We all know that dogs can get mange, but did you know that Australian wombats can get mange too? So much so that it’s slowly wiping out the wombat population and putting these beautiful animals at risk of extinction.
Up until a few months ago, I was totally unaware of the severity of this problem; I would see wombats with scabby skin and assume there was nothing that I could do, but how wrong I was…
Thanks to a good friend of mine, I was introduced to an organisation called Mange Management and quickly realised that curing a wombat of mange is actually quite a simple process. All it takes is dedication from the public and a few easy treatments for a suffering wombat to live a healthy, thriving life… So that’s what I’m here to talk about today:
WHAT IS MANGE?
Sarcoptic mange is a highly contagious skin infection caused by the parasitic mite. The female mites burrow under the skin and lay eggs, where they hatch and cause extreme discomfort.
The itching sensation comes from an allergic reaction to the mites’ faeces, which causes the wombat to constantly scratch; this causes the hair to fall out and for scabs, wounds and thickening to occur on the skin. These scabs become dry, cracked and split open which can cause secondary infection and for the animal to become flyblown. If left untreated, this dreadful infestation will sadly cause the wombat to suffer a slow and painful death.
To put it simply, these tiny little bugs live in their skin and cause them to literally itch to death… Not much fun, is it?
STAGES OF MANGE:
Stage A) A healthy wombat.
Stage B) Early signs of hair loss, very treatable. Still exhibiting nocturnal behaviour.
Stage C) Rash, hair loss, crusty scabs starting to form. Regularly seen in daylight. May no longer be alert/may appear deaf or blind. Approachable. Still treatable if no secondary infections are present.
Stage D) Infected flyblown wounds, a rotten dead smell and extremely unwell. At this stage the infestation is too severe and is no longer treatable. It is recommended to euthanise the wombat to avoid extended suffering.
Mange is treated using a product called Cydectin. This product is to be used once a week for 8 weeks, followed by 4 fortnightly treatments until the wombat is fully recovered. This product is most effective when placed on healthy skin, as it works by being absorbed into the blood stream and killing the mites from the inside out. If it is used on the thick, crusty areas it won’t absorb as quickly.
Here are the 2 different methods in which the medication can be administered:
Pole & Scoop:
If the wombat is approachable, the best way to treat them is via the pole & scoop method. This is constructed using a broom handle (or any long pole you can find) with a laundry scoop taped to the end.
Pour the cydectin into the scoop, approach the wombat very slowly from downwind, carefully pour the treatment down the centre of the back on the healthy skin, and continue once a week for as long as possible – usually 4-5 weeks. Try your best to go unnoticed and do not ever chase or scare the wombat. If they run away, try again another day!
As the wombat starts to improve, it will no longer be approachable and you will need to continue the treatment via the burrow flap method instead.
The burrow flap is a simple treatment method where the wombat self medicates when walking in and out of its burrow. The flap is created using a wireframe, an icecream container lid, a bottle cap and cable ties. These are pre-made and ready to install in the Mange Management treatment kits, but you can also make one yourself if you have the right materials.
This method is perfect for wombats that aren’t approachable, and also for those that don’t have the time to wait for the wombats to appear as it can be set up during daylight hours and around your schedule.
FREE TREATMENT KITS are provided by Mange Management and available from various pickup locations around Victoria. It is recommended that you contact Mange Management first to confirm the mange diagnosis and correct dosage of Cydectin.
As for the healing process, this differs from case to case and varies depending on the severity of the mange. The wombat often looks worse before t gets better, mainly due to the scabs being scratched off and exposing raw/bleeding skin. These wounds are often superficial and healing can be assisted using certain antibacterial and fly repelling products.
In the average case, it takes at least 6 weeks before there are any visible signs of improvement. It’s often a slow recovery which takes a lot of persistence and dedication from landowners and volunteers… Sometimes wombats recover quickly (as you will see below) and sometimes further attention may be needed.
Either way, Mange Management is always there to assist in every case!
