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Dr. B.
Dr. B., Veterinarian
Category: Large Animal Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 21464
Experience:  As a veterinarian, I have been educated to treat all animals, big and small.
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Wool Loss in Sheep. Please Help!

Resolved Question:

Why would my sheep lose it's wool? Our's is losing wool and is caked with something, maybe lanolin. Not sure

Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Large Animal Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 5 years ago.

Thank you for your question.

How many sheep are losing wool?
What areas are most affected?

In regards to this 'caked' material, can you give me more of an idea of what you are seeing (or take a photo)? Color? Texture? Is it attached to the skin?

Does the skin look red, flaky, oozing/sticky?

Are the sheep itchy (ie. rubbing themselves on gates, fences, troughs)?
Are they nibbling if you scratch the area?

How long has it been going on?

Have you noticed any weight loss or drop in appetite?

Customer: replied 5 years ago.


Two sheep are losing wool. They are both males. One is losing his wool around his neck area. His skin looks normal underneath. No scabs or anything unusual. He has small sticks in his wool sometimes which might mean he scratches up against something, but i'm not sure.

The second sheep is losing wool on his middle back area and it seems like there is a layer of wool followed by a thick layer of the caked material (yellow- I think its lanolin). Then there is another layer of really nice wool underneath the caked material. The wool and the caked material are just coming off together, but the wool underneath is nice, no oozing or anything like that. Skin looks good.

Do the sheep shed?

Hope this helps!

( We are new to sheep because we just got them this summer, so i'm not really sure if this is usual)

Expert:  Dr. B. replied 5 years ago.

Thank you for the additional information.

I am glad to hear that you only have two affected and I would consider keeping them separate (ie. not even sharing a gate between) from any other sheep you have on site. The presence of wood in the wool on his neck and the lack of wool on the back of the other are very suspicious that they are removing the wool via scratching and are itchy.

Itchiness and associated patchy wool loss in sheep can be caused by a range of mites (which are actually noticeable in a lot of countries). The mites we tend to have issues with are Sarcoptes scabei (which are contagious to people), Chorioptes mites, and Psorptes ovis.

While the mites don't always do what we expect them to do, Sarcoptes tends to be seen causing signs on face and ears of sheep and Chrioptes tends to be seen in the region of the limbs. But the mite I am particularly worried about (Psorptes ovis) tends to start on the shoulders, back or the tail area since they prefer areas that are well covered by hair.

As they set up their infestation, they tend to cause a thick yellow material to form on the areas that are affected (this is from the lymphatic material the mites actually suck from the skin.) This stimulates an immune reaction by the sheep's immune system. The area will swell and serous fluid will seep to the surface creating a crust and scabs. This will then cause the wool to fall out of the sheep because they either rub it off or pull it out when biting at the very itchy lesions.

Since only two are affected and it hasn't progressed to severe wool or skin trauma, weight loss, anorexia, and severe itchiness, I would advise having the vet have a look at these two. The vet will need to perform skin scrapings to identify this mite which tends to hide at the edges of the crusty lesions. Once identified, the vet will be able to advise you if you are in a country where reporting this disease is required and will be able to advise you of treatments available for your wee sheep.

I hope this information is helpful.
Please let me know if you have any further questions.
Thank you,
Dr. B.

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