Learn More About a Disease

Exudative dermatitis

Exudative epidermitis is caused by the Gram positive bacterium, Staphylococcus hyicus. It is a skin condition that can occur at any age, although it is most common in suckling piglets or piglets that have recently been weaned. It has been found throughout hog producing countries and spreads to most farms. Staphylococcus hyicus can be isolated in the snout, eyes, and on the skin of healthy pigs, and in the vaginas of healthy sows. The microorganism can last for several weeks on a farm1.

This pathology is most severe in animals born of unvaccinated sows. Injuries caused by fighting, castration, teeth and tail cutting, or abrasive flooring or pens can penetrate through the protective layers of the skin. Exudative epidermitis lesions are associated with exfoliated toxins produced by S. hyicus. Skin changes are accompanied by increased secretions of the sebaceous glands and serous effusions. Death from exudative epidermitis is usually associated with dehydration, although it can also be caused by septicemia and arthritis.

Clinical Signs +

The classic form of the disease is easily identifiable. Piglets do not experience much itchiness. The skin seems greasy and hairs stick together. In the first days after weaning, piglets can develop lesions at the sites of cuts and wounds caused by fighting. Some piglets have only localized lesions, while others can have clinical signs of lethargy and skin that quickly becomes reddish. Fine brown scabs may appear under the armpits, in the groin, on the stomach and behind the ears. This exudate may cover the entire surface of the skin. After a few days, the skin turns dark and develops a greasy texture. Severely affected pigs lose weight very quickly and generally die within a few days1.

Diagnosis +

There are generally no issues with clinical diagnosis. It is easy to isolate Staphyloccocus hyicus.

Treatment +

Treatment involves using parenteral antibiotics or spraying piglets with oil to which low-irritant antiseptics or antibiotics have been added. Several weeks may be required before the animals regain their normal appearance. This is why one cannot conclude too hastily that a treatment has not worked. However, in the event of treatment failure, the sensitivity of the bacterial strains involved must be assessed. Penicillin resistance may be observed in 30 to 50% of cases. Consult a veterinarian before administering antibiotics and vaccines to the animals. Your veterinarian is the best person to talk to for recommendations that are right for your farm1


1 Maladies d’élevage des porcs (Hog Farming Diseases), 2nd edition, Guy Pierre Martineau

Prevention +

Early intervention is probably the most important factor. Risk factors may also be reduced by limiting adoptions, which will decrease the level of fighting and, consequently, cutaneous lesions. It is also possible not to cut teeth, and to adapt castration and tail cutting methods to reduce the number of cutaneous wounds.


1 Maladies d’élevage des porcs (Hog Farming Diseases), 2nd edition, Guy Pierre Martineau