On this week’s episode of Dr. K’s Exotic Animal ER: Pot-Bellied Pig Out, Dr. Kelleher has two appointments to spay pot-bellied pigs. Dr. K notes that, “The reason for spaying pot-bellied pigs is to adjust behavior problems and to prevent uterine disease later in life.” Preventative medicine is an important component of our pets’ health. So Dr. K also inquires about other potential health issues with the pigs.
Zoe, the pig, has taken her love for food a little too far and needs to go on a diet for the sake of her health. And although Oinkers, a fourteen-week-old pot-bellied pig is at a healthy body weight, Dr. K. also asks about her skin and if it has been itchy. Pot-bellied pigs are extremely prone to scabies, which Dr. K notes that it is a frequent problem with the pigs she sees in the clinic. In fact, scabies, which is also called mange in animals, occurs in more than 100 different species including birds.
Scabies and Mange
Mange is caused by a microscopic parasitic mite that infests the skin of the host. The mites are typically host specific, meaning that they can only thrive on one particular species of animal. Different types of the mites infest different species of animals, including humans. Scabies is a type of mange, which is caused by a particular species of mite.
Animals afflicted with mange suffer from severe itching and often from hair loss. This itchiness is caused when the female mite burrows below the skin to lay eggs which hatch in 3 to 10 days, emerge, mature and the process starts all over again.
Animals are most commonly affected on their elbows, ears, face and chest. In later stages the animal’s skin will take on a crusted and scaly appearance. This is usually first noticeable on the ear tips. When people contract human-specific scabies, they also suffer from intense itching, especially at night, and a pimple-like itchy rash. This can happen anywhere on the body.
Can Humans Get Scabies from Animals?
Dr. K and Oinkers’ “mom” joke about the possibility of contracting scabies from your pet pig. Is this possible? In fact, some mite species can also transfer from animals to humans. However, usually humans are not an effective host, so the mites cannot survive through their life cycle. The mites can definitely cause an allergic reaction and severe itching all the same. This should only last for a few days and no medication is required to kill the mites. Once you eliminate the scabies on your pet, you should no longer have an issue with being re-infected. Human-specific mites require treatment, but can only be passed from human to human through prolonged interaction.
If you suspect your pet has scabies, your veterinarian can help you with an effective treatment and well as with medicines to help ease the itching. Fortunately, Oinkers is free of scabies, but catching a case of the parasitic infection early can help pets avoid a lot of discomfort!