Flaky/Dry Skin: All potbelly pigs and even the more miniature varieties will always have some form of dry and itchy skin, this is very common in pigs. Flakes or a dandruff like skin shedding is normal and there is no reason for serious concern. Try wiping your pig down with a damp or wet clean cloth once a week or every few days. Giving a pig a bath too often can actually make this skin issue worse, as it further dries out the skin. Aloe vera works well when applied topically and rubbed in to the skin lightly. For more chronic cases of flaky and itchy skin, there are nutritional supplements that you can get over the counter. However, these need to be used in limited amounts because a pig may gain weight from all the fatty acids.
Fleas & Ticks: Yes, pigs can get ticks in the summer months, especially in the softer areas of skin behind ears, under legs and arms! Very young piglets can get fleas, adults will not. If your piglet does have fleas, you can treat it with DE (Diatomaceous Earth), make sure that it is food grade. You can both rub it on them and feed it to them in their food. You can find DE at any home and garden store or feed stores. Do not worry about overdosing them on it because even humans consume it, DE is very safe. Just don't get it in to their eyes. You will want to thoroughly clean any bedding or housing areas if you find any fleas or ticks on your pig. Outdoors, DE can also be sprinkled on the ground and in housing areas. Always make sure your pig isn’t suffering from ticks if you are in an area where Lyme disease is of major concern. Pigs can get Lyme disease.
Sunburn: When a pet pig is kept outside, it is very important to always offer them a shelter or shade in order to get out of direct sunlight. Even more predominantly indoor pigs can become sunburn if left in high intensity light for too long. The burn may not even be noticeable at first. Pink pigs react worse than other color variations, due to the light pigment in the skin. A severely sunburned pig may show signs of hind limb paralysis or squeal and not want to move its back legs. Applying aloe vera lightly to the skin will help easy the burn and pain the pig experiences. After a few days, the pig may flake and peel but it will eventually clear itself. In extremely severe cases, you will want to make an appointment with your vet to make sure that no other course of action is needed, such as antibiotics.
Sarcoptic Mange/Scabies: This is a skin disease caused by an overabundance of mites. You will notice your pig scratching excessively, to the point of creating sores and even bleeding. They may also try and lick or bite at the sores. You may also notice small red bumps on the softer skinned areas of your pig. Some pigs will also have a very distinct red crust on areas of their body. If your pig is itching severely try going to the home and garden store and buying Sevin Dust (yes, the stuff you use in your garden for Japanese Beetles and other insects). You can put the powder right on the pigs skin, make sure to not get it in their nose, deep in their ears or eyes. This dust will help them stop scratching. However, you will still need to treat them with Ivomec, which is an over the counter dewormer. Ivomec will also clear many itchy skin conditions in pigs. Please see the section titled “Parasite Control” for further information on Ivomec and how to use it. If uncontrollable and your pig is losing it hair, you will need to take your pig to the veterinarian where they can do a skin scraping and identify this specific parasite under a microscope. There they can also give your pig an injection of cortisone to ease with itching, pain and also an injection of pesticide to kill the mites. Humans can get scabies infestations, so make sure to properly wash your hands, body and any bedding or clothes on a very routine basis, if you believe any pet has mange. Humans usually get a different species of mites if they contract scabies, however, it is possible to get them so be cautious.
Ringworm: Circular expanding areas on the skin that are slightly raised and red. This is caused by a fungus and is contagious to humans, although very limiting in swine and not commonly seen. These lesions can occur any where but are more often seen on the neck or behind the ears. Ringworm will clear on its own in a couple months. It usually occurs in the winter months. It can be treated by a vet with Nystatin or Griseofulvin but most often, it is left to clear on it’s own.
Tumors: All forms of swine tend to be prone to skin tumors or melanoma, especially those in direct sunlight all the time. If you feel/see a raised patch pf skin or an area of skin that is losing pigmentation (skin color), you will want to visit your veterinarian for further testing. Some tumors can be dangerous and spread rapidly to other parts of the body. Your vet will most likely need to take a biopsy and send it to the lab for further testing and identification. Once identified, your vet can arrange a course of treatment which may include removing some, if not all of the tumors. Some melanomas may even regress on their own. If managed properly, most pigs will go on to live healthy and normal lives.
Erysipelas: This bacterial infection is also classified as a skin condition. We have elaborated on it under the title "Major Disease."
Swine Pox: This viral infection that is spread by insects, commonly the hog louse, is discussed further in the title "Major Diseases."
Greasy Pig Disease: Also called Staphylococcus hyicus, is an acute dermatitis of the skin in pigs under eight weeks of age. Although older pigs can get it, the symptoms are less severe and will clear on its own. The disease is probably brought about by trauma or environmental irritations, other than that, it’s cause is unknown. Early signs will include depression, anorexia and listlessness. The symptoms may include infection of the hair follicles, a overall “greasy look” on the skin, skin lesions that may turn to ulcers and deep cracks and fissures. The lesions will appear brown/black and crusty. Any deaths are related to dehydration and loss of electrolytes. A piglet can die within 3-5 days. The only treatment is antimicrobials and even those are not entirely affective. Infected litters should be isolated immediately and cleanliness for sows and housing should be a priority.
Coat Blowing: Your pig will shed it hair once or twice a year, this is called “blowing their coat." It is a natural way that pigs shed their hair, like dogs shed their fur. Your pig will scratch while attempting to free the hair, this is normal and there is no reason for alarm. You can help the process along by brushing your pig or even help by pulling some of the already loose hair off.
Written by Jodi Register (2015)
References: Merck Vet Manual, revision July 2011 by D. Bruce Lawhorn, DVM, MS: http://www.merckmanuals.com/pethealth/exotic_pets/potbellied_pigs/disorders_and_diseases_of_potbellied_pigs.html
Iowa State University: http://vetmed.iastate.edu/vdpam/new-vdpam-employees/food-supply-veterinary-medicine/swine/swine-diseases/skin-lesions-and-dies