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Why is my pig so itchy?

Sarcoptic mange is a parasitic disease of pigs, characterised by intense skin irritation and damage.

Cause

Sarcoptes scabei var suis is a host-specific mite that is spread from pig to pig by direct contact. Other hosts are unlikely sources of infection for pigs. Survival of the mites and eggs away from the host is limited to a short period only, although under optimum environmental conditions, they may persist for up to three weeks. The mite can occasionally affect stock people, although they are “dead-end” hosts, i.e. they cannot spread the disease.

Clinical signs

The only constant clinical sign is pruritis (itching).

The mite burrows into the skin and lays eggs in tunnels within the skin. This causes severe irritation with the pig rubbing its body on any available surface continually. The ears are a particularly favoured site of infestation, leading to head shaking and secondary ear damage (haematomas). Middle ear damage can also result.
The skin may be reddened and the ears waxy, although secondary skin damage (cuts and abrasions) and infection are common. This form of the disease is mostly seen in young growing pigs between 8-12 weeks of age. As the disease progresses in the individual, chronic lesions will occur. Thick encrustations in the ears, behind the elbows and on the back legs are the most common signs with the whole skin generally discoloured and scurfy.

Treatment
Animals that are clinically affected with any of the forms of mange described should be treated without delay. The most effective treatment is injectable ivermectin and in severe chronic cases a double treatment 10-14 days apart is appropriate.

Historically, topical organophosphates were used but these are no longer available.

In pigs close to slaughter, the prolonged meat withdrawal periods associated with the above products may preclude their use. Please contact your branch of Franklin Vets for the best product to use on your property.