, I wish it was an old concept that lice was coming from one species to another, but it's something that I hear very, very often amongst my clients and producers and students that then learn that, in fact, these lice are very specific to the certain species that they like to eat upon.

Deborah Niemann  7:40 
Yeah, exactly. So, let's talk about treatment a little bit. I'm glad you mentioned diatomaceous earth already, because I tried that on my goats, and it did not work. And I thought, "Oh, I just didn't use enough," and I put so much on that poor goat. Like, it dried out her skin so badly.

Michael Pesato  7:58 

Deborah Niemann  7:58 
She started scratching, like, nonstop. Oh, I felt so guilty. And, it was the middle of winter, and I was like, "I can't bathe you. I can't get it off of you." And like, it didn't kill the lice.

Michael Pesato  8:10 
Yes. Exactly.

Deborah Niemann  8:11 
So, that was very frustrating. So, that is one thing that does not work for lice on goats.

Michael Pesato  8:16 
No. Correct. And, it doesn't work feeding, and it doesn't work topical. I've seen people try both. They try to put it in the feed—which just sounds disgusting. Because, that stuff is, one, it's super dusty, as you know. And so, it's one of those things where, you know, if you're concerned, we had that whole pneumonia episode talking about coughing goats. Well, if you're using diatomaceous earth to treat your goats for lice, then they're probably going to cough, because that stuff is just very, very dusty. And, it's a very thin dust and kind of powder. And then, you're right, it completely dries out their coat; it dries out their skin. I had one goat that I was like, "Wow, that goat's like a blue color!" And then, I went and touched it, and I'm like, "Oh my gosh, it's coated in diatomaceous earth."

Michael Pesato  8:17 
So, it just kind of, you know, changes their whole appearance. And it's not permanent, but it's definitely going to become uncomfortable. It's kind of like you being dirty all the time. It doesn't feel good, especially in the winter, when it's hard enough already with dry skin and changing temperatures. So, diatomaceous earth for me is a no-go. If there's any efficacy at all, it's not enough to be impactful. And really, if you look at the science behind it, there's no reason that it would be effective.

Deborah Niemann  9:24 
Yeah. Years ago, an entomologist did a conference, and he talked about the fact that, like, all of the little parasites have different exoskeletons and everything. And so, it really varies from one parasite species to another in terms of whether or not diatomaceous earth is going to affect them.

Michael Pesato  9:41 
Exactly. Exactly.

Deborah Niemann  9:43 
So what exactly—?

Michael Pesato  9:43 
And, that has to do with—

Deborah Niemann  9:44 
You can finish what you were saying.

Michael Pesato  9:45 
I was just gonna say, I always think... I like this word. The word is "chitin," but it's spelled C-H-I-T-I-N. And so, it was just neither here nor there, but that's, like, one of the components of a chicken louse versus a actual goat or sheep louse. They have that—you're absolutely right—those different exoskeletons. And, that's something that I think is very fascinating as well, that it kind of boils down to some hard science behind it. That's all.

Deborah Niemann  10:09 
No, that's great information! Thank you. Because, I know a lot of people here also have chickens, so it's good to know—

Michael Pesato  10:14 
Yes. Exactly.

Deborah Niemann  10:15 
—like, it might work on your chickens, but it doesn't mean it's going to work on the goats.

Michael Pesato  10:18 

Deborah Niemann  10:19 
So, what should people do if they've got lice on their goats?

Michael Pesato  10:21 
Yeah, that's a great question. And, some of it comes down to what kind of lice they have. So, if you're one of those people that are doing your own fecal egg counts, or... You had a parasite episode a while back, and we talked about, you know, doing things with microscopes. And, if you have a microscope, that's excellent. If you don't, your veterinarian can always help you out, because some of our decision for treatment depends on whether you have biting versus sucking. So, what's really nice is these things are visible to the naked eye. And, if you stick them on their little slide or a little dish, and you put it under your microscope, and you look at it, even at the lowest frequency, it's going to show you whether they have that big, blocky head—which shows that they're biters, because they have big jaws—or if they have that kind of thin, needle-like head that would tell you if it's a sucking louse.

