Pigs, whether in a farm or home setting, can become afflicted with mange. This skin disease causes intense discomfort for the pigs, and in farming situations, negatively affects animal growth and feeding efficiency. This easily communicable illness must be dealt with swiftly to minimise damage to the pigs.
A mite known as Sarcoptes scabiei var suis, or "sarcoptic mange" can easily affect pigs. These mites bite and burrow into the skin, where they lay eggs. When the eggs hatch, many more mites need a host, and can make the pig sicker or spread to other pigs.
Severe itching is the main symptom of mange. Signs also show on the pigs' skin. Early on in the infestation, pigs' skin will show small, red, pimple-like dots. As the disease progresses, skin will become scaly, scabby and grey. This results from both the mite-caused damage and the scratching done by the pigs in an effort to stop the itching.
The spread of mange mites can happen quickly and have serious effects. In close quarters, like a farm or breeding site, pigs pass mange through physical contact. This often happens when introducing a new breeding animal infected with mange, or from a litter born to an infected animal. In both cases, mites have close contact with uninfected animals, allowing them to spread in healthy populations. Mange can also spread to humans, though it is not as serious. The mites thrive in pigs, but cause only minor problems to people, and will die off.
Without treatments, pigs may become very ill from mange. Skin infections from rubbing and scratching can cause serious health issues. Infection of a group of pigs can prevent a farmer from selling them. Swift and immediate treatment is important.
Mange is diagnosed by examining skin scrapings. Vets take small skin samples from infected pigs and examine them under a microscope to look for mites. Several scrapings may be necessary to find the mites.
After diagnosis, chemical treatments are used to eradicate mange from pigs. Some topical treatments are effective, but prohibited in some countries for feed animals. Other chemicals are injected into individual animals, which makes them ideal for pet pigs, but inefficient and expensive for farms. Feed-grade medicine is available for farms, so that pigs can be treated simply by eating.
Mites only live a few days without pigs to use as hosts. Removing pigs from the infected area is an important step in eliminating the infestation. The area should be thoroughly cleaned to ensure that all mites have been destroyed.
Treating pet pigs is important so that they are hygienic to keep in the home. Treating commercially raised pigs is necessary to get a good price on the pigs when selling them. Untreated mange can result in serious health problems for pigs, so treatment is necessary to keep them in optimal health.