Common Types of Pig Diseases, Symptoms and Treatment

A key to a profitable swine production business is a healthy breed of pigs. One of the many challenges swine raisers face is when their breed starts to show signs of diseases. Breeding farm managers and staff should be able to detect symptoms of diseases and take necessary precautions, alert the veterinarian, or both. A suitable medication within the early stages of a disease is essential and can go a long way to save the herd while maintaining a healthy production streak.

Swine diseases can be categorized as during pre-weaning, growing/finishing, and breeding periods.

A. Pre-weaning period

Colibacillosis

Colibacillosis is a common disease that is caused by Escherichia coli bacteria. It is of significant economic importance concerning the loss of livestock. It is the most common infectious bacterial disease of poultry and is seen in cattle, pigs, goats, and other mammals. It can be detected in pigs through symptoms such as severe diarrhea caused by enteritis, lameness, stunted growth, inactivity, lack of appetite and water consumption, and unresponsiveness. As treatment for this disease remains an emerging field in colibacillosis studies, focus is mainly focused on prevention. This includes prevention of fecal contamination in newborn piglets and ventilating the incubators/houses where the animals are kept.

Exudative dermatitis

The visible signs of this disease are skin lesions, probably caused by infection of the bacteria Staphylococcus hyicus. In severe cases of this greasy pig disease, death can occur, especially when bacteria penetrates and damages the liver and kidneys. At first, lesions appear on dark parts of the skin, which later spread and became flaky. Usually, antibiotics are used to treat the infection, along with skin protectants and autogenous vaccines. The key to prevention is improving hygiene in piglet enclosure as well as its design to prevent the introduction of infection through skin abrasions caused by rough floors.

Coccidiosis

Coccidiosis is a parasitic disease of the intestinal tract of animals caused by coccidian protozoa that causes diarrhea. Such episodes can be bloody, often between 10 and 21 days of age and up to 15 weeks of age. Acute cases are treated with fluid therapy and coccidiostats. Secondary infections can result from damage to the intestinal wall. Preventative treatment of sows infected with coccidiostats is appropriate. Hygiene should be improved to end the cycle of disease; sow feces are a significant source of infection, and flies help spread it. Providing a warm, dry, clean creep area will help to reduce the parasite load and the likelihood of coccidial disease.

B. Post-weaning and growing period

Respiratory diseases

Respiratory diseases among pigs translate to coughing, sneezing, and abdominal breathing. Undetected and untreated cases can lead to reduced growth rates and potential pig deaths. To treat such diseases, antibiotics can be administered as part of feeds or drinking water or injected. To prevent such health conditions, proper ventilation should be maintained. Also, appropriate environmental conditions are needed to keep respiratory diseases at bay. For example, high levels of ammonia in the surrounding can make pigs more susceptible to infections. Vaccines are available for some forms of pneumonia, although the strain affecting a farm should be identified to help exercise a proper treatment.

Swine dysentery

Carried by rodents, swine dysentery caused by the bacteria Brachyspira hyodsenteriae can cause pigs to suffer from diarrhea. As a result, growth rates of post-weaning pigs are reduced, and in some cases, deaths can occur. Antibiotics are used to treat the disease, either in feed, water, or as an injectable. Reducing stocking density can be an effective way of reducing infection pressure and stress in the herd. As well as improving hygiene levels, rodent control is a high priority; rodents are a vector for this disease. The strategy for buying and introducing replacement stock should be reviewed, as this a significant route of disease introduction.

C. Breeding stock

Mastitis

Mastitis is inflammation of one or more mammary glands caused by a variety of bacteria species or secondary to other diseases. It is a common condition that occurs sporadically in individual sows or sometimes as a herd outbreak associated with a specific infection. Symptoms include loss of appetite, reduced milk production, and higher body temperature. Antibiotics, along with anti-inflammatory drugs, are effective treatments. Oxytocin may be used to encourage let down of milk, and corticosteroids can be prescribed. Hygiene in farrowing housing is essential, along with nutrition during late pregnancy, to promote immunity. Stress can also be a factor, and it is vital to make sure that sow housing facilities are not damaging teats. This disease has a significant effect on productivity because of the potential impact of reducing the number of piglets weaned by sows.

Porcine parvovirus

Porcine parvovirus is the most common and important cause of infectious infertility. Pregnant sows infected with parvovirus are likely going to experience adverse reproductive performance such as mummification, and stillbirths can occur, resulting in small litter sizes. Accurate diagnosis is essential as other reproductive diseases share the same symptoms. The virus can survive outside the host for several months; parvovirus can be endemic in most herds. Other pigs can spread the virus, although most of the damage takes place during pregnancy. At the moment, there are no treatments available; to prevent this disease, routine vaccination of gilts is advisable.

The following tables are taken from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Department of Australia’s State of Queensland.