Michael Pesato  11:06 
And, where this matters is whether you're going to do something that is more of a topical, which applies to the skin, versus the systemic treatment, which is something that you're going to, like, inject under the skin. So, when it comes to a sucking louse, they're obviously taking a blood meal. So, they're taking blood from those capillaries. And so, an injectable, let's say, ivermectin product...

Michael Pesato  11:27 
And, I should say before I go too much further: Remember, there's actually nothing labeled for lice treatment in goats, technically, in terms of injectable products. Now, there are some topicals—which we'll get to in a minute—that do have a goat label, or at least goat dosing that is available on the product label. But, in terms of withholding times, it gets a little bit challenging. Remember, "withholding times" is just how long I have to wait before I use the meat or milk from my goat, so if you have a dairy goat or if you're using your animals for meat production.

Michael Pesato  11:58 
So anyway, going back to talking about our sucking louse: Because they take a blood meal, an injectable product that gets absorbed into the blood is going to be efficacious. And so, typically, you look at ivermectin injectable product. This is something that is actually labeled for cattle or swine, and you can buy it over the counter. That product is going to be best for the sucking louse. But, because the biting lice stay on the surface, and they don't take a blood meal, it's likely that that injectable won't get to those biting lice.

Michael Pesato  12:32 
So instead, for both of them, I prefer a topical product. And, those topical products come in multiple different formulations. So, you can do them as a liquid that you apply to the skin, just to the top along the back. It also comes in a dust or a dip. I prefer the liquid that you apply to the skin, and the reason for that is because the product is often a permethrin-based product. And, I like the liquid you apply directly to the skin, because permethrin is actually toxic to cats. And, many of us have pet cats or barn cats that are associated with our life. And, having a dust product that is a permethrin-base that gets out into the environment and kind of coats the surfaces, potentially where cats are going to go and walk on and then groom themselves; dust can get on your hands and your clothes, so that when you come back inside, you end up leaving sheds of that around your house, and so your house cat might come in contact with it. It's a little bit more risky. So, I like the permethrin-based product that is a liquid that you apply to the back. It's a little bit easier to contain. It is absorbed into the skin and then into the blood supply. So, you're actually going to take care of the biting lice and the sucking lice.

Michael Pesato  13:48 
And, I don't work for this company that creates this product, but I'm a little bit partial to a product called Ultra Boss. I like it because it has a goat label. So, there's a dosage that's going to be provided for you, and it's 1-1/2 mils per 50 pounds. So, it's kind of easy to do a little bit of math on that and say, "Okay, well, if I have a 25-pound animal, I only give 0.75 mils," right? So, it's kind of user-friendly. It's already formulated; I don't have to mix it. So, that's the other thing about those liquid permethrins: If you purchase them over the counter, absolutely make sure that it is not a concentrate. If it's a concentrate, and you don't dilute that product, it will likely cause burns to the skin. And, I've seen it before. It's pretty horrific. I've seen it on calves. It not only just makes all the hair fall out where you put it, but it'll burn off the top layer of that skin. It's very caustic. So, I like Ultra Boss because it's already mixed. It's already ready to use. It's very user-friendly. The dosage is there for goats on the little pullout label, so you can check it if you forget it, and it's pretty efficacious, so it does work well for biting and sucking lice.

Michael Pesato  14:58 
One more thing I wanted to say with the treatment component is that, when it comes to treating lice, we're a bit different than when it comes to treating gastrointestinal nematodes, which are the worms that are inside of the gastrointestinal tract. When we talk about parasites—which, if you go back and listen to our episode from a while ago, we talked about the updated dewormer charts and resistance development and all that good stuff. We talked about how using a dewormer product in all of your animals that are suspected to have parasites is a bad idea because of resistance development from our barber pole worm. When it comes to lice, we have a different perspective. And, I'm not going to say that there is not resistance development here. But, we look at lice more as a herd-based problem, where if one animal has it, likely everybody else does, because of the close proximity of the animals and the fact that it often is spread from direct contact from animal to animal, not from necessarily an environmental source. So, when I have a client that has a lice issue, I generally do recommend that we go ahead and treat the group of animals that live with that animal.

