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Mange is the name for a mite infestation that causes eventual death in wombats unless treated. The condition is treatable and in some areas there are people or wildlife groups who dedicate themselves to this end. This section is, however, mainly aimed towards people who are unable to get help, see free living wombats with severe infestations and are willing to try and assist. Rules and regulations in different States vary and these will be discussed as this section of our site progresses.
The pictures above show three different wombats with mange. The first shows one prior to treatment where the fissured skin is very obvious, the middle picture is of one still impacted but a few weeks into recovery and the third shows the development of mange on the sides and eyes. All three were successfully treated and made full recoveries.
All were treated with Cydectin pour-on, a moxidectin based product originally developed for use on red cattle and deer. Cydectin was originally the only registered product, but now there are a number of other moxidectin based pour ons that will have the same effect, they are available on line, at produce stores and through Veterinarians in most areas.
The wombats had the product applied using the “pole and scoop” method at doses well above those recommended for red deer and cattle. It has been found by wildlife carers who regularly treat and follow up free living wombats that better outcomes result for wombats in using moxidectin pour-on at between 10x and 20x the recommended dose for preventative treatment of mange in red deer and cattle. There are many explanations for why this may be the case and it is hoped that proper research will establish optimal treatment regimens in the near future.
The three wombats were treated by the “pole and scoop” method, this involves using an expandable pole with a scoop attached to the end. The Cydectin or similar pour on product is placed in the scoop and then poured slowly over the healthy part of the wombat’s skin on their backs/neck.
The first wombat had 80-100 mL weekly for six weeks and Extinosad,
a wound and fly repellent used for flystrike in sheep, sprayed onto her
wounds to protect from flies
The second wombat had two larger doses of 100 mL/dose and then followed
up with 30 mL doses weekly for five months, all with the pole and scoop.
The third wombat had three doses of 100 mL/dose within 7 days and then
another two 100 mL/dose seven days apart, followed by a 50 mL dose another
seven days later, (30 days between the first and last dose) and no further treatment.
While it is clear that a standard treatment regime needs to be established it appears at this time that moxidectin pour ons need to be used at high dose rates, particularly where the likelihood of repeatedly finding the wombat for further treatments is difficult or dubious. What has been reported by reliable informants is that fortnightly doses of 40mls over a few months, one off treatments of 100mls and the case examples above have been used successfully.
We recommend people stay up to date regarding mange treatment as new products will be trialled, for example Bravecto a dog product previously available only as a chewable tablet has just been released in Australia as a spot on and information from people using other dog spot on products suitable for treating mange mites is being collated. Cydectin was originally chosen because of its relative safety, availability and price point if being used at the red deer and cattle rates. Given new information suggesting higher doses/more frequent doses the other products may meet the criterion of safety/availability and price point as well as Cydectin.
Mange is an infestation caused by the sarcoptes scabeii mite, leading to dreadfully damaged skin and often a reason people report a sick wombat. If left untreated the Wombat will die a slow and painful death. The mite can live off its host for up to three weeks in good condition. The female burrows into the skin, laying eggs every day as she tunnels in deeper and further. She dies at the end of her “tunnel” after about 30 days. Her eggs hatch and nymphs dig new tunnels to reach the surface of the skin where they mate and the female then starts to dig new tunnels creating a network of damaged skin of the host. The male mites dig shallow pockets and search the surface for females to mate with.
The wombat reacts to the damaged skin caused by the mites, the faeces and waste of the mites as well as the dead mites embedded in their skin. The skin becomes thickened, crusty and cracks creating open wounds making it very painful for the wombats. In the spring, summer and autumn the wounds become flyblown and full of maggots. The wombat is dehydrated and can not physically keep up with the metabolic rate and are therefore also starving.
A wombat with mange will have missing fur, open wounds, thickened plaques, redness on the softer parts of the skin along the wombat’s sides of body and face, coming up from the front of the back legs and behind the front legs at varying degree of severity. Often the ears and eyes are crusted and the wombat appears to be “blind and or deaf” and is seen out grazing during the day (healthy wombats will also graze during the day in cold climate). Mange can be mistaken for wounds caused by dog attack or territorial aggression. Wounds from attacks are often on the wombats back, neck and ears. The initial pictures show free living adults with mange.
Joey wombats are baby wombats that come into care where a mother wombat has died. They must be handed over to a registered carer, this applies in all states. Joey wombats are easily identified as having mange mites as the carer handling them will soon experience intense itching as mange is a zoonosis, that is, the mites will affect the carer. Joey wombats may not show the deeply affected skin of an older wombat, but often have a particular smell that an experienced carer will recognize, may scratch incessantly however other reasons may cause scratching, have flaky skin and sometimes tiny red marks, though these too may be signs of other problems.
The picture above shows scabies developing on a human. There are many products available at pharmacies for humans, Scabiol and other benzo-benzoate based products are effective, tea tree oil and eucalyptus oil along with regular bathing have also been used.
As discussed in the case examples the pole and scoop method is the most reliable way to confirm the correct wombat has received the intended dose. When circumstances do not allow the use of pole and scoop and for general preventative treatment the burrow flap method can be used. The flap method is great for treating areas for general prophylactic treatment and keeping mange at bay. Flaps can be made from many materials, wire or corflute or wood with a suitable sized container inserted to hold the pour on. They are then hung over the burrow entrance or pathway used by the wombat.
Due to the difficulty in establishing mange in joeys as discussed above, and the circumstances for them coming into care, a veterinary check is warranted unless a very experienced carer is able to establish mange. As a result of a joey wombat being in care, there are a whole range of treatment options available which a veterinarian would be able to advise. What is critical for all carers managing a joey with mange is best practice hygiene which minimally involves changing pouches and or bedding daily or more frequently, washing bedding and pouches in hot water and sun drying, changing straw or shavings or grass or similar used as bedding and then burning. It may also be important to quarantine the joey until initial treatment removes mites. Avoid carpets and lounges that are difficult to remove mites from and or contact with other healthy wombats.
The correct dose rate is the amount that will actually reach the blood stream to kill the mites without overdosing the wombat. This is hard to establish because different wombats react to treatment in variable ways. Some shake off the Cydectin immediately while others have a delayed shake and some don’t shake it off at all. Some have good fur filled with dirt or clay particles from their burrowing behaviour preventing absorption of the Cydectin through the skin. Some have highly developed parakerotic plaques (thickened skin scales) preventing absorption and some seem to have fur type that dissipates the pour on rather than absorbing it. Some have a combination of all these factors. The reasonably healthy clean skinned wombat has, in any case a much thicker dermis than animals these pour on were developed for. Research has shown that the half life ( the effective time Cydectin remains effective in wombats) varied from 2 to 9 days (Death et.al 2011) with an average of five, indicating huge variability and different results to those of red cattle and deer. Finally, Cydectin pour-on was developed as a preventative to stop mites developing on cattle and deer, not to treat developed cases of mange infestation in wombats.
The wombat needs to be monitored for as long as possible to make sure all signs of mange has cleared to prevent re-infestation.