Common diseases

This pig diseases guide is a reference list of pig diseases commonly encountered. It is not intended as an aid for diagnosing pig diseases but is intended to provide basic information about diseases that pork producers should be aware of. We recommend consulting a veterinarian for diagnosing, treating and controlling disease in the pig herd. The recognition of disease is extremely important to keep adverse effects on production and economic losses to a minimum.

When an antibiotic is used to treat and control a disease, the user must understand the reasons for its use, the correct dose rate and the antibiotic's withholding period (the minimum period that must elapse between the last use of the antibiotic and the slaughter of the treated animal). Where antibiotics are listed in this guide, the abbreviations following them stand for:

  • I - injectable
  • O - oral
  • W - in-water medication
  • F - in-feed medication.

Other chemicals, such as miticides, wormers and others, also have withholding periods that must be heeded to prevent the detection of chemical residues in pork.

Where vaccines for the prevention of disease are listed, they must be used according to manufacturers' recommendations or optimum vaccine antibody protection will not be produced and disease breakdowns may occur.

Table 1. Diseases of the pre-weaning period
Disease Major signsTreatmentPreventionComments
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 signsTreatmentPreventionComment
Colibacillosis (E. coli) Diarrhoea; sudden death Fluid therapy; antibiotics Vaccinate; improve hygiene; provide warmth for weaners; reduce stress at weaning 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
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 Improve hygiene; provide a dry, warm, clean weaner pen; prevent skin abrasions Staphylococcus hyicus infection
Table 3. Diseases of breeder pigs
Disease Major signsTreatmentPreventionComment
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 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
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