Michael Pesato  16:04 
And then, finally—and I know this is a long blurb, but hopefully it's kind of easy to follow. When it comes to treatment, it's important to remember that many of our products that we use for treatment are what we call "adulticidal," so they only kill the adult lice. So, because of that, we have to go ahead and repeat treatments on those animals after about two weeks. So, it takes about 1 to 2 weeks for the eggs to hatch and for them to become adults, and ideally, we would go ahead and do a second follow-up treatment after our initial treatment about two weeks later. The good thing about Ultra Boss is that that is on the label. So, it's going to tell you to go ahead and repeat treatment to try to kill off all of those adults.

Michael Pesato  16:48 
So, I know that was a long-winded explanation on treatment. But, I felt like that all kind of needed to go together. But, I'll turn it back over to Deborah and see if there are any specific questions pertaining to some of those treatment options.

Deborah Niemann  17:02 
Oh, I love it! That was great. No, it all needed to be said. And, you know, you can see where, like, if people don't really know the science behind it all, that they might get confused by the treatment for external and internal parasites, you know?

Michael Pesato  17:16 

Deborah Niemann  17:16 
Because, the internal parasites, like we're saying, the worms do not hatch inside the goat. It's not about worms hatching inside the goat after the last deworming. Whereas with the external parasites, that is absolutely the case. 

Michael Pesato  17:31 

Deborah Niemann  17:31 
That egg is in their hair... And, you know what? Actually, that's a commonality. Like, eggs need air to hatch. The worm eggs that they poop out hatch on pasture, because they need air, and the external eggs from the lice need air, too. Obviously.

Michael Pesato  17:46 
Air, too. Yeah. I like that. It is. That's a great parallel, because it's true that eggs need air.

Deborah Niemann  17:53 

Michael Pesato  17:53 
I love that. I've never thought of it that way.

Deborah Niemann  17:54 
Yeah, I never did, either, until just now.

Deborah Niemann  17:58 
So, this has been really good on lice—oh! The only other thing I would add is that you talked about people not being sure about being able to see them or not. Is it, "Yes, you can see them with the naked eye, but they are really small?"

Michael Pesato  18:11 

Deborah Niemann  18:11 
Like, you're not going to be sitting 2 feet away from the goat and see them crawling on the hair.

Michael Pesato  18:15 

Deborah Niemann  18:16 
I always tell people that I want to sit there. And, I do it usually, like, when my does are on the milk stand, if they're finishing their grain after I'm done milking. And I'm, like, pulling their hair back and staring, like, in one spot for, like—

Michael Pesato  18:28 

Deborah Niemann  18:28 
—15 seconds, waiting to see something move.

Michael Pesato  18:32 
Oh, yeah. Absolutely. And so, my students—you know, my students are learning. And, I love cases with lice, because a lot of them haven't had the opportunity to see a louse, and they think external parasites—which, we'll get to mites in just a minute here. But, they think, "Oh, that means microscopic. So, I can't see a louse with my naked eye." But, the reality is—and you have to be patient. So, you have to kind of... I go through it almost, like, with a fine-tooth comb. Using my fingers, I part the hair all the way down to the skin, and I have to be careful, because bits and pieces of dirt and debris and hay and other kinds of environmental things may look like little lice, but they do move. So, if you watch them close enough, you'll see them. They're not jumping. They're not like fleas. And, that's another misconception. People think that goats get fleas. Well, not really. Now, if they live with dogs that have fleas, sure, you might find some fleas on there. But, goats do not have a species-specific flea, so likely, if your goat is itchy, or you see a parasite on there, it's lice. And, it's one of those things where you do have to look very closely.

Michael Pesato  19:33 
And, one more thing I wanted to add is environmental. So, a lot of people ask me, "Well, how do I treat the environment? What do I do to get rid of them in the environment?" The reality is that there's nothing that is kind of out there that would be labeled to treat environment. I have recommended in the past that people who have a big, bad lice problem in the middle of winter—or maybe in the spring at the end of the winter season—clear out the barn. Get as much organic matter out as possible. They do make a permethrin-based spray that you can use in the environment. But again, it's toxic to cats. So, if you have a cat, a barn cat, do not spray this product all over your barn. And, what it causes in cats is a very severe seizure activity. So, the cat starts to have these kind of uncontrollable tremors and shakes, and it can be deadly very quickly. So, I always warn people, because I know a lot of goats have cat friends, you know, that live in the barn and help get rid of mice.

