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Post-weaning (spirochaetal) diarrhoea

Background and history

This is a disease associated with spirochetes distinct from those that cause swine dysentery (Brachyspira hyodysenteriae). It occurs mainly in young pigs appearing very similar to colitis and the possibility of Brachyspira pilosicoli and Lawsonia intracellularis (PE) playing a major part cannot be discounted.

Clinical signs

Weaners and growers

  • A mild to moderate sloppy diarrhoea develops two to six weeks post-weaning that persists for a few days.
  • Dehydration.
  • Loss in growth.
  • Most cases resolve in 7 to 10 days but in some pigs it becomes chronic.
  • The disease can be difficult to differentiate from other bacterial infections, particularly non-specific colitis.

Diagnosis

This is difficult because specific organisms cannot usually be identified. If there is an on-going problem on the farm live diseased pigs showing typical signs should be submitted for post-mortem and bacteriological examinations to eliminate swine dysentery and demonstrate large populations of spirochetes associated with an enteritis.

Causes

Spirochetes are common inhabitants of the large intestine and caecum and disease is often associated with changes such as the inadvertent removal of copper from the diet, withdrawal of growth promoters or a sudden change in diet.

Prevention

  • Adopt all-in all-out procedures.
  • Ensure that floor surfaces are kept clean and dry.
  • Provide clean sources of water.
  • Use growth promoters such as tylosin or salinomycin.

Treatment

  • In-feed medication. Lincomycin, tiamulin, monensin, dimetridazole and tylosin all have good activity against spirochetes and can be used for both prevention and treatment.
  • In acute outbreaks lincomycin, tiamulin or tylosin could be used in the water.
  • Inject individual pigs with either lincomycin, tiamulin or tylosin and assess the response.