Close this search box.
Close this search box.

Disease Prevention

Common diseases and their provention in kunekune pigs

Disease Prevention

Common diseases and their provention in kunekune pigs

The purpose of this article is to outline some of the problems more frequently found in our pigs, More and more pig diseases can now be easily prevented by the use of modem vaccines.

These vaccines are available to the pig owner either through the vet or the local agricultural merchant. Not all the vaccines are appropriate for the small pig keeper due to the very small number of pigs in his care. However, the ERYSIPELAS BACTERIUM can live outside the body of the pig for many months and for that reason alone, one should vaccinate against it especially as we tend to keep our pigs outdoors most of the time.

Erysipelas is one of the principal diseases of the pig. However serious loses can be avoided by attention to sound hygiene, vermin control and the correct use of vaccination.

The disease manifests itself in a number of ways.

PERCUTE: Pigs are found dead, usually with purpling of the ears, belly and other extremities. It is not often easy to see in Kune Kunes. It is most common in growing pigs over three months, although occasionally seen in adults. Percute disease may appear in isolation or a component of an outbreak.

ACUTE: The most usual manifestation, produces a lethargic pig with little appetite and a high temperature, 107 degrees F. The respiration rate will have increased and the pig may be thirsty. Some acute cases will show classic diamonds or raised red, firm skin swellings up to 2 inches across. Again not easy to see on Kunes, but they can be felt. In working boars the high temperature kills off sperm reserves rendering him sterile or sub-sterile for six weeks after recovery. In breeding females acute erysipelas can cause loss of pregnancy.

MILD: In this form the disease often goes unnoticed ‘as your pig may just go off it’s food for a day or be lame as a result of a joint infection. The three principal long term effects are:

  1. Skin sloughing of the “diamonds”, which is caused by an interruption to the blood supply. Ear tip and other extremities such as claws may drop off.
  2. Oesteoarthritis, damage to the joints can be severe and permanent, leaving the pig irreversibly crippled, the result of a complex self-destructive immune reaction.
  3. Endocarditis. The bacteria can circulate in the blood stream where it can seed on the heart valves. There they can grow producing “cauliflower” lesions, which eventually lead to heart failure, sometimes up to a year after the original infection.


Erysipelas Prevention

When buying stock, ask if they have been vaccinated against erysipelas. If there is any doubt either do not buy them or vaccinate them immediately. The seller should of started the vaccination programme as per their vet’s and the vaccine’s instructions before you are due to pick them up.

Follow the manufacturer’s advice accompanying the vaccine, it is clear and easy to understand. A general guide would be:-

Pregnant sows and gilts should be vaccinated 2 –3 weeks prior to expected farrowing date, this provides active protection to the sows and passive protection via the colostrum to the newborn piglets.

Piglets from immune sows, vaccinate at 8 weeks of age, repeated no later then 4 weeks.

Piglets from non-immune sows, vaccinate from 8 weeks old, repeat no later then 4 weeks and then again 3 months after the primary course.

Booster doses should be given 6 monthly or approximately 2-3 weeks prior to subsequent farrowing for the sow breeding twice a year.

Finishing and all other pigs, every 6 months.

Worm infection of pigs in the UK generally does not cause dramatic signs of disease but effects can be more insidious: thin sows, increased mortality rates in young litters, reduced growth rates and liver condemnations at slaughter.

Pigs kept outdoors are at greater risk of infection, as worm eggs contaminate the soil and some roundworms use the earthworm as an intermediate host. Pig paddocks can stay infected for years.

What worms infect pigs?

Red stomach worm (Hyostrongylus rubidus) Mainly found in adult pigs, symptoms generally most noticeable in lactating sows. Causes weight loss “thin sow syndrome” reduced fertility and reduced piglet birth weights.

Nodular worm (Oesophogostomum spp) The most common worm found in the UK. Also contributes to “thin sow syndrome”. Infection may also make secondary infection with swine dysentery more likely. Numbers of worms rise markedly around the time of farrowing, exposing the piglets to high infection risk. It is important to worm the sow shortly before farrowing to prevent this.

Large roundworm (Ascaris suum) This is the largest gut parasite of pigs and can reach 400mm in length. The greatest damage is done by the larval stages, as they migrate through the lungs and liver. This can cause pneumonia in young piglets (so can piglet anaemia) and is the cause of “milk spot liver”, seen at the abattoir. The eggs last for years in the environment and the best method of control is by worming all the stock.

Whipworm (Trichuris suis) This lives in the large intestine and is not very harmful alone but, as for the Nodular worm, may predispose to secondary gut infections.

Lungworm (Metastrongylus apri) Adult worms live in the airways of the lungs and cause coughing and reduced growth rate. This worm has been rare but is becoming more important, as more pig herds are kept outdoors, as the lifecycle of the worm is via the earthworm.

