This disease can affect all pigs. The key clinical signs include lameness; stiffness; reluctance to rise.
calendar icon 12 November 2018
clock icon 8 minute read

Background and history

Arthritis is the inflammation of one or more joints and is common in all sucking, growing pigs and sows. Mycoplasma arthritis is rare in piglets. Erysipelas arthritis is uncommon due to the presence of maternal antibody but as this disappears from between 6 to 10 weeks of age disease may develop.

Joint infections in the sucking piglet are very common.

Clinical signs


  • Lameness.
  • Stiffness.


  • Sudden death.
  • Shivering.
  • Lameness.
  • Stiffness.
  • Pigs show pain/discomfort.
  • Reluctance to rise/laying on belly.
  • Hairy appearance.
  • Swollen hock and elbow joints.

Weaners and growers

  • Lameness, swollen joints.
  • Reluctance to stand.
  • May be signs of specific disease.
  • Diamond lesions on skin – raised skin patches.

If the organism gains access to the bloodstream and a septicaemia results death may occur before the arthritis develops.


In many cases the only clinical sign is lameness and swollen joints. If a problem exists it is necessary to identify the organisms or diseases responsible, by post-mortem or bacteriological examinations.


The causes are mainly bacterial infections, the sources being either respiratory spread from the sow, or through the skin as a result of some form of trauma. The bacteria include:

  • Actinobacillus parasuis (link to actinobacillus).
  • Haemophilus parasuis (glässers disease).
  • E. coli.
  • Staphylococci and streptococci (link to streptococcal infections).
  • Mycoplasma hyosynoviae.
  • Most common in sucking pigs is Streptococcus suis type 1, which causes chronic lesions sporadically in individual pigs.
  • Streptococcus suis type 14 (less common).

Contributing factors

  • Trauma.
  • Knee necrosis.
  • Faulty iron injections.
  • Poor floor surfaces.
  • Faulty teeth clipping, tail docking, worn equipment.
  • Navel infection.
  • Poor sow immunity.
  • Brucellosis (in countries where this exists).
  • Erysipelas.
  • Leg weakness, osteochondrosis (OCD) .

Due to the high number of possible causes it is necessary to consider arthritis alongside the general heading lameness and if you have a problem refer to this section to help identify the cause and then consider the specific diseases.


  • Check the mouths of the piglets to see that they are not infected following teeth clipping.
  • Check the teeth clippers. Hold them to the light to make sure the edges are not damaged. If light is showing through abandon them and use a new pair.
  • Make sure the teeth clippers are washed in warm soap and water between litters.
  • Do not use the same instrument for removing both teeth and the tails.
  • Preferably remove tails either by scalpel blade or sharp scissors to produce a clean cut to the surface. This will bleed a little but it will clot over with a minimum risk of infection.
  • Check that iron injections are carried out hygienically with a sharp needle.
  • Check for trauma to the piglet, particularly scrubbed knees, legs or tail.
  • Where there are bad floor surfaces brush these over with hydrated lime.
  • Preventive medication – Administer a long-acting antibiotic injection 3 to 4 days prior to the expected onset of disease. Oxytetracycline, amoxycillin, ampicillin, ceftiofur or penicillin could be used. Most streptococci are sensitive to penicillin.
  • Sometimes the skin of the sow is a source of infection. In such cases spray a skin antiseptic onto the udder one day before and two days after farrowing. Iodine dairy teat dips are ideal.

In well-managed herds the numbers of piglets requiring treatment should be less than 2%. Where there are problems this could rise to as high as 10 to 15%.


  • Treatment of the infected pig could include one of the following antibiotics:
    • Lincomycin.
    • Penicillin and streptomycin.
    • Oxytetracycline.
    • Amoxycillin.
    • Ampicillin.
    • Trimethoprim/sulpha.
    • Enrofloxacin.
    • Ceftiofur.
    • Framycetin.
  • Cortisone or other anti inflammatory medicines can be of value.

Inject daily for five days. Long-acting preparations can also be used and these should be injected every other day. Antibiotic penetration of the joint is slow. The choice will depend on the organism, the antibiotic sensitivity and the best response obtained.

Emily Houghton

Editor, The Pig Site

Emily Houghton is a Zoology graduate from Cardiff University and was the editor of The Pig Site from October 2017 to May 2020. Emily has worked in livestock husbandry, and has written, conducted and assisted with research projects regarding the synthesis of welfare and productivity of free-range food species.

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