Introduction to Common Pig Diseases
There are several pig diseases that you should be aware of if you raise pigs. I’ve listed the most common pig diseases. Being aware of the diseases is important, but so is diagnosing pig diseases. Pig diseases and symptoms will vary with age group, housing situations, stress level and environmental factors.
I’ve broken down the most common pig diseases for you. Learn what causes common swine diseases, how to identify common pig diseases and how you can prevent and treat these diseases.
Common Pig Diseases #1- Greasy Pig
Greasy pig goes by many names- greasy pig, exudative dermatitis, marmite disease, etc. It is a skin infection that can be fatal if left untreated.
Causes of Greasy Pig
Greasy pig, also called Exudative dermatitis, is caused by several strains of the Staphylococcus hyicus bacteria. This bacteria lives on the pig’s skin naturally and doesn’t always cause infection. Greasy pig is more likely to occur if the pig is already suffering from:
- nutritional deficiencies (vitamins and zinc)
- ringworms or lice
- a suppressed immune system
- poor hygiene
- poor ventilation
- high humidity
- abrasions and cuts on the skin or even
- genetic susceptibility
Identifying Greasy Pig
Greasy pig is an easy disease to identify as it creates lesions on the skin. Before the lesions occur, this swine disease will cause depression and anorexia. The first lesions are easily missed. Pigs will then develop brown spots on the face and the head.
The brown spots spread from the head towards the back of the pig. The brown spots turn into brown and black crusty areas on the skin. Lesions will continue to grow in size and eventually begin to merge with one another.
Greasy pig is most commonly seen in piglets that are less than eight weeks old. It can be seen in older pigs but is generally less severe in older pigs. Older pigs will usually only have head lesions.
Death in young pigs is higher. Young piglets often die within 3-5 days of showing symptoms. Surviving pigs will remain slow to put on weight.
Preventing and Treating Greasy Pig
There is not a good treatment for greasy pig. It is easier to prevent the disease than it is to treat it.
Preventing greasy pig can be accomplished by providing a better environment and sanitary conditions. Greasy pig is hard to treat.
Research treatments for greasy pig include injecting antimicrobials or spraying the pigs several times with a 10% bleach solution, chlorohexidine, Virkon Durvet or diluted iodine.
Common Pig Diseases #2- Coccidiosis
Coccidiosis is a common causes of scours in piglets. It accounts for approximately 1/3 of all piglet diarrhea cases.
Causes of Coccidiosis
Coccidiosis in swine is caused by Eimeria and Isospora.
Coccidiosis causes swelling of the small intestine and diarrhea.
Diarrhea caused by coccidiosis is watery, greasy diarrhea that is usually a yellowish-white color. The diarrhea is also very foul smelling and smells ‘sick’.
Coccidiosis is seen most commonly in piglets that are 5-15 days old. It is less common, but does occur in older piglets that are one-three months old. Older pigs will stay sick for approximately 7-10 days.
Coccidiosis creates weak, undersized and dehydrated piglets. It can be fatal although the infection itself isn’t usually thought to be the direct cause of death. Piglets that die are usually covered in liquid feces. This causes them to remain damp and too cold, causing death.
Piglets that survive coccidiosis have a very high resistance to repeat infections.
Preventing and Treating Coccidiosis
Preventing coccidiosis can be accomplished by cleaning and sanitizing farrowing areas thoroughly between litters. Some research suggests that coccidiosis is transmitted from sows to piglets.
To prevent transmission, sows can be fed anticoccidial medication. The anticoccidial can be fed up to two weeks prior to the estimated farrowing date. Anticoccidials can be fed through lactation and weaning.
Coccidiosis can be treated with sulfamethazine in the drinking water. Amprolium and monensin are not effective treatments in swine coccidiosis. Some research studies indicated that toltrazuril or diclazuril may be effective treatments for this common swine disease.
Common Pig Diseases #3- Respiratory Diseases
Swine respiratory disease (SRD) is the #1 cause of pig mortality in the United States.
Causes of Respiratory Diseases
Swine respiratory diseases include numerous types of infections caused by multiple organisms. Organisms that can cause swine respiratory diseases include:
- Mycoplasma hyopnuemoniae
- Actinobacillus pleuropneumonia (APP)
- Bordetella bronchiseptica
- Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) virus
- Swine Influenza virus (SIV)
Secondary causes of swine respiratory diseases are common. These organisms will also infect the respiratory system along with the above organisms:
- Pasteurella multocida
- Streptococcus suis
- Haemophilus parasuis
- Salmonella choleraesuis
Identifying Respiratory Diseases
The symptoms of the various swine respiratory disease vary along with the causing organism.
