Pig farming

Neonatal Diarrhoea: Piglets, the Great Blank Canvas

Adult pigs have around 800 types of bacteria in their guts, but a piglet is born with none. The piglet is a blank canvas ready to be populated. We want the piglet to get “Friendly Bacteria” (as the yoghurt adverts say!), but if the “Bad Bacteria” get in before the “Friendly Bacteria” then you get diarrhoea.

Diarrhoea in the first days of life (neonatal diarrhoea) will easily kill piglets, they become dehydrated and have blood sugar levels so low they will often just lay down and die. The “Bad Bacteria” we worry about in the first days of life are mainly Escherichia coli and Clostridium perfringens. We often give antibiotics to treat or stop diarrhoea from happening in piglets, but the problem is the antibiotics will also kill the “Friendly Bacteria” that we really need to make the gut healthy.


Prevention is better than cure!

As the old adage goes, prevention is better than cure! After the piglet is born, its gut is populated by bacteria as it suckles the sow and snuffles around the floor. This means it will get its gut bacteria from the sow (mostly her udder and vulva) and the farrowing environment, and you can control how clean these things are. It is also important that sows are vaccinated against Escherichia coli and Clostridium perfringens, meaning they can provide protection for the piglets through their colostrum and milk. Being cold can also trigger diarrhoea so make sure the piglets are never chilled. Remember, you can also spread the disease! If you step into a pen with piglets that have diarrhoea your shoes will become contaminated and then you will seed every other pen you step in with “Bad Bacteria” where they will wait ready for the next blank canvas to come along!

Preventative steps against Piglet Diarrhoea:

  • Farrowing environment should be extremely clean (You should be happy to eat your sandwiches from the floor!)
  • Sows should be kept clean and their faeces removed
  • Vaccinate sows against Escherichia coli and Clostridium perfringens
  • Make sure piglets get enough colostrum and milk
  • Piglet laying areas should be around 32°C and draft free
  • Don’t let your or your equipment spread the “Bad Bacteria”


Discuss with your veterinary surgeon the most appropriate vaccine to administer, and review your choice regularly. Gletvax 6 is a Zoetis vaccine that protects against more types of Escherichia coli and Clostridium perfringens than any other vaccine in the UK. Click here to go to the product factsheet.

Gletvax® 6 contains E. coli and C. perfringensType B, C and D. For the passive protection of piglets by the active immunisation of breeding sows and gilts to prevent neonatal colibacillosis caused by K99 bearing strains of E. coli; to reduce neonatal colibacillosis caused by K88ab, K88ac and 987P bearing strains of E. coliand C. perfringens Type C necrotising infectious enteritis. POM-VPS

For information about side effects, precautions, warnings and contra-indications, please refer to the product packaging and package leaflet. For further information please see the product’s SPC or 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: March 2017. AH243/17