Know the Early Signs of Disease

Good performance requires carefully monitoring your show pigs. Any time a show pig is under stress, which often is the case after the long ride and new pen environment at a show, it is more susceptible to disease, says Pfizer Animal Health.
calendar icon 30 September 2008
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Closely monitoring your animals can help to reduce the effects of stress, according to Thomas Gillespie, DVM, Rensselaer, Indiana, USA. "Knowing the signs of disease can help you detect problems early and treat them as soon as possible," he advises.

Respiratory pathogens are probably the most common diseases found at shows because they are some of the most contagious. One of the most common viruses seen at shows in recent years is swine influenza virus (SIV), which is spread from pig-to-pig contact and can be carried by clinically healthy pigs, or even humans.

The incubation period of the disease is short, as little as 12 to 48 hours, and the onset is usually rapid and dramatic. "In show pigs, typical clinical signs include fever, anorexia, weight loss, lethargy, coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge and laboured breathing," Dr Gillespie explains.

"Knowing the signs of disease can help you detect problems early and treat them as soon as possible"
Thomas Gillespie, DVM

"Most affected pigs will recover within five to seven days, if there are no other complications. But severe bronchopneumonia can develop as a secondary complication, and is a high risk factor for mortality."

Other complications include secondary bacterial or viral infections. While your pig may look fully recovered, it can continue to shed the virus for up to 7 days after illness. To be safe, an infected pig should not be taken to a show for at least 10 days after it has recovered.

While it is virtually impossible to maintain a population of pigs that is free of influenza virus, the virus is easily killed by disinfectants, so washing clothes, equipment, surfaces and hands with a disinfectant or simple bleach solution after exposure to infected pigs will reduce the risk of spreading the disease.

Monitoring Hog Health

As a responsible exhibitor, you should closely monitor the health of your animals prior to and during a show. Even the most conscientious herdsman can experience disease outbreaks among their animals before or at a show.

What to Look For

There are some basic clinical signs that can tell you a pig is not in optimum health:

  • Lack of Appetite - Twice-a-day feedings should give you ample opportunity to observe if the pig is not eating as usual. Measuring the amount of feed given each time will allow you to know exactly how much was consumed.
  • Fever - A basic rectal thermometer is a worthwhile investment to get accurate body temperatures from your animals. A quick check can tell you if the animal is running a fever. A pig's normal temperature is usually between 101 to 102°F. On a hot day, a healthy pig's body temperature can even register 103°F. Anything higher than that could be an indication of illness.
  • Diarrhoea - If you notice a significant change in the color or consistency of the animal's stool, or if there is blood in the stool, it may be a sign of a serious health concern.
If the animal does not show any improvement after 24 hours, or gets significantly worse, call your veterinarian.

With viral diseases such as SIV, porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) or porcine circovirus type 2 (PCV2), treatment is limited. Good husbandry and nutrition can help pigs mount an effective immune response.

The most common complication to viral disease is secondary bacterial pneumonia, but that responds to a broad-spectrum antibiotic, such as Draxxin® (tulathromycin) Injectable Solution. It is the only product that treats the five most common bacteria that cause respiratory disease in pigs: Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae, Pasteurella multocida, Bordetella bronchiseptica, Haemophilus parasuis and Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae. You should work with your veterinarian to make sure that the antibiotic is right for your pig and that the proper doses is given, and follow the five day pre-slaughter withdrawal period. For full prescribing information, click here.

Prevention Is Best

Vaccinating your show pigs for Mycoplasma, erysipelas and swine influenza are good investments in helping to keep them healthy for the show season.

Vaccines such as RespiSure-ONE®, ER Bac Plus® and FluSure® will help pigs develop critical immunities that can aid them in resisting or more quickly overcoming these disease threats present at shows.

Other Articles from Pfizer Animal Health on Showing Pigs

Click on the titles below to link directly to other articles in this series:
Raising a Champion
The SIV Challenge
Keeping Pigs Healthy During a Stressful Show Season

Further Reading

- For more information on Draxxin from Pfizer Animal Health, click here.

September 2008
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