pigs; rations

Pork production: How to deal with arthritis in your pigs

Question: When I delivered my last batch of pigs to the abattoir I was informed that 2 of the pigs had arthritis and the front leg of one and the back leg of the other had been condemned. Please could you tell me more about this condition and how I can prevent it?

There are various reasons why pigs develop arthritis, which is an inflammation of one or more of the joints.

  • Limbs with an affected joint may be condemned because the abattoir assumes that an infection is to blame.
  • Pus in the joint indicates a bacterial infection.
  • Joints that are affected with arthritis are also condemned if the inspector cannot be sure of the cause.
  • Arthritis is often a chronic condition, particularly if you don’t notice that the pig was limping or in pain before sending it for slaughter.
  • Usually when the cause of the arthritis is a bacterial infection it will start as an acute condition.
  • The affected joint or joints might be swollen and warm to the touch and the pig will be limping and trying not to put weight on the limb.
  • Septic arthritis can either result from an infection that causes septicaemia – when infection enters the bloodstream and can end up anywhere in the body, including in the joints – or from an injury to a particular joint that involves broken skin and allows germs to penetrate the joint via the wound.
  • Septicaemia often affects more than one joint.
  • After the acute stage the joint becomes less painful, the swelling reduces and the pig can lead a normal life.
  • Damage to the joint will be seen when the joint is cut open at meat inspection.


  • If you notice pigs limping in the acute stage of arthritis, treatment with antibiotics may clear the infection and prevent permanent damage to the joint.
  • Ensuring that the floor of the pen is in good condition, has an even surface and is not too slippery will help to prevent injuries that could lead to arthritis.
  • Deep bedding also helps to keep the pigs’ area warm and dry so that there is less chance of wound infection.
  • If you do see sores or wounds on the pigs, use an antiseptic wound spray.
  • Heavy pigs sometimes develop aseptic, or non-infectious, arthritis, usually in the shoulder but sometimes in other joints.
  • Although there is no reason to condemn this type of arthritis, meat inspectors are cautious because consumers want to be certain that the meat they eat is absolutely safe, and it isn’t always possible to be sure that the arthritis is of the non-infectious variety.
  • Pigs you send to the abattoir should be nicely rounded, but not too fat.
  • Pigs that are too fat will be downgraded even if there is nothing else wrong with them.

Also read: Pork production: How do I get started in pig farming?

  • This article was written by Dr. Mary-Louise Penrith and first appeared in Farming SA.

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