Pig farming

What causes lameness in pigs and does it stop them growing?

There are multiple things that can cause a pig to go lame: It could be injured from riding, injured from fighting, or it may have an infected joint. But those causes often just affect an individual pig. There’s another cause of lameness, a bacteria called Mycoplasma hyosynoviae, which is endemic in the UK pig herd, and commonly causes widespread lameness in pigs.

The classic signs of this disease, often referred to as Mycoplasmal arthritis, are:

  1. Pigs being reluctant to get up
  2. Pigs appearing very stiff on all limbs
  3. Standing stance of an “Elephant on a ball” with a hunched back and lowered head
  4. Pigs displaying “dog sitting”

The interesting thing with Mycoplasmal arthritis is that once the pigs are up and walking the stiffness seems to ease off. So why should we be worried about it if it will just ease off eventually?

Well obviously the welfare of the animal should always be considered, but treatment of the disease is also necessary to stop it impacting growth. When it hurts to get up pigs are much less likely to go and eat, and when it hurts to stand pigs won’t stay at the feeder as long as they normally would, and when it hurts to fight back when another pig barges into your feed space the easiest option is just to go and lie back down. Groups with outbreaks of Mycoplasmal arthritis will have lower feed intakes and that results in lower growth rates.

So how can we treat the disease?

Because the lameness is caused by bacteria, an antimicrobial is the best therapy, preferably in combination with pain relief. Individual injections are the best way to accurately administer therapy, but in a group with large numbers affected water medication may be another viable route.

Choice of antimicrobial is also very important, because of the structure of the bacteria which causes the disease, antibiotics such as penicillin or amoxicillin will not work! Discuss antimicrobial type and route of administration with your veterinary surgeon. The good news is that if the right antimicrobial is chosen the treatment works so quickly that one day affected pigs are all lying down, and the next they are up and running around like lunatics again; the bad news is that this can make it much more challenging to finish their course of injections!

For further information please contact Zoetis UK Limited, Walton Oaks, Dorking Road, Tadworth, Surrey KT20 7NS. www.zoetis.co.uk Customer Support: 0845 300 8034. Use medicines responsibly (www.noah.co.uk/responsible). Date of preparation: February 2018. AH104/18