Many of you may have heard rumors of a new disease which has been seen in the UK particularly since the summer. The full name for this disease is Post-weaning Multisystemic Wasting Syndrome. The problem currently is mainly confined in Anglia and the Midlands, however, as the disease has no specific causal agent, its precise means of spread can not be determined. In general this disease should pose little risk to the pet pig population however, it is better to be advised of its existence.
As its name suggests the disease’s principle sign is severe rapid weight loss in young pigs of 6-15 weeks of age. Pigs also show respiratory distress, pale skin and occasionally scour. The disease is a syndrome and this means that we do not know exactly what causes it. There is some evidence from Europe e.g. France and Spain where it has been causing problems since 1997 that a Porcine Circovirus type 2 (PCV-2) is at least partly involved.
The disease appears to infect piglets before 4 weeks of age, and then at least 5 weeks later starts to cause the wasting symptoms. The disease can also spread from the wasting pigs to other in contact pigs, with an incubation period of some 4 weeks before symptoms are seen.
Post Mortem Findings
If you are unlucky enough to have a case please contact your vet. If the pig dies, and mortality can be quite high, for your vets information, the post mortem findings suggestive of the syndrome are rubbery lungs with interlobular oedema giving a mosaic pattern to the external surface of the lung. Lymph nodes are massively enlarged indicating that at least part of the disease is due to a dysfunctional immune system. Gastric ulcers are often identified. There are tests on tissues which will confirm the PCV-2 presence.
To date we have not come across any really effective treatment. In cases the best thing to do is to keep the pigs well bedded down to keep them warm without restricting ventilation. Soluble antibiotics seem most effective rather than using injectables as this only causes more stress so making it more difficult for the pig to fight the primary viral disease. Routine vitamins in the drinking water help the pigs to fight off the viral challenge and broad spectrum in feed antibiotics help prevent secondary infections.
Control and Prevention
PMWS is spread predominantly by pig movements therefore the risks to pet pigs are minimal assuming basic health precautions are adhered to. In particular it would be wise to isolate all incoming stock for at least 3 weeks off farm if possible and contact the supplier to see there have been no further disease problems before moving them onto your unit. Use different clothing and boots when feeding and cleaning out the new arrivals. Discuss with the breeder that there are no PMWS problems. Report any suspicious problems to your veterinarian.
URL: http://www.garth.demon.co.uk. Used With Permission From The Potbellied Pig Club, England