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Contagious Ecthyma (Orf, Contagious Pustular Dermatitis, Sore Mouth) in Dogs

By Karen A. Moriello, DVM, DACVD, Professor of Dermatology, Department of Medical Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Michael W. Dryden, DVM, PhD, DACVM, University Distinguished Professor of Veterinary Parasitology, College of Veterinary Medicine, Kansas State University
Carol S. Foil, DVM, MS, DACVD, Professor, Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine
William W. Hawkins, BS, DVM,
Thomas R. Klei, PhD, Boyd Professor and Associate Dean for Research and Advanced Studies, School of Veterinary Medicine and Louisiana Agriculture Experiment Station, Louisiana State University
John E. Lloyd, BS, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Entomology, University of Wyoming
Bernard Mignon, DVM, PhD, DEVPC, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Infectious and Parasitic Diseases, Parasitology and Parasitic Diseases, University of Liège
Wayne Rosenkrantz, DVM, DACVD,
David Stiller, MS, PhD, Research Entomologist, Animal Disease Research Unit, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, University of Idaho
Patricia A. Talcott, MS, DVM, PhD, DABVT, Associate Professor, Department of Food Science and Toxicology, Holm Research Center, University of Idaho
Alice E. Villalobos, DVM, DPNAP, Director; Director, Animal Oncology Consultation Service; Pawspice
Stephen D. White, DVM, DACVD, Professor and Chief of Service, Dermatology, Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital; Department of Medicine and Epidemiology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis
Patricia D. White, DVM, MS, DACVD,

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.