SUCCESS STORY – PERCY
So, now that you’re aware of what mange is doing to our poor Aussie wombats, I’d like to introduce you to Percy!
Percy is the young juvenile wombat that I was lucky enough to treat. He was estimated to be around 1 year of age and appeared on my property with Stage C mange, and he was sadly very unwell. But thanks to the help of Mange Management, I was able to bring this little guy back to full health (and quite quickly) so that he could continue to grow up big and strong.
Here’s how his treatment process went:
As you can see by the photos above, Percy’s mange was quite advanced. He had crusting over his ears and eyes meaning that he had very little hearing and vision and was very approachable. He was spotted at around 2 PM which is unusual for a nocturnal animal, and as you can see by his skin, he was very itchy.
Percy’s first treatment was administered via the pole and scoop method without much fuss. He had absolutely no idea that I was there which thankfully caused him no stress!
One week later, Percy was spotted at the same time of day. At around 2 PM he was out grazing around his burrow entrance and didn’t show any signs of improvement. He also didn’t seem to be any worse which is always a good sign. He was once again treated via the pole and scoop method without noticing I was there… Success!
This is where things get interesting! One week later when it was time for treatment 3, I waited for Percy to appear around the same time of day. For numerous days in a row, I had no luck in finding him and was starting to feel discouraged. After a few days of searching, I decided to check at around 6 PM when it was starting to get dark, and there he was!
It’s very unusual for a mange infected wombat to return to nocturnal behaviour after only 2 treatments, but Percy was obviously feeling much better! He still wasn’t very alert, but as you can see, his skin was showing minor signs of improvement. This treatment was once again via pole and scoop.
Treatment number 4 was another huge success. I waited behind a tree that was near Percy’s burrow entrance and was able to treat him as he was coming out. This was when I noticed a major improvement; the crusting on his ears, eyes and torso were starting to come off, and the hair was already starting to grow back.
It was now around 6 PM when he was first coming out of his burrow, meaning that he was obviously feeling much better on the inside too!
After 4 treatments, Percy was showing major improvements and was much more alert. I was able to give him his 5th treatment via pole and scoop, but I knew this was going to be one of the last times as he could definitely sense my presence and was also coming out very late at night which was making it quite difficult.
His skin was looking incredible and his eyes and ears were clearing up dramatically. He was still itching, but the difference in his appearance and his behaviour were very noticeable.
Since I could no longer get close enough to Percy, treatment #6 was given via the burrow flap method. I set up the flap during the day time and also set up a wildlife/night vision camera in order to track his progress. For a couple of days, I had the flap set up without any medication in order to get him used to it, and once he was comfortable the treatment process started.
Blue or green food dye shows quite clearly on the camera, so adding a couple of drops in with the cydectin made it easy to see whether the treatment made it onto his skin. I was also able to see that his skin had continued to improve and he wasn’t itching as much either…
This is the final time I ever saw Percy! After just 7 treatments in total Percy was like a brand new wombat; his skin had entirely cleared, he was no longer itching and his nocturnal behaviour had 100% returned.
Although it would have been great to treat him for longer, Percy sadly moved burrows (as wombats regularly do) and couldn’t be found. As he was quite young, I think this was his way of telling me that he was ready to go off and grow into a big, strong, healthy wombat!
All in all, it was a major success – and a quick recovery to say the least!
HOW YOU CAN HELP
For those that live in Australia (and Victoria specifically), the best thing you can do to help is by reporting ANY mange infected wombat to Mange Management. If you live on a property and are able to assist with treatment, please do so. As you can see from Percy’s success story, this is a very treatable condition that can be done without removing the wombat from the wild… But we need all hands on deck.
For those that aren’t in Australia or who don’t live in rural areas, the best thing you can do is spread the word. Share this post, support Mange Management and talk about the dire situation that these poor wombats are facing. Spread awareness in any way that you can.
And if you have a dollar or two to spare, an amazing way to help is by donating to the Mange Management fundraising campaign. Any donation (no matter how big or small) is so greatly appreciated… Help them help the wombats!