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Pig Health & Well-Being

Properly identifying signs of illness, injury, or disease in pigs, and understanding the basics of normal behaviour and appearance play an important role in keeping your pigs safe and healthy. Effective health management involves three steps including prevention, identification, and treatment and where vaccination and parasite control programs are essential in outdoor production to achieve these goals. As with any animal a vaccination program should be developed and carried out with the assistance of a veterinarian.

In keeping you pigs healthy it is important to understand different terms that might be used within your treatment program. Most products used will require a veterinary prescription to purchase them (depending on your province’s laws). Getting a prescription will require you to have a relationship with a veterinarian.

  • Vaccine –  Given to stimulate the immune system and provide protection against specific viral and bacterial pathogens
  • Dewormer – To kill internal (worms) and external (mites) parasites
  • Antibiotic – Given to kill bacteria and treat bacterial infections
  • Anti-Inflammatory – Given to reduce pain and inflammation
  • Vitamin/Mineral – Supplemental vitamins or minerals

There may come a time when you need to treat one of your pigs for illness or injury. All antibiotics and some vaccinations will require a prescription written by a veterinarian. While it can be difficult in finding a (pig) veterinarian in some areas, it it important to locate one, so you have a good understanding of when and how to administer treatments in emergency situations. The goal is too always keep you pigs safe and healthy. Understanding the difference between normal and abnormal signs of health is an important part of maintaining the best possible welfare for your pigs. Signs of poor health can include:

  • Laboured breathing
  • Persistent cough
  • Not eating
  • Weakness/lethargy
  • Laying down on side and paddling/convulsing
  • Sudden death
  • Trembling
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Rough hair coat
  • Scratching/rubbing

  • Skin discolouration
  • Raw skin patches
  • Pale skin and/or gums
  • Head tilt
  • Circling
  • Swollen joints
  • Lameness
  • Unable to rise
  • Abscesses, swollen areas
  • Open wounds
  • Bloody protrusion from back end (rectal prolapse)
Normal Signs and Behavours
Abnormal Signs and Behaviours
Medical Supplies & Equipment

Being properly prepared by having required supplies on hand to address health issues is important for the welfare of your pigs. The following is a list of things that you consider to keep on hand in case of an emergency:

  • Thermometer
  • Medical gloves (e.g. latex or nitrile)
  • Needles and syringes (1 mL – 20 mL) of varying sizes
  • Injectable antibiotics (e.g. penicillin)
  • Injectable anti-inflammatory (e.g. meloxicam)
  • Electrolyte powder
  • Kaolin pectin, activated charcoal, and/or starch product
  • Hog snare
  • Pig (sorting) board
  • Ear plugs
Handling & Restraint Areas
  • Use when multiple pigs require examination, treatments, or vaccinations.
  • This area should have easy access to the main pens or paddocks.
  • Include a chute that can restrict movement.
  • Complete a ‘walk-through’ in order to familiarize pigs with the area. This will make future handling easier.
Hospital Pens
  • Separated hospital pens should be used when a sick or injured pig requires treatment.
  • Pigs in a hospital pen should not be able to contact the main herd — this will restrict the spread of disease.
  •  Should include
    •  Additional comfort and bedding
    •  No competition from other pigs
    •  Access to feed and water
    •  Shelter that is very close to the feed and water

It is important to use the proper size needle for different ages and sizes of pigs. The table below will guide you on choosing the appropriate size of needle when performing any vaccinations or treatments.


Needle Gauge

Needle Length (Inches)

Adult (>125 kg)


1 1/2

30-125 kg



20 kg

16 or 18

1 or 3/4

10 kg



5 kg

18 or 20

5/8 or 3/4



1/2 or 5/8

Vaccinating Your Pigs

The development and implementation of a vaccination program will go a long way to ensure high herd health. The following table provides some basic guidelines on vaccinations you should consider for your herd.






All Pigs


  • ER Bac Plus® OR
  • Combo products
  • Weaning
  • Boost at 6 months
  • To new pigs

Prevent erysipelas aka “diamond skin disease”

All Pigs

Clostridial bacteria +/- tetanus

  • Ultrachoice®
  • Covexin® Plus
  • Weaning
  • Boost annually
  • To new pigs

Prevent black leg, sudden death, and septicemia

All Pigs

Circovirus type 2

  • Circoflex®
  • Circumvent G2®
  • Fostera®
  • Weaning
  • To new pigs

Prevent wasting disease/failure to thrive

Breeding Stock

Parvovirus, leptospirosis, erysipelas

  • Magestic 7®
  •  Farrowsure® GoldB Comes in COMBO
  • 5 and 3 weeks pre-breeding, OR
  • Every 6 months to all breeding stock

Prevent abortions,  mummies, stillborns, and failed conception

Pregnant Gilts & Sows

E.coli, clostridia, +/- rotavirus

  • Prosystem RCE®
  • Litterguard®
  • GILTS 6 and 3 weeks pre-farrow
  • SOWS 3 weeks pre-farrow

Prevent scours in piglets through protection from sow

Controlling Parasites

A parasite is an organism that requires a host to survive. Two categories of parasites include: external, which live on or in the skin, and internal, which live inside the body of the pig, including the kidneys, liver, lungs, bloodstream, and digestive tract. Parasite control involves understanding their life cycle and using procedures and dewormers to break the cycle of infection and prevent the spread to other pigs. Raising pigs outdoors substantially increases the chances of parasite problems due to:

  • Favourable conditions for growth and survival of parasites in the environment.
  • Contact with wild animals – they can be a potential reservoir or intermediate host of parasites.
Tips to Minimize the Impact of Parasites
  • Clean, disinfect, and dry any pens/barns/shelters that you use between batches of pigs annually.
  • Eggs of intestinal worms (e.g. Ascaris suum) may remain infective in soil for many years therefore it is important to use well-drained pastures and rotate pastures or paddocks frequently.
  • Treat newly purchased pigs with a deworming product while in quarantine.
  • Treat all pigs in the herd twice a year for routine parasite prevention.
    • Always follow label directions for treatment.
    • Ensure you meet the correct dose and drug withdrawal times prior to slaughter.
    • Herds with breeding stock should deworm sows 1 to 2 weeks prior to farrowing.
  • Consult with your veterinarian in developing a deworming plan specific for your operation






All Pigs

Mites, lice, roundworms, threadworms, lungworms

  • Ivermectin®
  • Dectomax®
  • Weaning
  • Going into spring
  • Going into fall
  • 3 weeks pre-farrow

Preventative health and food safety

All Pigs

Tapeworms, whipworms, roundworms, hookworms

  • Safeguard® (Fenbendazole)
  • Weaning
  • Going into spring
  • Going into fall
  • 3 weeks pre-farrow

Preventative health and food safety