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Erysipelas in pigs

Otherwise known as “Diamond Skin Disease” due to the characteristic shaped skin lesions that are often found on infected animals, erysipelas is a common bacterial pig disease which can occur in three different forms:

Acute Erysipelas
The entry of the bacteria into the blood stream causes septicaemia which results in pigs which are noticeably ill, with very high temperatures of more than 40°C. Other symptoms include skin reddening, particularly of the ears and underbelly, with characteristic diamond shaped lesions, lethargy, loss of appetite, stiffness and reluctance to move. Pregnant sows may abort or give birth to a high number of mummified piglets. Infection in breeding boars can have a detrimental effect on fertility due to the increase in body temperature affecting sperm development. Onset and progression of acute erysipelas is sudden with often the only evidence being dead pigs.

Sub-acute Erysipelas
Infected animals generally show milder symptoms than those with the acute form of the disease and many go on to recover.

Chronic Erysipelas
This may occur after acute or
sub-acute infection, or without any evidence of clinical symptoms at all. The bacteria affects the joints causing arthritis and often the heart where it causes growths on the valves which can lead to heart failure. Not only does the arthritis cause the animal considerable pain, leading to loss of condition, it can also result in further economical loses due to carcass failings.

Veterinary consultation should always be undertaken to ensure an accurate diagnosis, many of the symptoms of Erysipelas are also common to a number of other pig diseases. If the diamond skin lesions cannot be seen, they can often be felt under the skin, which is a particularly useful diagnostic symptom.

Acute and sub-acute infections usually respond quite well to treatment with penicillin antibiotics, however animals suffering from the chronic form are deemed incurable.

Erysipelas vaccines are available and the best means of controlling the disease is through an effective vaccination programme.
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