Michael Pesato  20:27 
But, lice only last in the environment for, like, a maximum of maybe 2 or 3 weeks, so they don't last very long. And, if you can get the animals away from that environment... Let's say it's springtime. Kick them out in the pasture, clean it all out, don't let them back in for a little bit, see what happens. Maybe go to a different shelter for a bit.

Michael Pesato  20:46 
The other thing is trimming the hair on these goats. So, if you, in the spring, want to just go ahead and slick shear them—like we do for a show—that actually can remove up to 50% of the adult lice. So, that's an option as well. We see this a lot with show animals that are very lice-heavy. You know, you shave them, you treat them, and they don't have lice by the time the show happens. So, these are things to consider. They are not classically environmental. You're not probably gonna get lice from, you know, your hay or your straw, unless there's been active infestation going on there in that time of year.

Deborah Niemann  21:21 
And, that provides a perfect segue into our discussion of mites. Because, I cannot tell you how many times I get emails from people starting out, you know, saying like, "My goats have mites! They got them from this straw," or the hay or whatever. And I'm like, "Well, unless there were goats with mites in that straw, that's not where your goats got the mites from." So, let's go ahead and talk about mites now. There's even more kinds of mites that goats can get, so do you want to dive into that?

Michael Pesato  21:53 
Yeah. Oh, yeah. Heck yeah. So, we do have absolutely more kinds of mites that a goat can get. So, there's actually four different kinds of mites that a goat could get. None of them are environmental. So again, these are mites that, they stay on the host, and they go through their lifecycle on the host. The good news is, that of those four mites, it's pretty rare to see a good chunk of them on goats in the United States. The most common mite, mange mite, that we're going to find on goats in the United States is a mite called "chorioptes." And, most of these, their scientific names all sound pretty similar, so they have an "-optes" at the end of them. The one that most people recognize is a mite called "sarcoptes," because that mite causes scabies. Now, goats can potentially get a scabies mite. However, it's very uncommon. So, that's the only mite that actually has a zoonotic potential. "Zoonotic" just means that the goat can get the scabies from a person, and the person can get the scabies from the goat. So, classically, our Number One mite of concern is this chorioptic mange or chorioptes mite, which is also known as the "leg mite."

Michael Pesato  23:01 
The other two are going to be known as "psoroptes" and "demodex." And so, anyone who has dogs may recognize "demodex;" that's a pretty common dog mite. Pretty rare in goats. It's a deep-skin mite. I have not really seen a lot of severe clinical picture from this that is very common. And then, the actual psoroptic mite, that last one that I kind of brought up, that is most commonly the ear mite. So, goats can get ear mites kind of similar to cats. But again, these ear mites are pretty rare. And, there's another ear mite species that's actually more common, but doesn't typically cause clinical disease.

Michael Pesato  23:40 
So, some of these mites that we're, you know, really concerned about, they're not actually huge concerns in the United States. And, I would dare to say Canada probably doesn't have as much of a concern with this, for any the Canadian listeners. Again, I think that the chorioptic mange, the leg mange, is probably the most often diagnosed clinical mite that we're gonna see in goats.

Deborah Niemann  24:03 
Okay, that's really good to know. So, with the demodex mite, is this the same one that infects dogs, or is it a different one?

Michael Pesato  24:10 
This is a different species. So, there's a demodex of dogs and there's a demodex of goats. So, it's Demodex caprae in goats. And, just like in our lice, they're very species-specific. So, we're probably not going to see a dog give demodex to a goat or vice versa. The only one, like I said, that is not as species-specific is that scabies mite that can go to people as well. Otherwise, these mites are relatively species-specific in terms of what they affect.

Michael Pesato  24:41 
For example, there's a cow mite that's also the leg mite, the same kind of genus, the Chorioptes, but it's a bovis, versus we're going to have more of, like, caprae, or a different species name for that same genus. So, although they're similar, they're not going to cause the same infection in different species. 

Deborah Niemann  25:03  
Right. Yeah, it's like, I think pretty much every species of mammal out there has some kind of roundworms. 

Michael Pesato  25:09  

Deborah Niemann  25:09  
Some have multiple kinds of roundworms, but they're all different. And, they're all species-specific. 

