Guidance

Sheep scab: how to spot and report the disease

How to spot sheep scab, what to do if you suspect it and control measures to prevent its spread.

In Scotland sheep scab is a notifiable disease. That means if you suspect it you must tell the Animal and Plant Agency (APHA) immediately. Failure to do so is an offence. In England, Wales and Scotland local authorities can force you to treat your sheep or take other action if the disease is present in your flock and you don’t take appropriate steps.

Sheep scab only affects sheep. Humans aren’t affected.

The disease is currently present in Great Britain.

How to spot sheep scab

Sheep scab is caused by mites living in sheep’s fleeces or hair. The mites and their faeces cause intense itching which can lead to sheep:

  • rubbing and scratching against fence posts
  • nibbling and biting at their fleeces

That means you should look out for:

  • dirty areas of fleece from scratching hair, especially behind the shoulder
  • clean areas of fleece, where sheep have nibbled
  • broken areas of fleece on the sides of sheep from biting and scratching

Affected sheep can be extremely sensitive to being touched. They may respond by nibbling.

Affected sheep may also become dull and depressed and stand apart from the rest of the flock.

Other skin conditions in sheep cause similar affects to sheep scab. You should seek advice from a vet as soon as possible.

How sheep scab is spread

Sheep scab is mainly spread by direct contact between sheep.

The mites that cause the disease can also be picked up from fences, posts and trees that infected sheep rub against.

Mites can also be spread on the clothing and equipment of sheep handlers.

Preventing and controlling sheep scab

Preventing sheep scab

You should practise strict biosecurity on your premises.

If you suspect sheep scab

Prompt treatment is required. Contact your vet for advice.

In Scotland you must also tell your nearest APHA office immediately.

If sheep scab is confirmed

Local authorities have the power to force you to treat your sheep or take other action if one of your animals has sheep scab and you do not take appropriate action.

In Scotland a local authority or APHA inspector can also make you pay for a vet to inspect your sheep if he or she suspects the disease is present among your flock.

Further information on prevention and control

Controls to prevent disease

What happens when a notifiable disease is suspected or confirmed

Legislation relating to sheep scab

The Sheep Scab Order 1997 gives local authorities powers to control the disease if owners of affected sheep don’t take appropriate measures voluntarily.

The Sheep Scab (Scotland) Order 2010 makes the disease notifiable in Scotland.