How do you diagnose worm infections?

Few infections are obvious from the outside of the pig but a faeces sample, taken to your vet, will detect eggs passed by the adult worms in the pig’s gut.

How to treat worm infections

Your local vet will be able to advise on exact treatment programmes but most wormers can simply be given in feed. Pigs should be treated on arrival, before moving to a new yard or paddock, and before farrowing. Young piglets will need more frequent treatment (monthly if there is an Ascarid problem).

Hygiene is also important in the control of worm infections. Clean and disinfect buildings between groups of pigs, rotate the use of outdoor paddocks and avoid spreading the manure on land that may house pigs unless it has been very well composted.

  • Treat piglets at weaning (8 weeks old).
  • Treat all adult pigs including your boars every 4 to 6 months
  • Treat the pregnant sow 2 to 3 weeks before farrowing and 7 days before going to the boar.

Pig lice occur mainly in the winter and are easily seen. They look like tiny crabs on the skin. Mange can be common in pigs in the summer especially in weaners, there is a reddening of tile skin and it becomes rough and wrinkled, caused by the burrowing mite. If left untreated tile pig becomes unthrifty with weakness and intense skin irritation, he will be constantly scratching. Both of these problems are easily treated primarily with a highly effective injection of “Ivomec”. Mange washes are also useful, some brands available are: Alugan and Coopers Mange and Lice Wash.

A scouring piglet needs to be treated immediately; often it is not obvious to spot until it is too late. They die very quickly due to dehydration; keep an eye out for wet tails. If you do not have any electrolytes immediately to hand, dribbling cooled, previously boiled water, enriched with glucose, carefully down the throat of the piglet should help to keep it going until your vet arrives. A drug which clears up scouring almost immediately is ,”Tylan Powder” and maybe prescribed by your vet. A tiny amount is mixed with water and syringed down the piglets throat.

Scouring in the weaned piglet is often due to over feeding, a change of diet or housing them in cold draughty conditions. It is not as likely to be the result of E. Coli unless hygiene is very poor. You will still need to call your vet and follow his/her advice. Infectious scouring, E.Coli bacterial scours, Rota virus and other miscellaneous viruses and bacteria, can cause a serious outbreak with whole litters affected or wiped out. If pigs are quieter than normal, have a reduced appetite, or have blood in the diarrhoea, they need prompt veterinary treatment with antibiotics and electrolytes.

There are a range of viruses and bacteria causing, pneumonia, bronchitis and rhinitis ( nasal cavity infection). Rapid or laboured breathing usually means a very serious illness, and needs immediate treatment. Bronchitis or pneumonia may cause coughing but this may also be due to a lungworm infection It is possible to vaccinate against Authropic Rhinitis with A-RT vaccine, but it is generally not necessary. It is best to keep your pigs in adequately ventilated, NOT draughty buildings and separate any infected animals immediately

There are two schools of thought on this subject:

  1. This virus has been known for many years to cause reproduction failure, infertility and
    mummified foetuses in sows, but these symptoms can also be caused by other factors. Do not vaccinate against parvo virus unless a material blood test is submitted to a veterinary laboratory first. The vaccine is expensive and the small pig keeper with just one or two breeding sows is highly unlikely to have parvo in his/her herd.
  2. The virus, as well as causing reproductive failure, infertility and mummified foetuses in the sow, can leave the breeder with very small litters of just one or two piglets. Parvo virus can also lead to infertility in boars in some cases for1ife. To prevent this, breeding stock must be vaccinated a minimum of 3 weeks before service and then annually.

If you are in any doubt as to which advice to follow, YOU MUST SEEK VETERINARY ADVICE.

A pigs temperature is 102 f:-
(This is taken in the rectum by gently inserting the thermometer; a bit of lubrication will help it go in. Keep enough of the thermometer between your thumb and forefinger to be sure you don’t let go then wait about a minute and a half before withdrawing it to read.)

A pigs heart pulse is 70 to 80 per minute

A pigs respiration rate is 20 to 30 per minute

A sow cycles every 3 weeks

A sows gestation period is 108 to 120 days.

A sow will come “hogging” to the boar 4 to 7 days after her piglets have been weaned.

All vaccines should be stored as per manufacturer’s instructions, most often this means in the fridge, NOT the freezer.

To draw the vaccine from the bottle when injecting more than one pig, insert a sterile needle into the bottle and use separate sterile needles to inject each pig.

To inject subcutaneous means under the skin, in the pig this means in the neck tight up behind the ear.

To inject intramuscularly as the word suggests, directly into the muscle:-
(WHEN UNSURE SEEK VETERINARY ADVICE, most vets are happy to advice.)

Many thanks go to Lucy Whitfield MRCVS ( Hoechst Roussel), Andy Case, Zoe Lindop and Angela Blake who’s help in preparing this paper has been invaluable.