Friday, April 26, 2013

Everything Old is New Again

The last few months we have been dealing more and more with a couple “old” diseases. Erysipelas and atrophic rhinitis have both been problems for some of our show pig customers as well as some questions we have had from all over the country.

Let’s talk about erysipelas first.

Erysipelas is caused by a bacteria and it has been a problem as long as there have been pigs.  The disease can take a couple forms.

The most dramatic is the acute form. Pigs get very sick some will die suddenly and fever as high as 108 F is not uncommon.  Everyone  has heard about the “diamond skin lesion” and it is the acutely affected pig that will display this symptom. Blood clots blocking the small vessels that feed the skin cause the diamond skin lesion. However while dramatic it is not as common as you might have been led to believe. Most pigs do not display it or it may be much more subtle than the pictures you have seen.

Less dramatic but more damaging to the pigs in the long term is a more chronic form of the disease. You might not ever notice these pigs are sick but the organism settles in their joints or heart valves and causes long term disease. Erysipelas is still one of the most common causes of arthritis. By the time you see swollen hocks it is too late and there isn’t anything that is going to make the pig sound again.

The treatment for acute erysipelas is penicillin. Treat every pig in the barn with penicillin and follow up with a booster of a monovalent vaccine like Ery Shield or others.  It is amazing how well and how fast these pigs respond. I have seen one end of the barn visibly getting better before we finished injecting at the far end.
In terms of prevention I strongly recommend that show pig feeders use a monovalent (straight) erysipelas vaccine when pigs are around 8-10 weeks of age and again in 3 weeks. This will help prevent both the acute and chronic forms of the disease. Erysipelas is probably the cheapest vaccine there is so don’t skimp on 20 cents a pig and take the risk.

The other disease we have encountered more and more of late is Atrophic Rhinitis. Atrophis Rhinitis (AR) had become a rare disease because of  negative breeding stock, younger weaning age, and age segregated rearing. However, in some show pig herds we are seeing it rear its ugly head. Part of the reason is poor biosecurity, positive breeding stock, older ages at weaning, and mixing pig of different ages and sources.
Because of the decreased prevalence in commercial herds many of them have discontinued vaccination programs. Unfortunately that also means that the vaccine companies are decreasing production of these vaccines and we have seen shortages. It also means that some show pig breeders have also discontinued vaccinating despite not following any of the other control measures the commercial herds implemented before they discontinued vaccine.

AR is caused by toxigenic strains of Bordetella bronchiseptica and Pasteurella multocida. In the early stages clinical signs include sneezing, nasal discharge and even nose bleeds. Ultimately, the disease results in damage to the turbinate bones in the nasal cavity. In the worst cases, the bones in the nose deform so that they literally get crooked.

In addition, the disease results in poor growth rate and increased susceptibility to other respiratory disease.

If you are a show pig feeder there is not a lot you can do to treat or prevent the disease once you have purchased it. Using antibiotics is of questionable value and all you can do is segregate affected pigs from any healthy pigs you have. But the truth is by the time you see the signs the damage is probably done and it has spread to the others. The bad news is that if you have signs of AR you are not going to be able to get health certificates and transport pigs to shows.

If you are a show pig breeder and you know that you have positive breeding stock (I’d also suggest if you don’t know the prudent thing is to assume your herd is positive.) you will need to decide if you want to try and control this disease or depopulate and start over with negative breeding stock. I suspect most will choose control because of the value of the genetics. Because of the vaccine shortages you’ll need to pay attention and buy it when you can. In herds where this disease is present we vaccinate gilts prefarrowing with two doses and in some severe cases we even vaccinate older sows once prefarrowing. Then vaccinate pigs per the manufacturers recommendation. We also try and get these sow herds older since older sows shed less and have better immunity than gilts. You should also get the pigs weaned on time (3 weeks) rather than letting them stay in contact with sows longer.

We are always happy to visit about these or any other health concerns or our products to support a healthy immune system. Just visit our page at and drop us a line or give us a call.