Many common animal diseases are highly contagious and can cause serious problems for your herd if left untreated. Thankfully, you can take several steps to help mitigate the spread of harmful bacteria among your animals.

This article introduces you to several of the most common pig diseases and the preventative measures you can take to protect your pigs and enhance your animal health.

What are the most common pig diseases?

Some of the most common diseases that pigs may contract include:

  • E. coli
  • Coccidiosis
  • Salmonella
  • Transmissible gastroenteritis
  • Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome
  • Exudative dermatitis (greasy pig)
  • Swine dysentery
  • Mastitis
  • Porcine parvovirus
  • African swine fever
  • Classical swine fever

Some diseases are unique to pigs, while others can affect different animals (and humans). Keep reading to learn more about each disease, including the typical causes and symptoms.

E. coli in pigs

E. coli infection is a common bacterial disease caused by the spread of Escherichia coli. Newborn and newly weaned (post-weaning) pigs are especially susceptible, and E. coli can affect an entire litter if a single piglet contracts the infection.

The first sign of E. coli is white or yellow diarrhea. This normally occurs two to three hours after infection. Severe cases may result in dehydration, but blood and mucus are rarely present inside infected pigs’ feces.

How can you manage E. coli in pigs?

Some farmers use antibiotics to control the spread of E. coli, but the demand for antibiotic-free livestock continues to increase throughout the United States. Consider using a feed source like Engrain’s eMax Feed Technologies to boost your herd’s natural immunity without antibiotics.

You can also prevent an outbreak by maintaining hygiene and good husbandry inside your animals’ living space. This can help prevent bacteria from building up over time. Other best practices include lowering stock rates and moving your farrowing site yearly.

Coccidiosis in pigs

Coccidiosis is a viral disease spread through the Isospora suis (coccidia) parasite. Coccidiosis may affect recently weaned pigs and contribute to slow growth and poor development. Mortality is rare, but the disease can spread easily through pig farms through contact with contaminated surfaces, such as feces and shared eating and drinking areas.

Coccidiosis impacts pigs’ ability to absorb nutrients from their food. It multiplies inside their small intestines and can be hard to eliminate once a significant presence develops. Symptoms may not show up until several days after infection. Sick pigs may have rough hair and display signs of dehydration or fatigue, and older pigs are less likely to display signs than younger animals.

Diagnosis requires viewing a fecal sample under a microscope. Many pigs recover after coccidiosis infection but may still experience long-term effects, such as stunted growth.

How can you manage coccidiosis in pigs?

Since coccidiosis usually spreads through infected feces, the best way to protect your herd is to sanitize and disinfect their living space regularly. Try to remove poop daily, especially during hot and humid seasons. Ensure you fully clean your farrowing space between litters and regularly change your animals’ bedding.

Some farmers administer toltrazuril early in their pigs’ lives to minimize the future severity of the disease if they contract an infection. Studies reveal that early intervention gives the treatment the best possible success.

It’s also wise to quarantine new additions to your herd before full integration if they carry parasites or bacteria.

salmonella in pigs

Salmonella in pigs

There are nearly 2,400 types of Salmonella, and three strands can infect pigs: Salmonella choleraesuis, Salmonella derby, and Salmonella typhimurium. Of these, only Salmonella typhimurium can lead to symptoms in humans. Since this is the most common type of Salmonella among pigs in North America, it’s important to know how to protect your pigs from infection.

Salmonella typhimurium develops inside pigs’ intestinal tracts. Infection usually happens through contact with contaminated feces, and animals may remain contagious for up to five months after contracting the disease. Oral transmission is also possible since Salmonella can infect an animal’s tonsils. Common symptoms include yellowish diarrhea, dehydration, and loss of appetite.

How can you manage Salmonella in pigs?

Start by confirming you don’t currently have Salmonella present in your herd. For the best results, test several samples from multiple animals.

After confirming your herd is Salmonella-free, take precautions when introducing new animals to your farm. Keep new additions separate for four weeks before integration, and consider testing each animal for Salmonella before adding them to your general population.

Transmissible gastroenteritis

Transmissible gastroenteritis (TGE) is a viral disease that can spread rapidly through a herd. All ages can contract the disease, but mortality rates are highest in piglets younger than 2 weeks old. Pigs can become infected throughout the year, but transmission is more common during the colder months.

Diarrhea and vomiting are two of the first signs of infection. The incubation period is short, and signs may appear within the first 24 hours. Pigs will quickly become weak and can die in less than two days. If pigs older than 4 weeks contract an infection, the chances of survival are high.

How can you manage transmissible gastroenteritis in pigs?

Maintaining ongoing preventative measures like biosecurity and gradual integration are the best practices to protect your herd. Make sure any new additions don’t have a prior history of TGE, and wait 30 days before adding them to your general population. Disinfection is especially critical between farrowing.

Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome

Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) can cause reproductive failure and intense pneumonia, especially in neonatal swine. The disease has a greater economic impact on the industry in the U.S. than any other respiratory disease.

All age groups are susceptible, and transfer typically happens through direct contact with infected pigs. Common symptoms include fever, lethargy, and occasional vomiting. Premature births and stillborn piglets are additional clinical signs.

How can you manage PRRS in pigs?

Controlling the spread of PRRS is difficult, but smaller herds may have sufficient immunity. Suppose you reach a point where your herd experiences significant losses or frequent stillbirths. In that case, you can trace the bacteria to its source and determine whether living with the outbreak or attempting to eradicate the issue makes more sense.

Some farmers prefer to let the outbreak spread among all animals with the hope of developing future immunity. Vaccination may help, but success isn’t guaranteed.

