Helen

Vet on Call: Disease that makes pigs puffy

She had called to report five weaner piglets that were looking unwell. Four of the piglets had loose faeces and poor appetite. The fifth pig had swollen eyelids and part of the face tissues around the eyes, giving it a puffy appearance.

The very sick piglet was to be given the same injections, get isolated from the others and be kept warm. The piglet was also to be given antibiotics directly by mouth for three days.

In many cases, I make diagnosis on the phone from her reports and advise her on the course of treatment. This strategy has been effective in disease control and in the reduction of the cost of production attributed to provision of veterinary services.

Satisfied with the way Helen had handled the gut oedema case and the students’ performance, I instructed the manager to take the students on a tour of the farm and I would deal with any questions that were beyond her scope.

In the early stages of the puffy face, the piglets look drowsy or alcohol-drunk. A farmer once told me her pigs appeared intoxicated and she suspected the worker had given them alcohol to keep them quiet when he was late in feeding them.

In Helen’s case, four piglets out of five were saved by early detection and treatment. Pigs that show mild to serious disease take two to three weeks to recover but most of the pigs detected in late stages of the disease die even with treatment.

Prevention of gut oedema is the best strategy of controlling the disease. This is done by ensuring very high levels of hygiene thorough cleaning and disinfection of the pig pens. In addition, some pig lines appear to be genetically susceptible to the disease.

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