Natural Pig Production
Ileitis in pigs
A common ailment in swine of
various ages, but especially of recently-weaned pigs, is known as
ileitis. Ileitis is a generic term for a family of enteric
diseases grouped under Intestinal Adenomatosis Complex or Porcine
Proliferative Enteropathies (Leman et al., 1986). There are at least
two common factors to most of the diseases in this group: presence
of Camphylobacter sp. and inflammation of small and/or large
intestine. Diarrhea is also often present, but not always. Syumptoms
range from poor growth performance to death. Experimental
animal infection of these diseases is not always effective. Why?
Probably because they lack the primary initiator:stress.
How can stress be a culprit if
the disease only becomes evident two or three weeks after weaning?
When an animal is stressed, as a
piglet would be if it were removed from the sow at a young age, its
body automatically shifts into the 'flight or fight' syndrome. This
involves a rapid-fire secretion of hormones that divert energy from
the gastrointestinal tract (GIT) to the muscles. Beneficial
microflora that populate the GIT and are an extension of the immune
system starve and die. These microbes are often either attached or
non-motile and rely on nutrients to come to them. When the energy is
diverted away from the GIT, nutrient flow either slows or stops. The
duration of the stress determines the extent of the damage. A
newly-weaned pig is stressed for several days.
Consider this: a young pig is
taken away from its mother and siblings, and mixed with often
unfamiliar pigs in a usually unfamiliar pen. Add to that a usually
unfamiliar diet. Even if creep feed was provided while still
nursing, the diet was dominated by milk. This means that the GIT
microflora that predominate at the time of weaning depend on milk.
After weaning, the milk-dependent
microbes starve and die. This leaves gaps in the protective barrier
normally presented by the beneficial microorganisms. This stress is
unavoidable in all mammals, but few must experience it at such a
young age and so dramatically. Bigger gaps appear in the protective
barrier, gaps that opportunistic pathogens wait for and exploit as
soon as they appear.
The bacteria often blamed for
ileitis are not particularly infectious. However, when faced with
such a ripe environment, even they can proliferate.
Many pathogens secrete toxins,
which irritate the intestinal lining. They can also damage tissue
responsible for nutrient absorption. If semi-digested nutrients are
not absorbed, they continue down to the large intestine, where they
feed more pathogens. It takes a minimum of 40 minutes for one
bacteria to become two, and often longer. Considering that there are
approximately 10,000,000,000 bacteria in the GIT, it would take a
couple weeks just to grow enough pathogens to make the disease
obvious to the producer. This is why it is so easy to disassociate
stress from disease, the disease may appear weeks or even months
after the causative event.
Assuming that weaning is a major
stress and that newly-weaned pigs are vulnerable to infection, the
best defense is prevention. Probiotics, especially in concentrated
forms (paste or drench) should be given at the time of removal from
the mother. The stress itself can not be avoided, but the effects
can either be prevented or ameliorated.
temporarily fill the gaps left in the protective barrier by the
demise of the stress-killed or milk-starved beneficial
microorganisms. They are good competitors that carry with them an
arsenal of chemical and physical weapons. Probiotic microorganisms
prevent opportunistic pathogens like Camphylobacter sp. from
proliferating and secreting toxins. They also allow the normal
residents of the GIT to regroup, reorganize and adapt to
the new diet.
The new diet should also contain
a lower level of probiotic microorganisms to be consumed on a daily
basis. These microbes will provide continuous coverage for less
traumatic stresses that are a normal part of a pig's life - handling
and weather. The initial dose of the concentrated probiotic will
only protect a pig for at most a few weeks.
Probiotics can also help if a pig
succumbs to ileitis, despite preventive treatment. When the
disease has progressed to the point where the pig is listless, anoerexic, and/or has diarrhea, assume the pathogens are starting to
dominate the GIT. In this case, the daily probiotic formula is not
enough. Oral dosing is required for affected animals that are not
For animals suspected with
ileitis, immediate treatment with a concentrated probiotic such as
MSE paste is recommend. If the animal is only just starting to
appear sick, a daily dose of 5 cc should be sufficient, until it is
back on feed and any diarrhea has ceased. MSE Paste is recommended
over MSE Drench because the paste contains pectin.
Pectin is a soluble fiber that
quickly absorbs water after consumption. The water is trapped in a
matrix that can only be broken down by bacteria in the colon.
However, since pectin does not have any residual effect, it must be
fed daily to continue to diarrhea control.
Used together, as in MSE Paste,
probiotics and pectin provide a more permanent solution.
Pectin is a quick fix. It helps
stop the diarrhea and loose stools which can ultimately kill a pig.
Probiotic microorganisms allow the indigenous microflora to
repopulate and regain control of the GIT. It can take at least two
weeks to allow the beneficial microbes to proliferate. During those
two weeks, the pig is still vulnerable. I
Pigs that are down may be given
higher doses. Not only does MSE Paste supply more probiotic
microbes, it also supplies crucial vitamins that become depleted
when an animal stops eating. Many B-vitamins are integral in energy
Recovering pigs that are eating
can be given MSE Drench mixed onto the feed.
Leman, A. D., B. Straw, R. D. Glock,
W. L. Mengeling, R. H. C. Penny. E. Scholl,. 1986. Diseases of
swine. Iowa State Univ. Press, Ames.