Exudative dermatitis (greasy pig)

Exudative dermatitis is easy to spot due to its effect on each pig’s skin. Bacteria normally live on pigs’ skin and can take root due to skin damage from injury or fighting. The impact might be general or localized. Greasy pig affects animals of all ages, but it’s usually most dangerous for younger pigs.

The first sign of infection is brown and black scabs around the shoulders or neck. Infected pigs may also display a lack of energy. They can struggle to gain weight and become dehydrated, resulting in lameness.

How can you manage exudative dermatitis in pigs?

The best way to protect your pigs from exudative dermatitis is to determine where the skin lesions come from. If you find harsh corners or rough floors in your pigs’ living space, eliminate the hazard and disinfect the area. Some farmers inject antimicrobials, but the results are mixed.

You can protect pigs from infection by keeping their living areas clean and sanitary, especially when you have pregnant sows. Vaccination might be an option, but the effects are hard to evaluate due to how rapidly the disease spreads.

Swine dysentery in pigs

Swine dysentery is spread by transmission from various insects and birds. Pigs may carry the disease for up to 90 days, and the virus can significantly impact swine performance. If pigs become infected, major losses may result from mortality and lack of production.

Swine dysentery began to reemerge in North America during the late 2000s. Before, the disease was largely eradicated thanks to effective prevention and control methods. As more infections were reported, interest among the general public in understanding the causes and treatment for swine dysentery began to grow.

Infected pigs may experience bloody diarrhea and a reduced growth rate. Transmission is more common among pigs between 8 and 26 weeks old. The disease can spread through a herd in as little as five days after introduction.

How can you manage swine dysentery in pigs?

It’s crucial to isolate new animals before including them with the rest of your herd. Most veterinarians recommend a quarantine period lasting between 30 and 60 days to ensure each addition is free of swine dysentery.

Suppose you have concerns about a high-risk animal. In that case, you may treat them with carbadox or tiamulin to decrease the possibility of passing the infection to the rest of your animals.

If you have an infected pig, immediately isolate them from the rest of the herd. Clean and disinfect all facilities thoroughly to prevent additional animals from contracting the disease. If the disease becomes more widespread, consider depopulating your pigpen for two weeks before reintroducing healthy animals to the space.

Mastitis in pigs

Mastitis happens when one or more of a sow’s mammary glands become infected. Often diagnosed as postpartum dysgalactia syndrome, mastitis is characterized by a high rectal temperature and diminished appetite. Sows are most likely to contract mastitis shortly after giving birth.

Infected sows may appear restless and lay in a way that prevents young pigs from accessing the udder to nurse. Animals with more severe cases may choose not to eat, leading to starvation.

How can you manage mastitis in pigs?

Antimicrobials can help stop the spread of mastitis in some cases but should only be administered on a short-term basis. If pigs receive antimicrobials for an extended period, they may develop a dependence that can lead to future bacterial infections.

Another possible treatment plan is to cross-foster newborn piglets to healthy sows. Infected sows are more likely to resume regular lactation if they receive an increased supply of oxytocin.

Porcine parvovirus in pigs

Porcine parvovirus (PPV) is a common infection that can cause reproductive issues like stillborn fetuses and small litters. The virus can live for up to four months inside contaminated feces and fluids.

PPV is highly resistant to disinfectants and can thrive in various environments, so disease prevention is vital to your herd’s ongoing health.

How can you manage porcine parvovirus in pigs?

It’s a good idea to vaccinate gilts twice against porcine parvovirus before their first insemination. Vaccine doses should occur two weeks apart. You can also vaccinate boars to reduce the spread of the disease.

In unvaccinated herds, biosecurity is critical. Introduce new pigs to your herd slowly, and sanitize shared surfaces regularly.

African swine fever in pigs

African swine fever (ASF) affects wild and domestic pigs, but it does not threaten human health or food safety. There’s currently no treatment plan available, and the mortality rate is relatively high.

The disease can survive on various surfaces, including clothes and books. The only way to stop the spread of the disease is to remove affected animals from your herd.

Pig symptoms include high fever, decreased appetite, blotchy skin, diarrhea, vomiting, and difficulty breathing. Pigs may catch the infection by ingesting contaminated food and water or through contact with stable flies and other insects.

How can you manage African swine fever in pigs?

Previous attempts to develop a vaccine against ASF have been unsuccessful. The best way to protect your herd is through regular chemical disinfection.

You should regularly disinfect shared surfaces in your pen, such as feeding troughs and bath areas. You may also run ASF diagnostic testing on shared surfaces to evaluate the effectiveness of your disinfection.

Classical swine fever in pigs

Classical swine fever (CSF) is a viral disease that can spread quickly among a herd of pigs. The severity of the infection can vary based on the age and health of your pgs and the particular strain of the virus. The most dangerous infections have a high mortality rate but are also the easiest to diagnose.

Healthy pigs can contract CSF through their noses and mouths upon contact with contaminated surfaces. Common symptoms include high fevers, sneezing, constipation, and red eyes. Infected pigs can still spread the infection even if they don’t exhibit symptoms.

How can you manage classical swine fever in pigs?

There’s no treatment plan for CSF beyond managing the symptoms. The best way to manage classical swine fever is to prevent the spread of the virus among your herd.

You can reduce your herd’s chances of infection by keeping their pen clean and changing their feed and water often. If one of your pigs contracts the virus, immediately report it to your veterinarian.

Discover how eMax Feed Technologies can keep your pigs healthy

Although many common swine diseases transfer easily through contaminated food, you can decrease the risk of becoming ill by providing supplements that can enhance the gut health, promote a better development of immune functions, and reduce the incidence of certain pathogens that cause disease.

Studies reveal that Engrain’s eMax Feed Technologies significantly decrease the development of various contaminants. Our products never contain antibiotics, and studies prove they can improve intestinal health and boost growth performance.