Michael Pesato  25:14  

Deborah Niemann  25:14  
So, like, when you say, "Oh, my chicken has roundworms, and my dog has roundworms," they're completely different species.

Michael Pesato  25:20  
Exactly. Exactly. Might be the same genus. You know, they might be from the same kind of overarching family. But, that species is so important, because it leads to specific disease presentation. So, you're absolutely right.

Deborah Niemann  25:33  
Awesome. Good to know, because so many people are like, "Oh, my chicken got worms from my dog," or the goat or whatever.

Michael Pesato  25:41  
And, it's not true. Again, when we were talking about this—before we got started on the podcast—biology really has no rules, just guidelines. So, you know, I'm sure there's someone out there who might say, "Well, I one time found a dog mite or worm in my chicken." And yeah, you may have, right? But, compared to the greater body of literature and cases out there, that's kind of an exception to the rule. So, we're following these big guidelines, but sometimes we break them. And sometimes, things happen that are not usual. But, what we're trying to get across is the usual things, because that's going to be... You know, the saying that we always say is, "Common things happen commonly."

Deborah Niemann  26:17  
Yeah. I always tell people, like, "Don't lose sleep thinking that you are going to be like the unicorn." You know, "The less than .00001% who has this really super bizarre experience."

Michael Pesato  26:31  
Yes, exactly. I think that's great advice.

Deborah Niemann  26:35  
So, how do you know your goat has mites instead of lice?

Michael Pesato  26:39  
Yes, this is a great one. So, mites, because they are microscopic—so this is the biggest difference between lice and mites. You cannot see mites with the naked eye. So, mites are something that you would have to see under a microscope. Now, we have different modalities, as veterinarians, for looking for these. We can do what's called a "skin scrape," where we actually take some of the surface layer off of the skin, and then put it onto a microscope slide, and we look at it under the microscope. 

Michael Pesato  27:07  
As a field veterinarian—so I'm out in the field. I'm not in an office. This gets very challenging, because by the time I get back to the office, those little mites have crawled right off of my slide. So, instead, I do what's called a "tape prep." I take a piece of tape, and I can stick that tape to the... Generally, when I'm looking for the leg mange, I go right up under the dew claws. That's where they like to nest. And, I can stick my tape as close to the skin—get it down to the skin—stick it on a slide, and put it under the microscope, and I can see it. What I see are these little round-bodied mites. And, you can see them moving around and crawling, but they are absolutely microscopic. 

Michael Pesato  27:44  
So, most times what we look for is clinical signs of disease. And, the most common clinical sign we're going to see in a goat that has leg mange is an animal who is potentially itchy, but oftentimes they're just going to have hair loss and crusting with increased incidence of secondary infection. And, it really depends on what type of mite that they have. But, the most common mite, that chorioptic mange, it's really common for them to have issues around—if they're male—the scrotum area, and then the lower limbs, the kind of ventral abdomen area, and then the hind end. So, I typically say on the hind legs, kind of right near the dew claws, up to the hock is a very common place to have a obvious hair loss, crusted skin, maybe itchy area that can become ulcerated and open and draining. 

Michael Pesato  28:42  
And, different goats handle these clinical signs differently. So, in my experience, I've had some goats that, you know they all have mites, because they live in the same area, and sometimes, they're mother and kids. But, one of the kids is having a severe, severe reaction to those mites, where the mother and the other twin are fine. And, in that case, it's frustrating for the client, because they're like, "Well, how come everybody's not showing signs?" Well, just like humans, every animal is going to have a different immune system, a different response to different disease processes. And, as much as we'd like to say, "Every animal reacts the same," there are individual things that can happen. But. the most common thing that we're going to see associated with these mites, especially the most common mites, are those crusted areas with hair loss and potential itchiness, and then moving on to breaking into skin, causing ulcerations, and obvious signs of discomfort associated with those areas.

Michael Pesato  28:47  
So, if somebody finds out they have mites, can they use similar treatments? Like, does Ultra Boss work for that, also?

Michael Pesato  29:53  
Yeah. So, there are similar treatments when it comes to the mites. Now, the challenge that we find a little bit with the mites is that certain mites are going to bury into the skin and cause different kinds of issues. The unfortunate thing is that the best thing for a mite is more of a dip. So, a lime-sulfur dip is something that we commonly use in small animals, and I've used it in goats before; it stinks to high heaven. It's sulfur, so it smells like rotten eggs. 

