Get­ting rid of lice and mites

A guide to get­ting rid of lice and mites in pigs

Country Smallholding - - Inside This Month -

Itchy Pigs

Ex­ter­nal skin par­a­sites are a rel­a­tively com­mon con­cern for small­holder pigs. Lice and mites are the two most com­mon par­a­sites that cause itch­i­ness and they can be prob­lem­atic to con­trol in a herd. They are mostly spread pig-to-pig, so proper quar­an­tine and iso­la­tion of in­com­ing an­i­mals is the key to pre­vent­ing an in­tro­duc­tion of dis­ease.


The louse that typ­i­cally af­fects pigs is called Hae­matopi­nus suis and it is im­pres­sive in size. These crea­tures can be seen by the naked eye crawl­ing around the hairy skin of a pig like small spi­ders. Eggs can sur­vive in bed­ding for four weeks, but adult lice only sur­vive a few days off the pig. Af­fected an­i­mals are in­tensely itchy and rest­less and be­cause these are blood­suck­ing lice they can also trans­mit some in­fec­tious dis­eases. Hae­matopi­nus suis is a very host-spe­cific par­a­site, mean­ing that it can only live on pigs and can­not in­fect other species.

In­jectable worm­ing prod­ucts can be used to treat lice in­fec­tions; how­ever, re­peat treat­ments are some­times re­quired and there­fore vet­eri­nary ad­vice should be sought. Some of these prod­ucts have long meat with­drawal pe­ri­ods, which will de­lay the an­i­mal go­ing into the meat chain, so al­ways check this if you are rear­ing pigs for slaugh­ter. Fur­ther­more, be­cause the lice are spread by pig-to-pig con­tact, the whole herd needs to be treated to erad­i­cate the prob­lem.

Clean­ing and dis­in­fect­ing the en­vi­ron­ment is also an im­por­tant part of lice con­trol. Leav­ing open ground un­oc­cu­pied in the sum­mer for a pe­riod of weeks can help to break the in­fec­tion cy­cle by des­ic­cat­ing the par­a­sites in the en­vi­ron­ment.


Mange in pigs tends to start on the head, colonis­ing the ears and caus­ing head­shak­ing. In­fec­tion then spreads to the body, tail and legs. Se­vere crust­ing will de­velop around the ears, be­hind the el­bows and there may be a gen­eral dis­coloura­tion to the coat.

Mange is in­tensely itchy and is also some­times as­so­ci­ated with an al­ler­gic dis­ease. Pigs that have been pre­vi­ously in­fected may be­come sen­si­tised and if ex­posed to the mite again have a se­vere re­ac­tion. Lots of red spots ap­pear over the body and take weeks to dis­ap­pear. The al­ler­gic re­ac­tion is ter­ri­bly itchy and can cause the pigs to lose weight and self­trau­ma­tise. An­other rel­a­tively com­mon con­se­quence of mange is ‘greasy pig’ dis­ease. This is a bac­te­rial in­fec­tion that can oc­cur sec­ondary to skin dam­age and is par­tic­u­larly com­mon in young pigs.

Treat­ment of mange is very sim­i­lar to that of lice in­fes­ta­tions, but vet­eri­nary as­sis­tance should be sought if a pig has an al­ler­gic re­ac­tion to the mites or a sus­pected bac­te­rial in­fec­tion. It is im­por­tant to review your par­a­site con­trol plan at your an­nual vet­eri­nary health plan visit.

Skin par­a­sites can be elim­i­nated

Keep pigs free from skin par­a­sites

Char­lotte Mouland is a vet with Syn­ergy Farm Health Ltd in Dorset which is a mem­ber of XL Vets

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