Question: Is it true that pigs can contract pneumonia? If so, could they die from it and what can I do to prevent them from getting it in the first place?
Pneumonia is most commonly seen in growers and finishers. Pigs can get various types of pneumonia.
Some types usually cause only a mild disease and the only sign that a pig has had pneumonia are small purple areas visible in the lungs when the animal is slaughtered. This type of pneumonia is very widespread in pig herds and pigs that are well fed and well managed usually show no sign of being ill.
However, if the pigs are stressed by being too cold, overcrowded, or poorly fed, the disease can be more serious and the pigs may show poor growth and may cough and even develop a fever and stop eating.
There are effective vaccines against this disease and it can be treated with antibiotics, but in small pig herds it can be prevented by good management and making sure that the pigs are not exposed to cold winds or rain in winter and are kept clean and dry by using bedding.
A more serious form of pneumonia, called pleuropneumonia, can affect the entire chest and in severe cases causes death. In these cases if the pig dies or is slaughtered, the lungs will show one or more areas that are red and swollen and ooze pus when they are cut.
Pigs suffering from pleuropneumonia will have a cough, may have pus in the corners of the eyes and may experience obvious difficulty in breathing, as well as fever and no appetite. They can be treated with antibiotics and it is best to seek veterinary aid quickly if the pigs show signs of serious pneumonia.
Roundworms can cause irritation and pneumonia, which is usually mild but results in some coughing and runny noses, as they travel through the lungs to reach the gut where they settle as adults. Regular deworming will prevent this problem.
Foreign material in the lungs can also result in pneumonia if, for example, pigs breathe in a lot of dust or if liquid such as medicine goes down the windpipe ‘the wrong way’ and ends up in the lungs. Make sure that the environment is not too dusty, that the feed is not too fine and dusty, and that there is not a strong smell of ammonia at pig level, as these can all irritate the lungs and make them more likely to become infected.
If you are dosing liquid medicine to a pig, the best way to do it is to put it in a syringe (without a needle) and place it under the pig’s tongue from the side and then depressing the plunger so that the pig swallows the liquid.
- This article was written by Dr. Mary-Louise Penrith and first appeared in Farming SA.