Table 1. Diseases of the pre-weaning period

Disease Major Signs Treatment Prevention Remarks
Colibacillosis (E. coli) Diarrhoea (scours) ; sudden death Fluid therapy; antibiotics (I,O,W); warmth Improve hygiene; vaccinate sow/gilts; provide a warm clean creep area Coccidiosis may be involved
Coccidiosis Diarrhoea at 10-21 days of age Fluid therapy; coccidiostats Improve hygiene; provide a warm, clean creep area
Overlay / trauma Sudden death None Provide a warm, clean creep area; check farrowing crate design
Starvation (hypo-glycaemia) Weakness; death Dextrose solutions; supplementary feeding Improve sow's milk supply Ensure gilts have adequate functional teats
Stillbirths Born dead None Various methods Many causes; consult a veterinarian
Miscellaneous infections Lameness; sudden death Antibiotics (I) Improve hygiene; repair flooring Infection due to bacteria; swollen joints commonly seen
Exudative epidermitis (greasy pig) Skin lesions; death Antibiotics; skin protectant; vitamins Improve hygiene; provide a dry, warm, clean creep area; prevent skin abrasions Staphylococcus hyicus infection

Table 2. Diseases of the post-weaning period

Disease Major Signs Treatment Prevention Remarks
Colibacillosis (E. coli) Diarrhoea (scours) ; sudden death Fluid therapy; antibiotics (I,O,W); warmth Improve hygiene; vaccinate sow/gilts; provide a warm clean creep area A common and expensive problem
Respiratory disease Coughing; sneezing; reduced growth rate; sometimes death Antibiotics (I,W,F); improved ventilation and environment Improve ventilation; reduce stocking density; reduce stress; antibiotics; vaccinate Enzootic pneumonia; pleuropneumonia ; pasteurellosis; Glasser's disease ; Streptococcus suis
Swine dysentery Diarrhoea with blood; diarrhoea; reduced growth rates; death Antibiotics (I,W,F); reduced stocking density Improve hygiene; antibiotics (F) Avoid purchasing infected pigs; control rodents
Proliferative enteropathy (PE)(ileitis) Diarrhoea with blood; diarrhoea; reduced growth rate; sudden death Antibiotics (I,W,F); iron; vitamin B Antibiotics (F) Three main syndromes affecting different aged pigs
Sarcoptic mange Itching; dermatitis; rubbing; scratching; reduced growth rate Miticidal sprays; pour-ons; injection and in-feed premix Strategically treat breeder pigs and weaners/growers May go unnoticed in a herd; may add to pneumonia problems; pigs of all ages can be affected
Intestinal torsion Sudden death Diet manipulation None A common cause of death in some herds
Gastric ulceration Loss of appetite; vomiting; death Rarely effective Manipulate diet, including feed coarseness; reduce stress; reduce disease Probably feed and disease related; can affect pigs of any age
Erysipelas Arthritis; skin lesions; reduced growth rate; condemnations at slaughter Antibiotics (I) Vaccinate Most losses occur between two and six months of age
Internal parasites (worms) Diarrhoea; reduced growth rate; pneumonia Parasiticides in-feed or injection Parasiticides Roundworm; whipworm; kidney worm
Exudative epidermitis (greasy pig) Skin lesions; death Antibiotics; skin protectant; vitamins protectant; vitamins Improve hygiene; provide a dry, warm, clean weaner pen; prevent skin abrasions Staphylococcus hyicus infection

Table 3. Diseases of breeder pigs

Disease Major Signs Treatment Prevention Remarks
Farrowing sickness (mastitis, metritis, agalactia - MMA) Reduced milk production; loss of appetite; higher body temperature Antibiotics (I,W,F); oxytocin; anti-inflammatory drugs Reduce feeding prior to farrowing; ensure good hygiene in farrowing crate; reduce stress on sows Reduces number of pigs weaned per sow; infection due to bacteria
Lameness Premature culling; reduced herd fertility Rarely effective I Improve floor design; control erysipelas; prevent injuries; reduce conformation defects Regularly check breeder pigs for leg lesions
Vaginal discharge syndrome Reproductive tract infections Antibiotics (I,W,F); antibiotic treatment of boar's prepuce Cull affected animals; improve hygiene of mating pens and dry-sow shed Caused by bacteria and poor hygiene
Bladder infection (cystitis) Kidney infection Blood-stained urine Reluctance to stand; sudden death Antibiotics (I,W,F) Antibiotic infection of boar's prepuce Antibiotics Increase water intake; improve hygiene in dry sow shed Boars transmit bacteria to sows and gilts at mating
Leptospirosis Stillborn or weakborn pigs; abortion; returns to service Antibiotics (I,W,F) Vaccinate Can also affect humans
Erysipelas Abortions; reproductive failure Antibiotics (I,W,F) Vaccinate Can also cause arthritis and skin lesions
Gastric torsion (see intestinal torsion ) Sudden death None Feed twice or three times per day; do not overfeed hungry pigs Commonly seen when level of feeding is increased
Gastric ulcers Loss of appetite; vomiting; depraved appetite; blood in dung; sudden death Antibiotics (I); wet feed Investigate feed, fineness, crude fibre and vitamin E/selenium; reduce stress Can occur in pigs of any age
Porcine parvovirus Mummification; returns to service; stillborn and weak-born piglets None Vaccinate Endemic and epidemic forms of this disease; fewer pigs sold per sow a year

Conclusion

As you can see in the list of diseases above, many of these can be prevented, with recurring themes such as proper hygiene, sufficient ventilation, and reducing stress among pigs’ important elements in keeping the swineherd healthy. Vaccination further helps secure the health of the herd, and immunity can be further boosted with optimal nutrition. Vaccines have been developed and are routinely given for many diseases. However, producers should remain vigilant and make sure that all stock people know the signs and symptoms of common diseases.