Michael Pesato  30:24  
A lot of our topical products that are based in, like, the same class as ivermectin, those actually are probably more efficacious than our permethrin base for our mites. So, these are, again, off-label. They're not approved, necessarily, for goats. But, we do have some nice topical products that are used in cattle, and if you use them appropriately, they can be very efficacious against some of these mites that are found on our small ruminants—because again, the overarching kind of family is similar. The species is just different. But, permethrin doesn't do a great job as much as it does for lice. Not to say that it's not efficacious at all, but it's not going to be as efficacious as what we find for our lice.

Deborah Niemann  31:06  
Okay. So, like, using the pour-on ivermectin, or pour-on moxidectin, those would options?

Michael Pesato  31:11  
Yes. Yep, absolutely. Eprinomectin is another one, so Eprinex. It's a cattle product, again, and I wouldn't recommend oral. So, using moxidectin, orally, for example—which we use a lot for our internal parasites—that has shown very little efficacy against external parasites. So, doing a topical is always best for an external parasite, in my opinion, my medical opinion, because I feel that that's going to lead to the most exposure. We want something to actually have contact as best as possible with the mites. And so, the topical application is going to allow for absorption kind of into the skin and into the capillaries of the skin, which is then going to travel and become systemic, but it's going to provide a better level of exposure to these topical parasites.

Deborah Niemann  31:58  
Okay. And then, when people are treating this with the ivermectin and moxidectin and all that, treating worms, we double the cattle dosage. If you are treating external parasites, mites or lice, do you use the dosage on the bottle? Or, does it need to be adjusted for goats?

Michael Pesato  32:17  
That's a great question. So, depending on the product, I would definitely look into finding a more appropriate dose for goats. I don't think that you're going to hurt the goat using a cattle dose necessarily, especially since, as we know, you know, goats are typically going to have a faster metabolism. So, they do process a lot of our cattle doses fairly well. And, it really depends on the product you're using. So, whether it's eprinomectin versus ivermectin versus moxidectin. 

Michael Pesato  32:45  
I would try to find some resource. You can consult with your veterinarian; that would kind of be ideal. I know that I have a textbook, for example, that has the dosages that would be recommended for goats in my formulary, so I can look that up for my clients. You can also try to consult with your internet resources and find a website that is supported by a veterinary school or veterinary institution, if you don't have a veterinarian readily at hand. But, I would highly recommend consulting with a veterinarian prior to the use of those products, especially since, technically, a veterinarian has to be the one to kind of prescribe those, since they're being used extra-label in these cases.

Deborah Niemann  33:22  
Right. Yes. As you were answering, I'm like, "Oh, right. This is off-label, and you're supposed to have instructions from a vet with whom you have an official relationship."

Michael Pesato  33:32  
Yes, exactly. Exactly. Which, I mean, it's something, again, I think that your veterinarian that you work with would be glad to supply that information. Because, again, these are very common findings that we find in a lot of goats across the United States.

Deborah Niemann  33:46  
This has been really helpful today! Is there anything else people need to keep in mind when dealing with lice or mites in their goats?

Michael Pesato  33:53  
I think the biggest thing to remember is that they are species-specific for the most part, especially when it comes to lice. That environment is oftentimes not the kind of primary source for these. They're animals. They're contagious. And, that when it comes to treatment, make sure that you're trying to follow the kind of best guidelines. So, using things like diatomaceous earth or oral dewormer products are probably not the best route to take when you're dealing with your small ruminants that have lice, because again, the species-specific nature—and mites. The species-specific nature of these external parasites.

Deborah Niemann  34:27  
Awesome! Well, thank you so much for joining us today! I know a lot of people are gonna find this helpful.

Michael Pesato  34:32  
I hope so! And, as always, it's a pleasure to be here, and I'm very happy to talk with you guys today. Thank you again.

Deborah Niemann  34:40  
And that's it for today's show. If you haven't already done so, be sure to hit the "subscribe" button so that you don't miss any episodes. To see show notes, you can always visit, and you can follow us on Facebook at See you again next time. Bye for now!

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