APP is severe and highly contagious. It can cause sudden death and shows few respiratory signs. Pigs with APP have a decreased appetite, appear depressed and develop a high fever (up to 107 degrees F).
Late stage symptoms can include open-mouthed breathing, coughing and a foamy, blood-tinted discharge from the nose and mouth.
Some pigs with APP will develop blue skin from a lack of oxygen available in the blood stream. Late stage symptoms indicate imminent death.
PRRS attacks white blood cells in the lungs. This creates an ideal site for infection and usually leads to secondary infections in the lungs. Pigs with PRRS will have a fever and will go off of feed.
PRRS doesn’t normally causes coughing like some of the other respiratory diseases. It can be spread easily through secretions and bodily fluids. The PRRS virus can also become airborne, traveling up to two miles.
SIV occurs rapidly (symptoms show within 12-48 hours after infection). It is identified by a harsh, barking cough. Pigs will also have flu-like symptoms including a decreased appetite, lethargy and high fevers (105-107 degrees F).
Fevered pigs will try to pile on top of one another. SIV will also cause open-mouthed breathing that is labored. This labored breathing will develop into ‘thumping’, a type of strained abdominal breathing.
Pleuropneumonia is highly contagious. Pigs with pleuropneumonia will appear anorexic, develop a fever and have labored breathing.
Preventing and Treating Respiratory Diseases
Preventing respiratory diseases in swine is easier than trying to diagnose and treat the cause of the respiratory disease. Also, many of the respiratory diseases will develop carrier pigs. Some of the viruses responsible for causing the disease will become latent in a previously infected pig. This means that the pig carries a dormant version of the virus. This virus can be transmitted to other pigs through contact with the carrier pig.
Decrease the spread of respiratory disease by sanitizing between groups of pigs. Closed herd (herds with no new pigs introduced) usually have less problems with respiratory diseases.
Avoid high levels of stress, temperature fluctuations and damp environments. All of these make pigs more likely to develop a respiratory infection. Also, make sure that your pigs are not crowded in their confinements. If needed, decrease your stocking rate. Pigs that are crowded together will spread infections rapidly.
Some of the respiratory diseases can be prevented with vaccines. Unfortunately, not all of them have vaccines. Check with your veterinarian to see which vaccines are available. Also, many of these diseases are treatable only if they are caught early.
For more information about swine respiratory diseases, check out Swine Resources’ Swine Respiratory Disease page. You can see new research, treatments and information about the swine respiratory diseases.
Common Pig Diseases #4- Swine Dysentery
This disease is another common cause of diarrhea in young piglets. It is often associated with spirochaetal colitis.
Causes of Swine Dysentery
Swine dysentrery (SD) is an infection that leads to swelling of the large intestine. It is transmitted several ways:
- ingestion of infected feces
- birds and flies
- fomites (non-living objects such as feeders, waterers, etc.)
- carrier pigs and
- infected rodents
Identifying Swine Dysentery
SD is easily identified by the production of mucohemorrhagic diarrhea. ‘Muco-‘ meaning mucus, ‘hemorrhagic’ meaning bloody.
Swine dysentery is first identified with a gray or yellow diarrhea. The diarrhea has some mucous present.
Diarrhea becomes gradually more mucousy and bloody. Pigs with dysentery will have continuous tail-twitching and may have a sunken, humped appearance.
The large amount of fresh blood in the feces can stain the perineal area. Dysentery causes extreme and frequent diarrhea. This leads to rapid dehydration. You may notice pigs with SD drinking large amounts of water.
Dysentery is usually seen in piglets that are less than three weeks old. It can be seen in all age groups but is much less common in older pigs. Cases of dysentery rise in late summer and early fall.
Preventing and Treating Swine Dysentery
Swine dysentery is problematic in the industry because antibiotic resistance is becoming increasingly popular. Because of this, medication should be a last resort.
Pigs that have dysentery or are high risk for dysentery should be isolated from healthy pigs. Areas where pigs with SD were should be thoroughly disinfected.
It’s also a good idea to have a good rodent control plan in place. Rodents can carry dysentery. They can directly infect pigs through direct contact or indirectly through the contamination of feed.
Common Pig Diseases #5- Mastitis
Mastitis is an infection and/or inflammation of the milk producing (mammary) tissues of the udder.
