Recently, several reports from Europe suggested a new disease threat to pig production as a syndrome of intractable diarrhea in suckling pigs. Up to 40% mortality was reported, with both the cause and the cure unknown.

As the diagnostic investigations unfolded, no consistent infectious causes of diarrhea were identified. The investigations were interesting, however, because of some of the implications from the analysis of risk factors. These included in no particular order: offspring of gilts or Parity 2 females; prolonged farrowing with later piglets at greater risk; greater variability in quantity of antibody transferred to the later-farrowed piglets; hyperprolificity of sows; excess milk/colostrum production; overuse of antibiotics and chilling. More will be discussed regarding these factors later.

Dealing with scours starts with looking for the infectious causes of the increased diarrhea or increased preweaning mortality.

The rate and frequency of diagnosis of E. coli numbers in suckling piglets at the Iowa State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (VDL) has not changed appreciably in the last six years.

Following are four figures (1-4) which illustrate the frequency of positive diagnosis for the last six years for rotavirus, coccidiosis, Clostridium perfringens type A, Clostridium difficile A/B.

Figure 5 looks at interactions of infections, on-farm risks, while Figure 6 provides an update on porcine circovirus-associated disease cases.

Click to view graphs.

Kent Schwartz, DVM
Iowa State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory