Pigs can get sunburned and display several clinical signs, including reddened skin and blistering. This is usually seen on the snout and ears but can occur elsewhere such as on the back. The effect of sunburn can also run more than just skin deep and have an effect on a pig’s reproductive system and the maintenance of pregnancy.

The likelihood and severity of sunburn can differ according to a variety of factors including non-pigmented breeding stock, lack of shade, lack of wallowing, and poor maintenance of wallows.

As with most things, prevention is better than treatment, but if it’s too late for that, we also have some tips on how you can best treat sunburn in pigs.

Pig Sunburn Symptoms

Sunburn symptoms in pigs can vary depending on their stage of development. Some signs are more commonly seen in sows than piglets, for example.

The severity of sunburn in pigs can be thought of in three different ways, each with its own clinical signs.

First-degree sunburn is minor and shows up as a slight redness of the skin. A pig’s skin will be warm to the touch, tender and may even swell slightly.

Second-degree sunburn is more serious, not to mention more painful to pigs. A pig’s skin will look very red and irritated with more prominent swelling. It will also be tender to touch and blistering may appear.

Third-degree sunburn can be very serious. Clinically, a pig’s skin can look similar to as if had been burned or scaled, with very painful blisters and pressure-sensitive patches of red skin forming,

Piglets

  • Reddened skin

Sows

  • Reddened skin
  • Blistering
  • Wet dermatitis
  • Pigs show pain / discomfort
  • Illness
  • Reabsorption of embryos
  • Irregular returns
  • Abortions
  • Will not accept boar at mating

Weaners and Growers

  • Reddened skin
  • Blistering
  • Wet dermatitis
  • Pigs show pain / discomfort
  • Illness

Pig Sunburn Prevention

For pigs, sunburn can result in severe consequences, which is why you want to have a few prevention measures in place to reduce the likelihood of pigs getting sunburned in the first place.

General Tips

  • Whether it be artificial, such as in the case of large arcs and canopies, or relying on natural elements like trees/woodland, make sure that pigs have access to plenty of shade
  • To reflect light, paint an arc roof white and/or cover it in branches or foliage
  • If possible, use sprinkler systems around housing and create wallows
  • In the event that shade cannot be provided, apply sunscreen for protection

Sunscreen

When it comes to pigs and sunscreen, the two questions that everyone usually has on their mind are, can you use human sunscreen on pigs, and what sunscreen is the safest for pigs?

We would not recommend using human sunscreen on pigs because some of the ingredients may be toxic if ingested. However, as this doesn’t necessarily apply to every human sunscreen, you might still be able to use sunscreen designed for humans, though it would be smart to check with your vet first.

In any case, thankfully, there is no need to use human sunscreen. You can buy sunscreen that is specially formulated to be safe and effective for pigs.

Pig Sunburn Treatment

If it’s too late for prevention or if prevention measures didn’t work as well as you hoped, there are a few treatment options available.

For first-degree sunburn, proper moisturization is all that is required. Any signs of sunburn should disappear within a few days.

For second-degree sunburn, after a couple of days peeling may occur. Proper moisturization is required and it can be a good idea to use anti-bacterial ointment on any open sores.

For third-degree sunburn, a veterinarian should be seen as soon as possible who will recommend the best course of treatment.

Additionally, here are some other tips pig owners have had success with.

  • Placing a cool, wet towel on the neck and back of a pig will provide a very soothing effect. Just make sure that you regularly change the towel so the desired cooling effect will be continuous
  • Spray diluted vinegar on the pig’s skin due to its ability to remove heat
  • If any of your pigs have seriously been affected by sunburn, feed them electrolyte rebalancing solutions

Sunburn vs. Heat Stroke in Pigs

Sunburn can be uncomfortable and painful, though is rarely fatal in pigs. Heat stroke, on the other hand, can be fatal.

When a pig’s internal temperature for an extended period of time reaches a point where it can no longer increase moisture loss through increasing respiration and sweating, death can occur.

Heat stroke occurs when pigs are exposed to high temperatures combined with high humidity and poor ventilation. While sunstroke often goes along with sunburn, it does not have to be a correlating factor.

In the case of heat stroke, prevention is even more important than treatment due to the more serious dangers and consequences involved.