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Middle Ear Infection

(432) This is caused by a variety of bacteria, but mainly streptococci, that gain access to the middle part of the ear, the part responsible for balance. Infection probably arises from the tonsils at the back of the throat and travels down the eustachian tube to the middle part of the ear. The condition is sporadic but common and in some farms up to 5% of weaner pigs may be affected. It must be recognised early and if treatment is prompt there is usually a good response. If treatment is delayed there is the risk that infection will spread from the middle ear into the inner ear and directly to the brain, setting up a meningitis or encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). Actinobacillus pleuropneumonia has also been identified in outbreaks of the disease and bacteriological examinations should always be carried out if abnormal numbers of pigs are involved.

Clinical signs

The pig stands with its head to one side often shaking with evidence of pain. As the disease progresses there is a gradual loss of co-ordination until ultimately the pig walks around in a circle eventually falling over. Disease in the sow is often severe and such animals are best culled if the response to treatment is poor.


  • The response to treatment in the weaner is usually good using either penicillin/streptomycin or amoxycillin. In acute cases it is necessary to inject the pig twice daily for the first two days and then follow up with long-acting injections. Long acting OTC can also be used.
  • Cortisone injections are also of value as advised by your veterinarian.
  • Treatment must continue for 7-10 days and complete recovery may take up to 3 weeks.
Management control and prevention
  • If there is a problem in your herd identify the time of onset of the disease and study the environment and other diseases for predisposing factors. These could include mange, skin trauma, vice (abnormal behaviour), mixing and fighting, greasy pig disease, joint infections and PRRS.
  • PRRS can initiate outbreaks in some herds.
  • Consider preventative medication using amoxycillin long-acting injections given at the time just prior to disease onset.

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