Since Oscar was a really young piglet, he has struggled with skin issues. At five weeks old, he came home from the breeder with sarcoptic mange which we immediately treated. A few months later, we noticed more signs of mange and took him back to the vet where Oscar was again diagnosed with mange and a secondary staph infection. We followed a rigorous mange treatment the second time while treating the staph infection with an antibiotic, and Oscar’s skin eventually cleared up.
For the past three months, Oscar’s skin has been healthy. His healthy skin is pink and soft, with very little brown discoloration and no scabbing. Also, aside from a few gentle head scratches on a chair each day, he doesn’t itch when his skin is healthy. Pigs are prone to dry skin and itchiness, but Oscar’s healthy itching is much different than his obsessive itching from mange.
A little over a week ago, I noticed some changes in Oscar’s skin. The skin from above his snout up to the top of his head and back underneath his mohawk had some brown discoloration and even some light scabbing, most noticeable on his ears. While it’s normal for mini pigs to have some brown discoloration on their skin, referred to as “pig rust”, it can also be symptomatic of a skin issue. I typically wipe down Oscar’s snout area and underneath his eyes every other day to keep it clean and free of pig rust, but recently the discoloration has been coming back more quickly and thicker. Most concerning are the little scabs on his skin, similar to the scabbing he had with sarcoptic mange.
Throughout the past week, I tried several different approaches to fix his skin issue. At first I thought his skin might be too dry, so I brushed him often and put lotion on him several times each day. When that didn’t work, I tried not brushing or putting lotion on him in case the oils were building up and combining with the dirt to give him the brown discoloration. When neither of those approaches worked, I blocked the heat vent he sits in front of for hours each day in case it was burning his skin and causing the scabbing. Blocking Oscar’s heat vent did not go over well with him!
When none of my “home remedies” helped and his skin continued to get worse, I had to consider what I’d been avoiding all along: maybe Oscar had mange again. The discoloration in his skin and the scabbing were not as severe as when he had mange, but they looked similar. However, some things didn’t add up. Oscar hasn’t been around any other pigs, and we thoroughly treated the house and our dog after his second round of mange, so I couldn’t figure out how he could possibly have mange again. Regardless, all of my thinking and worrying and speculating about whether it made sense that he had mange again wasn’t fixing the problem. I needed to just take him to the vet to find out and then face and deal with whatever the problem was to make sure Oscar was healthy.
I made an appointment and took Oscar to the vet yesterday afternoon. I was so nervous! My biggest fear was that he had mange again and we would have to isolate him for weeks. The vet examined Oscar’s skin and did a skin scrape. She told me that she wasn’t concerned about the brown discoloration since that can be normal and particularly noticeable on pink pigs like Oscar, but she said the scabbing isn’t normal and needed to be treated. After the exam, Oscar and I waited for the results.
The test results didn’t show any mites! After all of my stressing and worrying and rationalizing, I was so relieved that the vet didn’t find any mites on Oscar. Since we don’t have any evidence of mange, the vet believes Oscar has a bacterial infection on his skin and is treating it like the staph infection he had several months ago. I wish he didn’t have the skin infection, but I’m relieved it’s not contagious, it’s easy to treat with an oral liquid antibiotic, and that he should be back to normal soon.
The biggest lesson I learned in all this is that I just should’ve taken Oscar to the vet when I noticed the problem. Since I’m around Oscar the most, I’m the best judge of what’s normal and not normal with his skin. Instead of spending so much time and energy worrying about what the issue could have been, Oscar would have been better off going to the vet sooner so that we could identify the real issue and solution. If you notice any changes in your mini pig’s skin or have concerns about skin discoloration or scabbing, I recommend finding a veterinarian you trust and getting a skin scrape on your mini pig to make sure there are no mites or infections that need to be treated.
Oscar’s skin looks a little better already and hopefully will continue to improve as he takes his antibiotic!