Paying attention to the health of pigs' skin is another important aspect of pig care. In order to nip problems in the bud, keeping an eye on the condition of your pigs' skin is essential. Since pigs can acquire lice, ticks, mange mites, and other skin conditions it is key to be able to recognize and know how to treat these issues not only for the health of your pigs but also for your own health as mange can be spread from pigs to their human caretakers.
Mange in pigs is caused by mite bites and initially begins on the ears, head, legs, and tail but will spread onto the remainder of the pig's body if untreated. After mites make their way onto a pig, they begin biting which causes skin to thicken and itch. As pigs scratch, open wounds occur that can become infected if not attended to promptly. Treatment includes spraying or otherwise applying a treatment solution to the affected area as well as cleaning out pens. The exact type of treatment to use may require the advice of your vet as there are different types of mites that feed on pigs and the mite may need to be identified by a vet via skin scraping.
Lice that affect pigs are dark in color and visible to the naked eye. Like mites, lice feed on the skin of the pig, causing irritation which leads to scratching. Open wounds and later infection can also occur at the hands of a lice infestation. Lice are treated with coumaphos and habitats must also be treated.
Ticks will feed on a plethora of hosts which includes pigs and us humans as well. When they bite, ticks embed into the flesh of their host, making removal difficult at times. Ticks carry infections such as Lyme's Disease which can be spread by bites and thus are not creatures you want around. While there are a lot of different ways to remove a tick, some methods will encourage the tick to attempt to burrow deeper, releasing more toxins into the host as it does so. Because of this, it is best to suffocate a tick so that it cannot breathe and backs out on its own. It can then be disposed of properly. Ticks can be suffocated with dishwashing liquid, vegetable oil, and the like. To get rid of ticks for good can be somewhat of an uphill battle but treating pens with pesticide will help or you can employ guinea hens around your pens to feed on ticks.
Erysipelas, which is also known as diamond skin disease, is dangerous as it can kill a pig. This disease presents in the form of visible discolorations that are shaped like diamonds spreading across the skin of pigs. They are darker in color that the skin itself and may discolor the entire head and ears of a pig. Affected animals will be feverish, unwilling to eat, and may protest being touched due to pain, which can progress to include swollen joints and lameness. It is often fatal in acute form but may be survived in chronic cases. Penicillin is the treatment of choice for Erysipelas.
Monitoring the skin condition of your pigs will aid in the diagnosis of issues and enable rapid treatment. It is also important to observe behaviors, such as pigs that rub their bodies on fencing and such as a means of scratching. Allowing your pig mud to wallow in will aid in keeping their skin healthy, but there is still a job for you to do and that entails keeping a watchful eye on the skin of your pigs and noting strange behaviors, too.