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Greasy Pig Disease

This is caused by the bacterium Staphylococcus hyicus which lives normally on the skin without causing disease. It is not known why sometimes it flares up and causes a dermatitis which oozes greasy fluid. It produces toxins which are absorbed into the system and damage the liver and kidneys. In the sucking piglet disease is usually confined to individual animals, but it can be a major problem in new gilt herds and weaned pigs. During the days immediately preceding farrowing the bacterium multiples profusely in the sow's vagina so that piglets are infected during the birth process or soon after.

Symptoms

Sows
  • Uncommon but localised lesions may be seen particularly behind the face and eyes.
Piglets
  • Severely affected piglets will die.
  • Localised lesions on the flanks and behind ears. Lesions usually commence with small, dark, localised areas of infection around the face or on the legs.
  • The skin along the flanks the belly and between the legs changes to a brown colour gradually involving the whole of the body.
  • The skin becomes wrinkled with flaking of large areas and it has a greasy feel.
  • In severe cases the skin turns black due to necrosis and the piglets die.
  • A more localised picture is seen if the sow has passed some immunity to the piglet, with small circumscribed lesions approximately 5-10mm in diameter that do not spread.
Weaners & Growers
  • Usually commence about 3 days after weaning with localised, brown areas of infection or dermatitis around the face or on the legs, where the skin has been damaged. It may ulcerate.
  • The skin along the flanks the belly and between the legs changes to a brown colour gradually involving the whole of the body.
  • The skin becomes wrinkled with flaking of large areas.
  • It progresses to a dark greasy texture and in severe cases turns black.
  • Such cases usually die due to the toxins produce by the staphylococci organisms.
  • In nurseries up to 15% of the population may be involved.
  • Dehydration is common.

Causes / Contributing factors

  • The sharp eye teeth cut the skin around the mouth during competition for a teat.
  • Abrasions on the knees from sucking may also trigger it off.
  • Abrasions from poor concrete surfaces or metal floors, side panels.
  • Faulty procedures for iron injections, removing tails and teeth.
  • Fighting and skin trauma at weaning.
  • Mange giving rise to skin damage.
  • Damage to the face by metal feeding troughs can precipitate disease.
  • Abnormal behaviour - tail biting, ear biting, navel sucking, flank biting.
  • Badly clipped teeth at birth.

Diagnosis

This is based on the characteristic skin lesions. It is important to culture the organism and carry out an antibiotic sensitivity test. A moist wet area should be identified, the overlying scab removed and a swab rubbed well into the infected area.

Further Reading

Click on the links below to find out more about this disease, including treatment, management control and prevention information. The top link is the main article on this disease.