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Diarrhea in Pigs

How does diarrhea impact pig performance?

Diarrhea in pigs is a major cause of poor performance and deaths. Piglet diarrhea, or scours, most often occurs in piglets and newly weaned pigs. When considering potential causes, it’s important to look at both environmental and nutritional factors, focusing on sanitation, pathogen control and proper nutrition.

Signs of piglet diarrhea

  • Watery stool
  • Dehydration
  • Loss of body weight
  • Poor appetite

Diarrhea scoring guide

A diarrhea scoring guide can help you to monitor the overall health of your herd. If pigs have a fecal score of greater than 2.5 for more than five days, they are unhealthy and require attention.

Causes of diarrhea in piglets

Many pathogens can contribute to diarrhea, including:

  • Parasites, such as coccidia, roundworms and whipworms.
  • Viral pathogens, like porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED), transmissible gastroenteritis (TGE), rotavirus types A, B and C, and even porcine respiratory and reproductive syndrome (PRRS).
  • Bacterial causes, such as E. coli, Salmonella and, occasionally, Clostridium perfringens or C. difficile.

The stress of weaning can often trigger an enteric challenge in the nursery, allowing these organisms to negatively affect piglets. Proper herd and barn management are imperative in order to minimize exposure risk. This may include sanitizing and disinfecting between every group entering the facility, especially if previous groups have faced a challenge.

Preventing piglet diarrhea

  • Wash and sanitize nursery facilities between groups
  • Feed colostrum
  • Sanitize feed and water equipment
  • Develop a proper biosecurity protocol that all employees can follow
  • House sick piglets in a separate pen so they can receive more intensive care, which will help them get back to a full feed intake

There are many factors to consider when evaluating the cause and treatment of diarrhea in a group of recently weaned pigs. Be careful not to fall into the trap of missing all of the influencing factors. Otherwise, a small challenge could quickly become a crisis. Ask questions, make sure the environment is correct for the pigs’ group size and weight, get your veterinarian and nutritionist involved, and make sure to record successes and failures as you go.

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