Skin problems

Flaky skin

Mange.  Always be on the watch for infestation by mange mites, which will cause your pet to be very itchy and have a yellowish-brown deposit on the skin, particularly in and around the ears.  Mange should be treated by two injections of an avermectin 14 days apart.  All new pigs should be isolated until treated for mange.  All new pigs should be double treated for mange.  Once treated, as long as they do not meet an untreated pig the pig will remain mange free.  The diagnosis is made by taking a scraping of the wax from inside the ear and looking down the microscope.

Mange, with a scaly itchy skin.  This completely healed within 3 months of treatment.

The mange mite down the microscope



Lice, if present, may be difficult to see on a dark-skinned pig, but they are about 0.5cm long, dark-coloured and move very fast on the hairy parts of the pig’s skin. 


Lice on the pigs skin

The pig louse through the microscope


Lice and fleas

Pet pigs may become infested with licks and fleas (from other pets). These are normally transient and an injection with avermectins will help to relieve the situation (although temporarily).


Flaky skin is also due to the skin becoming very dry and can be cured by rubbing in baby oil or emulsifying soap.  Occasional bathing can be great fun for your pet-use lukewarm water and a very mild shampoo.  Remember to put a mat on the bottom of a low-sided bath to prevent your pet slipping and hurting itself and remember you could hurt your back.


Flakey skin that was not responsive to avermectin but responded to washing and skin hygiene

Sunburn in a group of gilts



This can be a very serious problem with both light- and dark-skinned pigs.  It is always better to avoid sunburn by providing shade and also water to wallow in.  Overheating of the pig by strong sunlight can lead to sunstroke.  Treatment of sunburn involves both cooling the pig with a water spray and coating the pig’s back with lotion.  If the sunburn is very bad, call your vet because special treatment will be required.


Running eyes

This condition may be due to inflammation of the lining of the snout, irritation of the eye with bent or damaged eyelashes; and very often outdoor pigs get soil or sand in the eye, but this can easily be rinsed out.  If, after rinsing the eye with saline solution eye lotion, the condition persists, call your vet.  Many pigs who are overweight can present blind due to the excess skin or with serious eye damage due to in turning eyelashes.


Blind overweight pig

A mosquito bite on the back of a pig


Insect bites

During the summer there are lots of biting flies and other insects about, and if they attack and bite your pig they will cause tender raised lumps to appear on its skin.  Washing the pig with a mild antiseptic solution will help to prevent the bites becoming infected.




Pigs, like most animals, may become allergic.  Typical allergies are to a contact agent, such as soap powder or bedding.  The pig will present with thickened itchy skin which is not responsive to mange treatment.  Removing the pig from the allergy agent resolves the problem.


Allergic response in the pig

Alopecia in the elderly pig


Alopecia or hair loss

It is normal for pigs to lose their hair in the summer months.  As a pig gets older they will lose more hair.  There is a genetic trend associated with hair loss.  Typically the hair is lost along the back and over the rump.



Erysipelas is a bacterial pathogen present in the soil and therefore the pig is likely to meet the agent.  The agent is very serious as it can quickly kill pigs.  If the pig is suddenly sick, with a high rectal temperature and walks stiffly suspect Erysipelas.  If the pig presents with these clinical signs consult your veterinarian. The next day the characteristic ‘diamond’ skin shapes may appear in white areas or be felt on dark skinned pigs.   Erysipelas is very responsive to penicillin treatment.  It is possible that the disease does not present with may clinical signs initially, but Erysipelas is the cause of many arthritic conditions in the pig and may cause damage to the heart valves.


Skin tumors

Pigs may get a variety of skin tumors.  Many small fatty lumps are generally not significant.  Black pigs may develop melanomas which may be significant.  If you are concerned about any lump, consult your veterinarian.

Erysipelas diamond lesions on the back

A small skin tumor on the flank

“Dippity pig”

This condition presents as an acutely affected pig with a necrotising celluititis of the skin, normally the back.  The pig is normally a young pit 3-10 months of age. There is no specific treatment for “Dippity Pig”.  However, giving the pig a good bath with a medicated antiseptic shampoo combined with topical treatment with lidocaine gel smeared liberally over the affected area will provide temporary relief. An injection of lincomycin followed by 3 days of lincomycin tablet medication will assist skin healing.  However, the condition will self heal within 2-3 days without any medication.


Pig with “dippity pig”

Close up of lesion

Pictures Dr. K. Smith.