External Parasites

Biting Lice, Sucking Lice, Mites, Keds, & Bots

If you own goats chances are at some point you will experience external parasites! 

This is the usual scenario.... shock, disbelief, denial, anger.  Then comes the.... how, where, why.  

Some will experience the "I have failed" mindset. Often a "blame" element will come into play.

Once the "acceptance" stage kicks in there is the "what do I do now?"..... often followed by the quest to rid your animal of these parasites as quickly as possible.  Once a goat owner has made it through their first experience with external parasites, only then can they begin to understand "it happens". If you have never experienced external parasites on your goat just remember this - when you do, and more than likely you will, everything is going to be all right.

YES- this is meant to bring a little humor, as discovering lice, mites, bots, or keds on your goat can be very stressful!

Biting  & Sucking Lice

Lice are wingless, dorso-ventrally flattened insects. Depending on species they range from 1mm-5mm.

Lice are ectoparasites, meaning they live their entire life on the surface of their host. 

Although there are thousands of species, lice are host/species specific.

There are only a few exceptions some affect goats and sheep. 

Being host/species specific means that the lice that affect poultry is not the same as lice that affect goats.

 Lice cause biting, chewing, scratching, rubbing, hair loss, dull coat, sores from chewing, secondary skin infections, anemia, lethargy, loss of body conditioning , loss of usable fiber (angora & cashmere goats), and decreased milk production.

Lice can be a serious threat to the overall health of your goat. Sucking lice being the most detrimental.



Lice are usually transmitted through animal to animal contact. Bringing in a new animal is the most common way of infecting the rest of the herd.  Some lice can be carried in through equipment and others but will not survive long without a host. 

Flies can transmit the eggs of lice from the eggs attaching to their legs.  

Even under close examination you may not see the lice if the animal is mildly infected. 

Quarantine and treatment of all new animals will reduce the risk of introducing these parasites to your herd. 

Overcrowding and stressed environments will increase the likelihood of an infestation.



Lice do not do well in high temperatures. Higher temperatures prevent eggs from developing. The cooler weather is ideal for lice. The infestation of lice are very prevalent in the winter, peaking in springtime

Treatment in the fall, using preventatives, and monitoring closely will help you keep these parasites from infesting your herd. 

If your goat had parasites through the summer and was left untreated the lice will significantly increase through the winter. Treatment of lice is much more difficult in the winter. Treatments will be discussed in the "treatments" section.




Biting lice have large heads with mouth parts that are adapted for chewing hair, skin, scabs, wool and their own eggs.


Three major species affect goats. 

goat biting louse ~Bovicola caprae

  ~B crassipes (large yellow louse) greatly affects the Angora Goat

 Angora Goat Louse  ~B. limbata

Biting lice can be found anywhere on the goat, however they are most prevalent on the head, neck, shoulders, along the back,around the tail and between the rear legs. 




Sucking lice have narrow heads with piercing mouth parts that retract when not actively feeding. They feed on blood. Once the saliva from the louse is injected into the goat it prevents the blood from clotting. the lice will then continue to feed on the oozing blood which does clot at the surface of the skin. Goats will bite and chew on themselves, scratch, and can become very restless which can lead to weight loss due to the constant reaction to these parasites. 

Infestations can cause disinterest of food, anemia, secondary bacterial skin infections, and can transmit disease.

Severe anemia can cause death. The fiber from Angora & Cashmere goats can be greatly affected.


~Goat sucking louse (Linognathus stenopsis)- can be found all over the goat. (also found in sheep)  blue - gray in color

~African blue louse ( L. africanus)- found in very warm climates in the US found on head body and neck. 

Heavy infestations can cause death. blue - gray in color

~Foot louse (L. pedalis)- found on the legs and feet of goats & sheep.  May also be seen on the belly and scrotum. (Lambs have highest infestations) Population peaks in spring. 

Longer egg cycle than other lice.


There are many mite species. They are not insects (6 legs) but are from the phylum Arthropoda, class Arachnida (8 legs).

Mites are so small, most being microscopic, they usually go unnoticed until the damaging effects are seen.

 There are four mites in particular that affect goats. 

Some of these may also affect sheep, humans, and other animals. 

There are burrowing mites and non-burrowing mites. Mites can cause extreme itching, chewing, rubbing, lesions, secondary skin/bacterial infections, weight loss, anemia, dry flaky skin, hair loss, crusty skin, and areas of complete baldness especially around the eyes and ears. Mites can be more problematic that lice, they are also very difficult to identify.

Treatment will follow under "treatments" section.

Goat Follicle mite (Demodex caprae) 

Scabies mite (Sarcoptes scabiei)

Psoroptic Ear mite (Psoroptes cuniculi)

Chorioptic Scab mite (Chorioptes bovis)


Goat Follicle Mite 

(Demodex caprae) 

The goat follicle mite causes elevated lesions that have no visible fluid (papules) and larger deeper papules (nodules) that are located on the skin (dermis)beneath the skin (subcutaneous tissue),  or the outer protective layer of the skin (epidermis). The hair follicles or glands become obstructed producing the lesions which trap the mites where they begin to multiply by the thousands. This is demodectic mange.  Because there is no "fluid" the appearance is dry and over time may become thick. Some lesions may increase to over 2 inches in diameter. They will rupture and continue to spread the mites. These areas usually appear on the face, neck, armpits, udders- thin skinned areas. Dairy goats, young kids, pregnant does are most susceptible. mothers may pass these mites to their newborn kids on the first day of life by licking/cleaning their kid. 

