Common Skin Diseases of Miniature Pigs


Skin is the largest organ in the body and acts as a physical barrier between the body and the environment. Besides acting as a barrier, the skin also provides sensory input about our environment, helps us regulate heat, provides immunes function, and produces the precursors to Vitamin D. The three layers of the skin are the epidermis, dermis, and subcutis. The epidermis is the most external layer of the skin. This layer contains flat-shaped cells called keratinocytes and pigmented cells called melanocytes. Underneath this layer is the dermis which contains collagen and immune cells. Beneath this is the subcutis which is where the major branches of the vessels and nerves lie.

The skin of pigs is actually so similar to our skin that pigs are considered model species in understanding how inflammation occurs in our skin. However, one big difference between our skin and the skin of our porcine friends is that pigs don't sweat! Instead, they lose heat through other mechanisms, such as respiration. There are several diseases affect the skin of pigs and can be divided up by their underlying cause (e.g., bacterial, fungal, parasitic, immune-mediate, or environmental). The following lists the most common skin disorders we encounter in swine medicine:

Bacterial
● Greasy Pig Disease
● Porcine Cutaneous Spirochetosis
● Porcine necrotic ear syndrome

Viral
● Vesicular Disease
● Parvovirus dermatitis
● Swine Pox

Fungal
● Ringworm

Parasitic
● Sarcoptic or demodectic mange
● Lice
● Biting flies

Immune-mediated
● Pityriasis rosea

Physical or environment
● Sunburn
● Photodynamic agents (things that react with sunlight and cause a burn!)
● Plants: Alfalfa, Clover, Oats, Buckwheat, St. Johnswort, Lucern
● Certain medications

Of the common skin disorders of pigs, the most common condition we treat at the Arizona Exotic Animal Hospital is... sunburn! Our porcine friends are very sensitive to sun exposure. Even less than 30 minutes of unprotected sun exposure can cause a burn! Sunburn occurs in pet pigs that live predominantly indoors or live a hybrid life indoors and outdoors. The time it takes to burn can be exacerbated by the application of oils (such as coconut oil). The sunburn itself may present as dry flaky skin and usually occurs over the top of the lumbar spine. Some pigs may even cry out in pain and show discomfort when walking. The urge to treat the flaky skin with additional oil may lead to further burns. For pigs not accustomed to long exposures in the Arizona sun, the application of a children's sunscreen may be beneficial in preventing sunburn. However, if you notice any abnormal redness or flaking of the skin, it is recommended to have a veterinarian examine the skin and rule out other causes of skin diseases.