- news, features, articles and disease information for the swine industry

ThePigSite Quick Disease Guide

Use the above box to quickly switch to another disease

Gastric Ulcers

Erosion and ulceration of the lining of the stomach is a common condition in sows and growing pigs. (More common in growing pigs than breeding animals). It occurs around the area where the food pipe (oesophagus) enters the stomach. In the early stages of the disease this area becomes roughened and gradually changes as the surface becomes eroded until it is ulcerated. Intermittent bleeding may then take place leading to anaemia or massive haemorrhage may occur resulting in death. The incidence in sows is usually less than 5% in growing pigs at slaughter is up to 60%.


These depend on the severity of the condition.


  • Uncommon.
  • Often no symptoms.
  • Wasting.

In the less acute form:

  • Pale skin.
  • Weak.
  • Breathless.
  • Dehydration.
  • Grinding of the teeth due to stomach pain .
  • Passing of dark faeces containing digested blood.
  • Not eating.
  • Vomiting.
  • A tucked up appearance.
In its most acute form:
  • Previously healthy animals are found dead and very pale.
Weaners & Growers

Acute form:

  • Previously healthy animals are found dead.
  • The most striking sign is the paleness of the carcass due to internal haemorrhage.
Less acute form:
  • The affected pig is pale.
  • Weak.
  • Shows breathlessness.
  • Grinding of the teeth.
  • Vomiting.
  • The passing of dark faeces containing digested blood is often a persistent symptom.
  • Usually the temperature is normal.
In chronic cases:
  • The pig has an intermittent appetite and may lose weight.

Causes / Contributing factors

There is usually more than one causal factor. They may include nutritional factors, management deficiencies that lead to stress, and infections.

Nutritional factors

  • Low protein diets.
  • Low fibre diets. (The introduction of straw reduces the incidence).
  • High energy diets.
  • High levels of wheat in excess of 55%.
  • Deficiencies of vitamin E or selenium.
  • Diets containing high levels of iron, copper or calcium.
  • Diets low in zinc.
  • Diets with high levels of unsaturated fats.
  • Diets based on whey and skimmed milk.
Physical aspects of the feed
  • Size of feed particle - the more finely ground the meal the smaller becomes the particle size and the higher the incidence of ulcers. This is still the case if the feed is then pelleted.
  • Pelleting feeds in itself increases the incidence. Feed meal.
  • However, sometimes changing from pellets to meal itself causes problems. A compromise is to feed alternatively.
  • Cereals with a high moisture content sometimes seem to contribute to ulcers.
  • Rolling cereals as distinct from grinding them will often produce a dramatic drop in the incidence but the penalties of feed use have to be taken into consideration.
Managemental factors that increase the incidence:
  • Irregular feeding patterns and shortage of feeder space.
  • Increased stocking densities and movement of pigs or any other undue stresses including poor stockmanship.
  • Transportation.
  • Excessive aggression between sows.
  • Poor management of sows in stalls and tethers.
  • Noisy unsympathetic stockmanship in the farrowing rooms.
  • Periods of starvation.
  • Poor availability of food or water.
  • Fluctuating environmental temperatures.
Other diseases.
  • There is a clear relationship between outbreaks of pneumonia and the incidence of gastric ulceration.
  • Ulceration may occur following bacterial septicaemias such as those associated with erysipelas and swine fever.
  • More common in certain genotypes.


This is based on the clinical signs and post mortem lesions. A sample of faeces should be examined for the presence of blood and to eliminate parasites. An examination of stomachs at slaughter should be carried out.

Gastric ulcers must be differentiated from haemorrhage of the bowel, eperythrozoonosis, the red stomach worm Hyostrongylus rubidus and porcine enteropathy.

Further Reading

Click on the links below to find out more about this disease, including treatment, management control and prevention information. The top link is the main article on this disease.