The Saanen Goats, for unknown reasons, are more sensitive to demodectic mange.

Hair loss may be minimal at first but left untreated will eventually result in hair loss over the entire body resulting in the thickening of skin. As the goat chews and licks and is miserable, secondary health issues will result.


Scabies Mite

(Sarcoptes scabiei)

The scabies mite is a burrower. This nasty mite is not species specific and finds nearly any mammal a good host. Surprisingly these mites usually do not do much damage to goats. However, there are still many cases of sarcoptic mange in goats. The scabies mite burrows into the skin of its host and will travel under the skin making a track or tunnel. The mites will use these tunnels for mating as well as their larval stages. When they are finished with one area they will exit and move along the skin making a new entrance and repeat the entire process. These tracks generally are 1/4 - 1/2 inch long and a scab will form at the entrance and exit areas. Scratching will cause the tunnels to rip open and ooze. It is the oozing along with the scratching and biting that cause the crusty lesions. Scabies may cause excessive hair loss, eventual thickening of the skin, thick folds and wrinkling. These mites tend to start in areas that are thinner skinned such as the face, ears, muzzle, and armpits. The mites will gradually move toward the hocks, thighs and eventually the entire animal. Depending on the severity and length of infestation secondary bacterial infections can occur. 

This mite is very active in the evenings and will interrupt sleeping and eating habits as the itching is extremely severe. Weight loss, lethargy, and overall behavior is affected.

 It is very important that animals suspected receive treatment immediately, as this mite is easily transferred to 

 livestock guardian dogs, herding dogs, and HUMANS! 


Psoroptic Ear Mite

(Psoroptes cuniculi)

The psoroptes ear mite, also known as the ear mange mite, usually* lives its entire life on or in the ear. It is a non-burrowing mite. The mite pierces the outer skin layer causing lesions. These lesions cause a "crust" formation and may cause a foul odor discharge in the external ear canal. The psoroptes ear mite will also cause scratching , rubbing of ears, head shaking,  loss of equilibrium, and spasmodic contraction of the neck muscles. These mites are transferred goat to goat and most commonly are spread to kids from their moms.   Evidence can be seen by 6 weeks of age in kids. 

Secondary infections are not uncommon, usually bacterial. Severe infestations may cause weight loss and anemia. Usually* - There are cases of the mites moving over the head and neck areas especially in the Angora goats.

Some states this is considered a reportable disease. 

READ "OUR STORY" & PICS - about a goat we purchased and discovered this during her exam and quarantine!

Image- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Psoroptes_cuniculi.JPG


Chorioptic Scab Mite

(Chorioptes bovis)

The Chorioptic scab mite causes mange in cattle, sheep, goats, and horses. This mite is often referred to as the leg mite or leg mange. This non-burrowing mite tends to stay primarily on the feet and legs of its host. The life cycle is completed in 3 weeks. Often this mite goes unnoticed as on goats these mites stay mostly around the hoof and lower front legs

The lesions being mild without any real noticeable effect. Goats may stomp or bite/chew/ lick around the hoof area.



Keds are typically a sheep parasite but can infect goats. Often referred to as "sheep ticks", they are not ticks but wingless flies. They crawl over the animal and pierce through the skin with their sharp mouth parts. These bloodsuckers feed off the capillaries of the goat. Goats will rub, chew, bite and scratch as the keds are very irritating. Some goats may roll on the ground to relieve the irritation. Heavy infestations can cause anemia as well as weakening the immune system and creating risk of other disease. Generally keds do not cause  many issues for goats fed a highly nutritious diet. Treatment is usually the same as for lice. 


Bot flies are not as common in goats as sheep but they can get them. The bot fly is a hairy large fly. The sheep nose bot fly lays her larvae (not eggs) in the nostrils of the goat. The larvae is very small, <2mm in size, the larvae works its way up into the sinus cavity  feeding on the mucous. It will continue to grow and once mature will travel down through the sinuses and drop out to the ground. Once on the ground it will burrow down several inches and pupate. The fly will emerge from the pupal case and will repeat the life cycle. Symptoms include runny nose with varying degrees of mucous thickness (this is dependent on the stage of the larvae), eventual blood specks in the mucous discharge, violent sneezing, shaking its head, rubbing its nose,  and stomping  its feet. In some cases air flow may be restricted and rhinitis may occur. Occasionally secondary infections may occur. 

There is only one treatment for bots. Check with your veterinarian if you suspect your goat has bots.

