Is your pig itchy and you don't know why? Pigs often have dry skin. This is something most pig parents battle or have battled at one point or another. Let's address some of the common issues that cause dry flaky skin with our pet pigs. (Enjoy this video of sweet Oreo scratching his rear end and remember, nothing you have is off limits to a pig butt)
1. Pigs love to sunbathe. In the summertime, it is paramount that you use sunscreen on all pigs that are outside no matter what the skin pigmentation is. Laying in the sun=dry skin.
2. Hydration. Some of us have pigs that aren't big drinkers, in turn, they don't have the proper amount of water and that leads to dry skin. How can you correct this? Entice your pig to drink more water. Some add a small amount of juice to water, some add flavored water drops, some offer ice or sugarless Popsicles to their pigs in order to maintain a healthy level of hydration. Wet your pigs pelleted feed. Why you ask? 2 reasons. First, any additional water source is a good thing. Although it's not a lot, adding water to the feed does, in fact, add water to the diet. Second, the pellets are designed to swell giving your pig that "fullness" that they never seem to get. When pellets are left dry, you have to reply on them drinking enough water to swell the pellets internally. Why make them wait to feel full? Wetting the pellets beforehand gives you the opportunity to feed the pellets in the fuller state and in turn, your pigs belly will signal a fullness that they have enough to eat. ALWAYS make sure your pig has plenty of fresh water available to them. If necessary, have several water bowls outside in different areas and check them often to be sure they're not contaminated or dirty. Pigs will turn their nose up to a dirty water bowl. (And the biofilm that forms can pose a health threat)
3. Vitamin/mineral deficiency. This actually isn't a common thing if your pig is eating a manufactured diet from one of the major feed brands. These are companies who have spent time and effort formulating a diet specifically made for mini pigs. They have taken into account that owners will supplement the feed with fresh veggies and occasionally fruit and designed a formula of feed to match that algorithm. During a conference call I personally had with the head nutritionist at Purina, (who also owns the Mazuri brand of feed), they informed me that their raw ingredients are tested on a daily basis and slight modifications to their formulary is done daily; based on those results. They also constantly review emails they get and adjust the formulary based on customer satisfaction, such as adding more soy oil because of the complaints of dry skin in the mini pig population. If your pig is being fed a diet that mainly consists of a manufactured feed from a well known company, such as Purina/Mazuri, Manna-Pro, Champion by Ross Mill Farms, or any other brand name feed, in addition to fresh vegetables and fruits that you add, a vitamin or mineral deficiency is unlikely. You should always follow your vets advice regarding the type and amount of feed for your mini pig. If you do have questions, use the contact us link on the feed company's website. For Mazuri, this link sends an email that will go straight to the head of nutrition, not a customer service rep. I know this is factual because I have used the link and they contacted me back within 4 hours with a response for my question.
4. Pigs like to rub on things. They have tough skin. Most pigs have some areas of "hard" skin and in order to feel that relief from the itchiness, they will rub on corners of houses, tables, steps, buildings, tree trunks, or objects laying in the yard. We recommend a product called Scratch N All as a relief tool that can be used inside or outside (click here to learn more about scratch n all) "Forking" is another method used to help relieve your pigs itchiness that you, as the pigs owner, can do to build a great relationship with your pig. (Click here to find out more about forking) Coconut oil can be extremely helpful for dry skin as well. (Given orally or rubbed directly on the skin) So, don't be surprised if you come home and there is skin all over your floor from your pig rubbing on random things inside your home.
5. Parasites. External parasites can sometimes be seen. Louse or pig lice CAN usually be seen by the naked eye. You may even see these insects crawling on your pigs skin if you look closely. Mange can NOT be seen. Mange is a parasitic disease of the skin caused by one of two mites either Sarcoptes scabiei or Demodex phylloides. Sarcoptic mange (sometimes called scabies) is by far the most common and important because it is irritant and uncomfortable for the pig, causing it to rub and damage the skin which becomes unsightly. Demodex mange doesn't look the same as Sarcoptic mange mites. These mites get into the hair follicles and sebaceous glands and build nodules that can become infected with secondary bacteria. The life cycle takes about 3 weeks, but is poorly understood. Infestations often start around the nose and the eyelids to later spread throughout the whole body. Pig demodectic mange is usually rather benign, unless in cases of very heavy infestations. The skin typically has an brownish-oily like appearance as it sheds.
6. Internal parasites are another common issue that can create dry skin for your pig. Some worm infestations are so severe, that it causes secondary issues like diarrhea or liver damage. Its best to be sure you proactively treat every 4-6 months and stay on top of preventative measures. Click here to learn more about parasite control.
7. Pigs can have allergic reactions or even lesions that abscess and can itch. As the body's natural reaction to a foreign entity entering, whether that be an insect bite or an open area that has allowed bacteria to enter, the skin will swell as the white blood cells rush to the area to fix the underlying problem. Sometimes the body's natural immune response is enough to correct it, while other times, a veterinarians skills are needed to drain or treat these areas of concern. If you notice a lump or bump during a routine inspection of your pigs skin, mark the area to see if it grows, feel the area for redness, check for unusual shapes or patterns. Check your pigs temperature. Take pictures. Document in your pigs journal what was going on beforehand and anything you can remember about the situation. Was your pig playing in hay? Do you remember a large ant hill nearby? Things like this can lead to a definitive diagnosis and help your vet eliminate other possibilities. Food allergies are, by far, the most common allergen followed by contact allergies such as the case below.
8. Do not bathe your pig too often...this strips away any natural oils they may produce actually exacerbating the dry skin situation.
Cathy Zolicani, DVM, who we have come to know and trust, wrote an excellent guide to healthy skin for pet pigs worldwide. She set a standard of best practice for pig owners to follow in order to keep their skin as healthy as possible. You can review that by clicking here. Always check your pigs skin for unusual marks or lumps and bumps. At the first sign of a problem, call your vet. Most of the time, a hands on exam along with a discussion about the history of the problem, can help you and your vet develop a treatment plan for your situation.
Our names are Brittany Sawyer and Nicole Cox and we are pig parents, pig advocates and also the authors of the "Dear Pig Whisperer" blog. Follow our blog that will feature topics to help you become the best pig parent you can be...along with some other fun things. We will also feature guest bloggers from time to time who want to share their life experience or knowledge with anyone who is interested in learning.