WHAT IS MANGE?
Mange is a terrible, debilitating disease in wombats. It is caused by a mite called Sarcoptes scabiei. The mite has many sub-species that tend to be host specific and while they can affect different species, including people, they tend to be self limiting except in the target host. Sarcoptes scabiei var wombati is the sub-species that affects wombats and can be fatal.
The mites mate on the skin and then the females tunnel into the skin causing a honeycomb of tunnels and laying eggs as she goes. This process causes a severe inflammatory reaction and intense itching. Scratching as well as the burrowing of the mites causes damage to the skin. When the skin is damaged, a bacterial infection can take hold and pus then occurs. Large patches of skin can be affected. These patches form crust that then crack leaving large open wounds that become fly blown. The mites feed on serum, the liquid component of blood and this along with the bacterial infection contribute to the overall decline of the wombat’s health. Thick crust form around the eyes and ears as well leading to blindness and loss of hearing. This make it more difficult for the wombat to forage for food further weakening them. As the disease advances, it can affect the organs including the liver, kidneys, heart and lungs. Eventually if untreated, the mange leads to system failure and death
If a female with a joey is affected, she may reject the joey because she is unable to cope. The joey will likely also be affected and if not found and treated will be unable to survive. Joeys should only be taken into care by a licensed experience carer who is trained and knowledgeable in the treatment of mange. These joeys have many special needs and require a huge effort to rehabilitate them to the point of release.
(mange field work: click to enlarge below images)
Mange can be treated successfully if caught early enough. Any wombat that is seen out during the day should be suspected of having mange. The sooner they are treated, the better chance they have to survive. They must be treated correctly and not harmed further by the treatment so it’s best to be done by someone experienced in not only handling wombats but also treating mange. Here at Cedar Creek Wombat Rescue, we have treated many adult in the field and joeys in care for mange. The treatment involves applying a topical medication such as an ivermectin pour on or in smaller wombats that can be more easily handled, injections are given. Because the crusting prevents absorption of medication and also leads to the severe cracking and damage to the skin, applying a vegetable oil to soften the scabs is very helpful. Treatment works best if it is done weekly and can take 6 to 8 weeks or longer in some animals depending on the overall condition and health of the wombat. It takes persistence and perseverance and especially with the young ones, providing the support that they need in order for them to build some resistance.
Treating mange is an on going and important battle and must be continued or we face the loss of one of Australia’s most iconic animals.
(click to enlarge below images)