When vets aren’t specialised in pigs, the diseases of our porky friends are quickly forgotten about after University. Erysipelas is often the exception; but why do they still recall Erysipelas? Because everyone remembers that picture of a pig with Diamonds on its skin! It’s a pretty classic sign that vets, agricultural students and pig stockmen are all taught about – the raised red lesions, often in the shape of a diamond that you see on the skin of a pig which has Erysipelas. Now I hate to disappoint those of you that remember that picture, but the lesions aren’t always diamond shape: sometimes they are round, randomly shaped, or even just blotches. And to disappoint you further you can have Erysipelas issues without seeing skin lesions.
Identifying the problem ?
There are several different clinical pictures you might see with Erysipelas:
- Sudden Death
- Very sick pigs often with difficulty breathing
- A “well” pig with typical skin lesions
- A chronically lame “poor doing” pig (often without skin lesions)
- Infertility issues with mummification and small litters
With all of these different presentations how do you know that it’s Erysipelas causing your problems?
Well the only definitive way is to get your vet involved and for them to culture the bacteria. This can be done from culture of urine, blood or from sampling the classic lesion of endocarditis, often called Cauliflower heart, a lumpy nodular growth on one of their heart valves.
How do the pigs get Erysipelas ?
Well it’s caused by a bacterium named Erysipelothrix Rhusiopathiae (easy for you to say!), and unfortunately it is ubiquitous in the environment i.e. it’s everywhere!
So if it is everywhere, what can you do about it?
- Promptly treat affected animals: Pigs with Erysipelas shed lots of the bacteria (in urine, faeces and oronasal fluids), but erysipelas responds well to antimicrobial therapy such as Amoxicillin or Penicillin, helping the pigs to recover and limiting shedding.
- Erysipelas is easily deactivated in the environment so it’s really important to practice good biosecurity and cleaning and disinfection to prevent spread.
- Vaccination. You can vaccinate against Erysipelas via injection or through the drinking water.
- Maintain good general health and control other endemic diseases.
One more thing to be aware of, a pig that is very sick with Erysipelas, or that you find suddenly dead from Erysipelas, can look very similar to African and Classical Swine Fever. If you have multiple pigs which look very sick, or who have died suddenly, with blotchy skin you should always contact your veterinary surgeon to ensure it is not one of these notifiable diseases.
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: July 2017. AH552/17