8 Pig Diseases the Small Producer Should Know
Learn Pig Diseases Signs and Symptoms
Reading Time: 6 minutes
While pigs are generally a hardy livestock to raise, you should be aware of certain pig diseases and how to proceed, should your pig become ill. Pigs raised with good hygiene, appropriate shelter and nutritious food will have few problems but can still become infected. The current commercially produced pig is almost a different animal than the more naturally raised, pastured pig. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses that can contribute to the occurrence of pig diseases. Pig farming for beginners must include knowledge of various pig diseases.
Our pigs are not raised in a typical confinement setting. Although they are enclosed with fencing, they have room to roam and root, basically acting like wild hogs. Raising pigs on pasture allows them to dig up dirt with their snouts, searching for roots and grubs and whatever other goodies might lie beneath the soil surface. They lie in wallows of mud and water. We feed grain and hay to supplement the nutrition they forage for themselves. Additionally, we practice biosecurity making sure the pig area is not open to visitors or other animals, especially visitors who also raise hogs.
Confinement-raised hogs are often reared on concrete or steel for ease of cleaning. They have little to no room to roam and root or act like a pig. This leads to a different animal than the more naturally-raised pig. Removing a species from its natural tendencies causes stress. Stress makes an animal more susceptible to disease and illness.
Kelly Klober notes in his book, Storey’s Guide to Raising Pigs, (Storey Publishing, 2009), that even if you plan to raise a more natural hog, buying from a conventional confinement stock will still require you to selectively breed vigor back into your herd. Klober recommends breeding for maternal traits such as mothering ability and quick deliveries. You should select piglets based on size, growth rate, and a strong will to live. This advice is good for any breed of pig you choose to raise. Red Wattle pigs or Mangalista pigs are both susceptible to pig diseases.
Signs of Pig Diseases and Illness
Sick pigs are slow to get up and show less interest in food. They may not eat at all. The pig will act depressed and disinterested. Diarrhea, vomiting, stiff gait, uncoordinated walk, and glazed eyes can all signal a serious illness.
8 Pig Diseases to Watch for in Your Herd
There are innumerable pig diseases that can occur in a herd. Some are more common than others. Thankfully, many serious pig diseases have all but been eradicated with vaccines, good husbandry, and management. You may come into contact with some in the following list as you raise your pigs.
Mastitis in an udder infection that can appear before or after farrowing. E. coli in the environment is usually found to be the cause. Symptoms can include a swollen, sore, red udder, fever and discharge. Economically, the infection can lead to the sow not allowing the piglets to nurse, causing piglet death. Acute mastitis can lead to the death of the gilt or sow. Older sows are more likely to have the sub-acute form of mastitis. Streptococci or staphylococci are the likely cause. The treatment for both forms include antibiotics prescribed by a veterinarian along with creating a cleaner farrowing pen and better hygiene for the farrowing sow.
Atrophic rhinitis or rhinitis is a general term for respiratory illness in swine. Sneezing, runny discharge, and runny eyes can be signs. The economic effect is slow growth in piglets because of lowered food intake. In extreme cases, the bones in the nose twist and the snout grows crooked. Pneumonia can occur because the pigs are weak from rhinitis.
Greasy Pig Disease
Greasy pig disease is caused by a staphylococcus infection. Often the scenario includes a skin injury or infection with mites (mange) that goes untreated. Nutrition can affect the severity. Greasy pig disease is more common in piglets. You notice skin flakes and a crusty secretion. The skin may crack. Using antibiotics and medicated shampoo is the treatment.
Scours is another name for diarrhea in livestock. Diet, infections and even stress can cause scours. It is a dangerous condition because dehydration can occur quickly and suddenly. Scours in your herd or in one animal is a good reason to consult with your veterinarian and take precautions against dehydration. Using rehydration solutions is a good place to start, as dehydration can lead to a quick death. Oral glucose and electrolyte products for livestock are good. You can also use Gatorade, Pedialyte and homemade electrolyte solutions. Keep the animals warm and dry during the illness.
Leptospirosis pomona can wreak havoc in a pig herd. It can cause a lot of different issues, including, fever, diarrhea, not eating, abortion, stillbirths, and weak piglets. Infected urine from dogs, cows, rats, and pigs carries the virus. The organism enters through the nasal passages, mouth, or a cut in the skin. A vaccine is available.
Pigs get the flu just as humans do. Humans and pigs can transmit the flu virus back and forth. The parasitic lungworm can transmit influenza through its eggs. The lungworm infection process includes the earthworm which is ultimately eaten by the pig. The flu onset is sudden. It includes a dry cough, fever, discharge from eyes and nose and little to no appetite. When weakened by flu, the animal is susceptible to secondary infections. If the sow becomes ill with flu while pregnant, the piglets might be small and not thrive. Unless a secondary infection occurs, the treatment is keeping the animals warm, comfortable, dry and hydrated as the virus runs its course.
Transmissible Gastroenteritis – TGE
TGE is a coronavirus and is very contagious. The pig ingests the virus from the environment. Dogs, birds, other infected pigs, and boots can bring the disease to the pigs. The rate of recovery is better in older hogs. Young pigs often die from diarrhea and vomiting. Extreme nursing care is about all you can do. Focusing on preventing dehydration and keep watch for a secondary infection, as with influenza, that can require an antibiotic treatment.
Parasites and the control of them will be an ongoing farm management task. Pasture and paddock rotation, good cleaning and sanitizing of stalls and equipment, and reducing stress for the animals will help reduce pig diseases from parasites. Internal parasites include worms and microorganisms. External parasites such as mites, ticks, and lice are easier to see and treat, but they can prove stubborn. Bacteria in the environment such as E.Coli, Salmonella, Staphylococcus, and can all cause illness in weakened or stressed animals. Pasture rotation and appropriate parasite control products are important. Keep good notes on what steps you take to control parasites.
Types of Parasites Common in Pigs
The worms commonly associated with raising pigs include roundworms, lungworms, whipworms, and red stomach worms. Some deworming products are added to the water, feed or injected. Coccidostats are administered in the treatment of coccidia, a microorganism that causes diarrhea and failure to thrive. Lice and mites are often battled with dust products, pour on liquids or injections. You should read the label carefully on products used. Withdrawal time is usually a factor before you can butcher the animal or send it to market.
Organic methods may be something you would prefer to use. When you use organic methods of parasite control, pasture rotation is even more important. Breaking the life cycle of the worm or parasite is key to effective worm control.
Many hog diseases have been mostly eradicated with good agricultural practices, modern antibiotics, and cleanliness. Hog cholera, trichinellosis, and brucellosis have significantly declined or been eradicated in the United States, although outbreaks still occur in other countries. In our years of raising a small pasture herd, the only disease we have had to deal with is mastitis. Knowing what to look for in your herd and being ready to take action will help your pigs recover should an illness strike your farm.