The skin of a healthy pig should be smooth and free of sores and abscesses. Although different breeds of pigs have different amounts of hair, whatever hair is present should be evenly distributed over the pig's body. Pigs are susceptible to a variety of skin disorders, which can cause open sores, scabs, hair loss, skin thickening, lumps and changes in skin colouration. As with all animals, it is important to seek regular and preventive veterinary care in addition to monitoring pigs closely for any signs of health problems.
Greasy Pig Disease
Greasy pig disease is caused by the Staphylococcus hyicus bacteria. This bacteria is normally found on a pig's skin, and it is unknown why it sometimes creates a problem. In greasy pig disease, build-ups of the bacteria cause crusty, yellow sores. The sores can appear anywhere on the body, but they usually start near the animal's mouth, on the snout and behind the ears. Greasy pig disease is diagnosed by culturing an infected site, and it can be treated with antibiotics. It is important to visit your vet early if you suspect this disease, as it can cause death in piglets.
Especially common in young pigs, zinc deficiency causes the pig's skin to thicken. Pigs who are suffering from zinc deficiency will develop scaly, red patches on the skin. If left untreated, these patches will dry out and crack, leaving a tough crust. The dry patches caused by a zinc deficiency begin on the pig's stomach and work their way up the legs and onto the face, neck and tail. Eventually the pig will experience hair loss and diarrhoea. A zinc deficiency can easily be cured by providing the pig with a higher-quality feed.
Erysipelas, commonly called diamond skin disease, is cause by the bacteria Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae. There are actually three forms of this disease: acute erysipelas, sub-acute erysipelas and chronic erysipelas. In the sub-acute form of the disease, diamond-shaped patches of skin become sore and turn dark red in colour. Other forms of the disease are marked by vomiting, diarrhoea, eye discharge, arthritis and coughing upon exertion. This disease can be treated with antibiotics and prevented with vaccination. Erysipelas can be deadly and can affect a large number of pigs, so it is important to see a vet immediately if you suspect this condition. It is also important to note that humans can develop a painful skin rash from contact with both live and deceased infected pigs.
Pigs are susceptible to the mange mite. Mange causes the pig's skin to itch and causes bald patches, a dull coat, crusty grey sores and thick skin. Mange can spread quickly to all of the adult pigs in a herd, but it does not affect piglets. The mite that causes mange in pigs is specific to the species, and it will not infect people, dogs or other animals that come into contact with the pigs. The presence of mange can be confirmed with a skin scraping. Mange can be treated using both sprays and injections. You can treat pigs for mange on a regular basis as a precaution, but this is usually not necessary if you can be sure your pigs will not be in contact with infected animals.
Myiasis, commonly called fly strike, occurs when a pig has already been wounded in some way or is suffering from skin irritation caused by exposure to urine or faeces. Flies will land on the pig and lay eggs in the wounds. The resulting maggots then eat the dead skin and tissue in the wound, causing further irritation and problems. Fly strike can cause death if left untreated. The best treatment for fly strike is prevention. Be sure to clean any wounds on your pig thoroughly and regularly. Keep the pig's housing area clean, hang fly paper and use fly sprays. If a pig's wound does become contaminated with maggots, remove them, clean the affected area and apply an insecticide cream.