Contagious ecthyma is an infectious skin disease that most frequently affects sheep and goats. This disease has been reported in dogs that have eaten carcasses of infected sheep or goats; otherwise the disease is rare among pets.
Contagious ecthyma is caused by a parapoxvirus. Infection occurs by contact. The disease is found worldwide and is most common in late summer, fall, and winter on pasture. It also occurs during winter in feedlots.
The disease is characterized by sores that develop on the skin of the lips and frequently extend to the inside of the mouth. Occasionally, they are also found on the feet. The disease usually lasts 1 to 4 weeks. Scabs drop off and the tissues heal without scarring.
Veterinarians may prescribe antibacterial medications, not for the parapoxvirus infection, but to control secondary bacterial infections.
Humans can also catch the disease from sheep. Sheep handlers and veterinarians are most at risk. In humans, the sores are usually confined to the hands and face and can be both numerous and distressing to the infected person.
Last full review/revision July 2011 by Karen A. Moriello, DVM, DACVD; Patricia D. White, DVM, MS, DACVD; Michael W. Dryden, DVM, PhD; Carol S. Foil, DVM, MS, DACVD; William W. Hawkins, BS, DVM; Thomas R. Klei, PhD; John E. Lloyd, BS, PhD; Bernard Mignon, DVM, PhD, DEVPC; Wayne Rosenkrantz, DVM, DACVD; David Stiller, MS, PhD; Patricia A. Talcott, MS, DVM, PhD, DABVT; Alice Villalobos, DVM, DPNAP; Stephen D. White, DVM, DACVD