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Scrapie is a fatal neurological disease of sheep and goats.

First published:
20 November 2018
Last updated:

Scrapie is a type of Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy (TSE). There are two types of scrapie:

  • classical
  • atypical

Classical scrapie is of more concern to animal health.

Suspicion and confirmation

Contact your local Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) office immediately on 0300 303 8268 if you suspect scrapie.

APHA vets will investigate suspected cases.

Clinical signs

Signs of scrapie vary among individual animals and can develop slowly. They are usually seen in sheep between two and five years of age. Infected animals generally exhibit:

  • changes in behaviour
  • tremors
  • loss of coordination
  • weight loss
  • pruritus (severe itching) leading to rubbing of wool and secondary skin trauma

An infected animal may appear normal if left undisturbed. If stimulated by noise, excessive movement or handling, the animal may tremble or fall over in a convulsive like state.

Transmission, prevention and treatment

Classical scrapie can spread between susceptible animals. Atypical scrapie does not.

Scrapie is usually spread:

  • from a ewe to her offspring e.g. via colostrum and milk
  • to other lambs through contact with the placenta and placental fluids

Sheep may live up to six months after the onset of clinical signs but death is inevitable.

Some sheep are more genetically resistant to classical scrapie than others. You can use genotype testing to identify scrapie resistant sheep. Breeding those animals can be a good preventative method.

There is currently no treatment for scrapie. You should cull animals suspected of disease, with APHA’s help.