Causes of Mastitis
Swine mastitis is caused two ways. Previously uninfected teats may be infected with bacteria, causing infection. If milk cannot let down properly, bacteria will remain in the udder and reproduce, causing infection.
There are many reasons that mastitis can develop:
- poor hygiene
- warm, wet living conditions
- contact with excess fecal material
- blood infections can lead to udder infections
- old infections that were not completely treated
Mastitis is easily identified. You’ll notice red, swollen, fevered udders. It can affect one teat or multiple teats at a time. The udder will be very sensitive and tender upon touching.
Sows with mastitis may not nurse their piglets. Piglets will look unthrifty and will not gain weight. They will also squeal to indicate that they are hungry.
Mastitis is most commonly seen at or right after farrowing. It is also common to see at weaning.
Chronic mastitis will create large lumps of scar tissue. Scar tissue can be felt in the udder and is not tender like an infected udder.
Preventing and Treating Mastitis
The udder can be cleaned daily with a dairy teat dip with iodine. The iodine teat dip can be used before farrowing and up until 2 days after farrowing. A feed with an antibiotic can also be given to prevent infection.
Clean and disinfect the farrowing areas before and after litters to prevent infection due to environmental bacteria.
On weaning day, sows can be given long-acting injections of penicillin, oxytetracycline or amoxycillin to prevent mastitis infection. Veterinarians may prescribe oxytocin, penicillin and streptomycin, trimethoprim/sulpha, amoxycillin, framycetin, tylosin, enrofloxacin and ceftiofur. They may also recommend injections of flunixin and doses of corticosteriods.
Sows that cannot get rid of mastitis (chronic sows) should be culled.
Common Pig Diseases #6- Porcine Parvovirus
Porcine Parvovirus is a common cause of reproductive failure in gilts and sows.
Causes of Porcine Parvovirus
This disease is caused by the parvovirus.
Identifying Porcine Parvovirus
Porcine Parvovirus can be identified by reproductive failures. Pigs with PPV appear to be healthy in all other aspects. PPV causes increased return to estrus (failed pregnancy), decreased litter sizes, failure to farrow, decreased farrowing rate and mummified piglets. Rarely, abortions will occur.
Reproductive failure is more commonly seen in gilts than older sows.
Parvovirus in other species creates diarrhea and is usually identified by the presence of diarrhea. It does not cause diarrhea in pigs and should not be used as an indicating symptom.
Preventing and Treating Porcine Parvovirus
Porcine parvovirus is very hardy in the environment. It is hard to eliminate with disinfectants. There is no treatment available for porcine parvovirus.
All breeding pigs should be vaccinated for PPV. Vaccines for PPV should be given twice. The doses should be given two weeks apart. The doses should be given several weeks before breeding.
Parvovirus in swine is transmitted through feces and bodily fluids. An infected mother can also pass PPV to her unborn piglets through placenta fluids.
Studies have shown that PPV can also be transmitted through semen in natural breeding and artificial insemination. The virus has been found living within semen of infected boars.
Final Thoughts on Common Pig Diseases (and keeping your herd healthy)
The best way of disease prevention is cleanliness. Don’t let your pigs be exposed to humid, wet or unsanitary living conditions. These are prime environments for disease-causing organisms to thrive. It is usually easier to sanitize and disinfect concrete. This is one of the reasons that I chose to raise my pigs on concrete.
Keep your pigs vaccinated for parvovirus and respiratory diseases to prevent them from becoming sick. Monitor your pigs daily so that you understand their personalities. Many diseases can be caught early by pigs appearing depressed or lethargic.
It’s also important that you keep good records of your pigs. Pigs that are repeatedly sick or develop the same illness multiple times may need to be culled.
Heritage breeds may offer some increased resistance to illness, including common pig diseases, so raising heritage breeds may be beneficial.
You may also be interested in these posts-
How to choose a boar for breeding
Benefits of artificial insemination
Pig pregnancy questions answered
Beginner’s guide to raising pigs
Have you had some of these common pig diseases in your herd? How do you prevent disease? Leave me a comment below and let me know!
My two male piglets were swollen in their private parts, while we were still waiting for the vet due to long waiting list they died. What could be the problem?
I’m assuming that these were new piglets? The swelling could be normal if they were newborn and could be unrelated to their death. If they were older than a few days and having this issue, it could have been an infection. I would talk more to your vet about it and make sure that you don’t need to have some preventative tests run on your other pigs.