Animal welfare is the humane treatment of animals and livestock farmers take the health and wellbeing of the animals very seriously. Farmers are responsible for providing proper housing, nutrition, behavioural and social requirements, humane handling, disease prevention and veterinary treatment. Read on to find out what happens when a pig gets sick.
The first thing the veterinarian has to do is to diagnose what is making the animal sick. Just like with humans, illnesses can be caused by a variety of sources, such as exposure to toxins or hereditary diseases passed down from the parent animals. Pigs can also show symptoms of illness from things in their environment that are making them unwell. A poor water supply, temperatures that are too hot or too cold, being bullied by aggressive pigs in their pen, and even boredom can all have an impact on their health. Farmers carefully manage what their pigs eat and drink and they create environments that are safe and reduce aggression and boredom to ensure their pigs are as healthy as can be.
Sometimes illness comes from an infectious disease (like viruses, bacteria, fungi) that needs to be diagnosed and treated to stop the spread to other animals and prevent it from recurring.
Once the cause of the disease is identified, the veterinarian formulates a treatment plan to help the pig recover and prevent the spread to other animals. Like in human medicine, treatments are specific to the pig’s symptoms and any medications prescribed are used within the recommended dosage.
There are many treatment options available to veterinarians.
- Antibiotics: are only used when bacterial infections are the source of the illness. In this case, they destroy the bacteria and help manage the symptoms to relieve the pig’s symptoms.
- Anti-inflammatories: can be prescribed to control fevers so that the pig can eat and drink normally, which helps them recover faster.
- Electrolytes: Sometimes piglets need electrolytes to combat dehydration, which also assists them with fighting infection and making a full recovery.
- Vaccine: Occasionally a vaccine is needed to protect the whole population of the barn and prevent a disease from spreading or recurring.
DYK: Biosecurity refers to a series of protocols that help keep animals healthy. It is a priority on all Canadian hog farms. Biosecurity measures, including disinfecting showers, sterilizing equipment and clothing, and limiting visitors, are designed to prevent diseases from spreading between herds and crossing from humans to animals.
Preventing diseases in animals is a collaborative effort between farmers, veterinarians and government agencies to ensure animals are looked after and protected. This includes putting plans in place to be able to effectively deal with sick animals.
Ask a Veterinarian
We asked veterinarian Dr. Matheus Costa, who specializes in swine health at the University of Saskatchewan: What do you do when pigs get sick?