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Kylie Greentree, DV Cumberland Livestock Health and Pest Authority

Posted Flock & Herd July 2012


An Agricultural High School on the Central Coast called the Cumberland Livestock Health and Pest Authority in Maitland as their seven piglets that were five weeks of age had very thickened skin, alopecia, severe rubbing and shaking ears. The piglets had multiple scabs mostly over head and forequarters. The sow had had the same clinical signs around farrowing time but had been given only one dose of Ivermectin as treatment which appeared to clear the clinical signs up.


The piglets presented with hyperkeratosis (Figure 1), large amount of scale in the external ear canals (Figure 2), alopecia and severe pruritus.

Image of black pigs with thickened skin
Figure 1. Piglets with severe pruritus and hyperkeratosis
Image of pig ear inspection
Figure 2. Scale in external ear canals showing active infection in the ear of a pig


Several deep skin scrapings were taken from the edge of lesions on the skin and thick swaps were taken from the external ear canal (note: a teaspoon is ideal for taking a scaping from external ear canal, spread material on black paper and wait 10 minutes to see if you can see mange mites. The mange mites are rounded and 0.5mm just visible to the naked eye). I was unable to see any mites under the schools microscope but was pretty convinced that Sarcoptes was what we had so I recommended treatment with Ivermectin injection (two injections 10 days apart) while we waited for the lab results to come back.


Differential diagnoses include the following. Hyperkeratinisation (Figure 5) is normal dead flaky skin that can be rubbed off leaving normal skin underneath. Greasy Pig Disease (Figure 6) is caused by a bacterium Staphylococcus hyicus. Swine Pox (Figure 7) is a viral disease that is characterized by the acute appearance of round to oval cutaneous lesions that heal in three to four weeks. Sun Burn (Figure 8), caused by exposure to ultraviolet light, is not possible in this case as the piglets were housed in an indoor pen.

Image of pig back with thickened skin
Figure 5: Hyperkeratinisation
Image of dead piglet with skin abnormalities
Figure 6: Greasy Pig Disease
Image of white pig with skin spots
Figure 7: Swine Pox
Image of pigs with skin abnormality on neck and ears
Figure 8: Sunburn


Insect / Mite Specialist ID (Figure 9):

Genus Sarcoptes

Species scabiei

Author (Linnaeus)

Order Acari

Family Sarcoptidae

Common name sarcoptic mange mite

Microscopic image of pig mite
Figure 9. Sarcoptes scabiei var suis under magnification, the cause of

Sarcoptic mange in pigs


Sarcoptic Mange


All the piglets had been weaned from the sow one week before visiting the High School; they were given Ivermectin injections (300ug/kg s/c) 14 days apart. The sow was also treated even though she appeared to have recovered; she was only given one dose of Ivermectin at the time she showed clinical signs of Sarcoptic Mange so this ensured that she was free from infection.


This parasite like many others will lead to a decrease in weight gain in weaner piglets and if the sows are affected it will lead to her being more restless and hence more piglet mortalities.

'Prevention is better than cure', as all treatments add up to take out a good chunk of the producer's profit, especially in this case when multiple treatments are required. Ways to maintain a Mange free herd include


  1. Google images
  2. Averbeck GA, Stromberg MS, Stromberg BE. Sarcoptic Mange in Swine


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