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Ulcers in Show Pigs

 One of the topics that always come up are ulcers in show pigs.  There are some infectious diseases that cause vomiting along with scours and certain mycotoxins can cause vomiting.  With those exceptions when you see a show pig vomiting they almost certainly have a gastric ulcer. 

So what are the causes of gastric ulcers? 

    1. Anything that makes pigs go off feed.    

    2. Feed that is too small particle size. (Ground too fine)

    3. Vitamin E/ Selenium deficiency

    4. Copper toxicity

    5. Significant parasite load 

Helicobacter pylori is often found in the mucus lining of the pig stomach and is believed to be an infectious component of gastric ulcers in pigs.

Of the five common causes we listed by far the most common one is anything that makes a pig go off feed.  In studies that were meant to measure the effect of out of feed events in finishing pigs they found that about 80% of otherwise healthy pigs that were out of feed for 24 hours developed ulcers. When they extended the out of feed time to 48 hours 100% of the pigs developed ulcers. 

How do I tell if my pig might have an ulcer?

The cardinal clinical sign in a pig with an ulcer is vomiting.  But some more subtle signs can be observed by the attentive feeder.  The pain associated with an ulcer can will often cause pigs to roach their back while eating.  Those pigs might also eat a little and then go back and forth to drink water or eat a bite or two and stop and lie down. If the pig is bleeding a lot they'll have dark tarry stools and may appear pale or "bleached out." Just keep in mind not all ulcers bleed enough to cause dark stools or anemia.  

How do you prevent ulcers?  

The number one answer is to keep them eating. That's where a supplement like TrueGlo Turbo comes into play.  We haven't found any supplement that stimulates appetite as well as "Turbo."  There are also some plant based supplements that are claimed to help prevent ulcers.  If a pig gets sick and goes off feed get them treated ASAP and get them back on feed.

Ok it looks like my pig has an ulcer. What do I do now? 

First and foremost you want to work with your veterinarian not only will they help you make the correct diagnosis, but a number of the treatment options are either prescription or extra label so you'll need their help to get the pig treated. 

Over the years we've settled on our own solution for our show pig clients. We've shared that ulcer protocol with lots of folks over the years and we'll share it again here. It is a 14 day treatment protocol. 

On day 1 

Treat the underlying cause of them going off feed. Often it will be a respiratory or other infection that will require antibiotics and perhaps anti-inflammatory medication.

Start UlcerGard (it is a horse label product for prevention of ulcers so using it to treat ulcers in pigs requires your veterinarian to prescribe it as an extra label treatment) We try to give around 40 mg of omeprazole per day for a finishing pig. The whole tube contains 2280 mg of omeprazole so the dose for a pig is about 1/57 th of a tube. It's a tiny amount.  Pigs, like horses, require a small amount of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda)  along with the omeprazole for good absorption.  The UlcerGard has sodium bicarbonate in its formula but if you choose to use another formulation of omeprazole you'll want to feed a small amount of baking soda with it. 

Start giving Bismuth subsalycilate. We will give one or two ounces depending on the size of the pig. This product isn't labeled for pigs so it also requires your veterinarian to prescribe it extra label.   We use this because, in addition to it's antacid properties, there is  data suggesting that bismuth reduces the population of Helicobacter.  One word of caution, because of the similarity of subsalycilate molecule to aspirin it can cross react resulting in a failed drug test if used close to a show. Here is a link to Bismusol from Priority Care. You can buy it at many animal heath suppliers or from your veterinarian.

Give a Vitamin B12 injection.

Administer a BoSe injection. 

Feed something they like such as straight oat groats, S'more Fill, or the like. 

Day 2-14 

Add regular feed back to their diet as soon as they start eating.  By 2-3 days of treatment they should be back to eating normally.  If they aren't eating by 2-3 days talk with your vet. They may want to add sucralfate to the treatment protocol.  We have to do this with a few every year that don't respond to omeprazole.

Continue the UlcerGard and Bismuth subsalicylate.




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