What You Should Know About the Pig Louse

The pig louse is the largest of the animal lice and spends its four-week lifespan on the pig’s skin.


The pig louse ( Haempatopinus suis ) is a 4–6 mm long wingless insect with a tripartite body (head, thorax, abdomen) and six articulated extremities, each bearing highly developed claws at the ends for gripping onto the host. The head is narrower than the following thoracic segment and has articulated antennae visible on the sides. Inside the head is a proboscis. The abdomen, which is divided into several segments, has heavily sclerotized chitin plates on the sides, which are called paralegal plates.


The pig louse is strictly host-specific and lives as an ectoparasite only on the pig. It is not viable for other animal species and humans.

Life cycle

All development of the pig louse takes place on the pig. The capped eggs ( nits ) are attached to the hair with a putty substance The first larval stage that hatches from the eggs molts through a 2nd and 3rd larval stage to form the adult males and females. The entire development cycle takes about four weeks.

Pig lice are bloodsuckers. Lice fallen by the host can only survive in the environment for a short time (about two days at room temperature). Lice are transmitted through contact from pig to pig.


Large lice can be detected directly on the pigs. For this purpose, the thin-skinned parts of the body should be examined in particular (e.g. inner surface of the ears, thighs, and armpits). To detect the nits, hair samples are taken and examined under a microscope.

Clinical picture

Lice cause itching and skin changes (formation of scales and crusts), and the withdrawal of blood can lead to anemia, especially in piglets and young animals. A high degree of lice infestation leads to reduced performance and reduced body mass gains.


The therapy is carried out with insecticides suitable for pigs. Since most insecticides are not effective against the nits, the treatment should be repeated after two weeks.

Lice infestation is one of the so-called ” factor diseases “, ie factors that promote lice infestation (e.g. vitamin and mineral deficiency, lack of light, too high housing density, malnutrition) should be eliminated.

Already knew?

  • Like the human head and body louse ( Pediculus humanus ), the pig louse belongs to the order of real lice (Anoplura)
  • The larval stages of the pig louse are similar to the adult lice, there are only slight differences in size, body proportions, and bristles.
  • The pig louse is the largest animal louse and can also be seen with the naked eye.
  • Pigs do not have their type of biting lice.
  • Young animals are often attacked more severely by lice.
  • Pig lice are considered to be carriers of swine fever and swine pox.

Frequently Asked Question

Is a pig clean?

They are very clean animals, strictly separate their sleeping place from their “toilet” and avoid soiling the feeding place. Since they cannot sweat, pigs are very sensitive to heat. They regulate their body temperature by bathing, rolling, or wallowing.

Do pigs have lice?

Pig lice are bloodsuckers. Lice fallen by the host can only survive in the environment for a short time (about two days at room temperature). Lice are transmitted through contact from pig to pig.

Hog lice, like most lice, are host specific. They usually spread among swine when the pigs are in close contact, as when they crowd together for warmth, shade, or comfort. Also, lice can spread to pigs moved into quarters recently vacated by lousy animals. Infested animals added to a clean herd often introduce lice.

Can pig lice transfer to humans?

Pigs get lice from other pigs. Swine lice are species specific and cannot live on any other animals or humans.

How do you control pig lice?

A variety of compounds effectively control lice on swine, including synergized pyrethrins; pyrethroids; the organophosphates phosmet, coumaphos, and tetrachlorvinphos; and the macrocyclic lactones ivermectin and doramectin.

What is mange in pigs?

Mange in pigs is caused by Sarcoptes scabiei var. suis (grave mite). Sarcoptes mites appear round and have four short pairs of legs, barely protruding beyond the body, with long, unjointed pretenses and bell-shaped pedicels.

Why do pigs scratch themselves?

Pig mange causes extreme itching: the animals scratch themselves and suffer from pustules that are distributed all over the body. Because the animals are restless, their performance decreases.

What is erysipelas in pigs?

Erysipelas is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae. Pigs are particularly affected, but also sheep and poultry, less often horses, cattle, and fish. Since it is a zoonosis, humans are also susceptible.


Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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