Sometimes You See Them... Sometimes You Don't

Lice are easier to see then most mites. More often than not, it is the symptoms that are often observed which causes the owner to wonder and examine their goats. Because the mites are usually microscopic you may not see what parasite is causing the issue. It is not necessarily all that important to have an exact identification of the parasite. 

Treatments for lice and mites and the applications are pretty much the same. 

Remember, just because you don't "see" anything does not mean your goats are necessarily free of external parasites.

Is there a Connection? ... Internal Parasites & External Parasites


There is a strong connection between the two. Whenever a goat has internal parasites it weakens the body and allows for mite/lice issues to build rapidly. Stressed and weakened animals are more susceptible to infestations. It also works to the same way in the opposite. When a goat has a growing infestation of external parasites the body generally starts to wear down. Because some mites and lice can cause anemia, lack of appetite, sleep deprivation, nervousness and weight loss 

it opens the animal up for heavier internal parasite loads because their immunity and resistance is down.

Sadly many veterinarians and many "experienced" goat keepers are unaware of the connection. 

How Do I get Rid of These Parasites?

Many products on the market are not labelled for goats, therefore many treatments are considered "off-label" and must be used under the advice and supervision of your veterinarian. There are injectables, pour-ons, sprays, and oral medications that are used for treatments. Many pour-ons can ruin fiber, hair, and wool- causing a burning of the fiber. Some pour-ons simply will not effectively treat the goat. Oral and injectables may be okay for sucking lice but will do nothing for biting lice. 

External sprays will treat both biting and sucking parasites.

We have found using the permethrins 10% (labelled for goats) and mixing it according to the manufacturers recommendations and using a 1 1/2 - 2 gallon low pressure sprayer  garden sprayer) to be the most effective and efficient way for treatment. 

This method allows for every inch of the animal to get treated without missing a spot. It is simple and fast.

Treatments need to be repeated in order to eradicate the parasites. Usually two treatments 10- 14 days apart in order to kill eggs that have hatched since the initial treatment. It is important to treat the whole herd!

Please seek the advice of your veterinarian for treatment options.

 Observe meat & milk withdrawal times according to product.


( treating goats that came in with parasites- during quarantine)

Chemical? or Organic?

We prefer to use the least amount of chemicals on our farm as possible. 

As we research more we hope to bring more information to our website.There are some products like Diatomaceous earth that are effective when dusting animals for mites, however  many have found that in the longrun it required the use of chemical products to eradicate lice and mites from their herd. Tea tree-oil and other natural products have been successful.  Here we use the diatomaceous earth in our poultry buildings in the bedding and we sprinkle this in our loafing sheds for our goats. 

We are currently looking into Tea Tree oil / Walnut Oil for a preventative for mites and lice for our goats & dogs.



I would like to point out that sometimes synthetic products can be more beneficial than some natural products. 

This is one of the reasons we keep the Permethrins 10% on hand. This is in our emergency kit as we see mites and lice as an emergency on our farm! Pyrethrum comes from the  chrysanthemum flowers and is a botanical insecticide. Permethrins is a man-made synthetic insecticide. Many years of working in another industry I had a great deal of exposure to both of these products. Personally I have found the Pyrethrum to be very harsh. It is much more residual than its synthetic counterpart. I have seen more reactions to this product than the synthetic version. Of course this is my opinion of the two, you may have a different experience. We have opted to use the synthetic Permethrins as we have found immediate results, no reactions, and no real residuals. It kills what is on the animal yet there is no overpowering lingering offensive odor. The natural Pyrethrum is potent and has affected my respiratory and given me extreme headaches. The Pyrethrum does have the advantage of being more residual, which may be very beneficial in prevention of future infestations by regularly spraying the animal. Pyrethrum is also light reactive.

Personally I do not want this on my hands or absorbing into my skin, we are always petting and loving on our goats using these products ( either kind) require gloves and mask, so I prefer the less residual permethrins.


The following are links to natural/holistic treatments or references- 



Many of the Universities leading researchers have found providing diets that are high-energy can be very effective in louse control. Mineral deficiencies should also be considered as hair loss may be a result of a deficiency rather than parasites.Many researches have the approach of systematic chemical treatments as preventative. We DO NOT hold to this practice. We believe the best prevention is to always quarantine any new addition for a minimum of 30 days. The exception of kids being approximately 2 weeks if certain criteria have been met. Examining the animal prior to purchase and AGAIN after purchase is the best way to keep the rest of your herd from becoming infested and having a continual problem. 

We follow certain protocol for all animals coming onto the farm. 

We also follow certain procedures for animals leaving our farm for their new homes. 

End of summer / early fall is a very important time to do overall health checks on your goats to prepare them for the stressful months of fall/winter. This is when external parasites tend to become very active. 



The information provided is not to replace veterinarian care. We do not  give medical advice and shall not be interpreted as such. 

We do not and cannot guarantee accuracy of any articles written nor for any links provided. The articles/pages herein have been written by laymen,  and should be understood as such. It is the readers responsibility to consult with their veterinarian before implementing the practices discussed herein. 

Wingin' it Farms shall not be held responsible for the use of any information provided.