Diagnosis of digestive processes in pigs, the key piece of the puzzle


Gema Chacón Pérez

Digestive processes have a great impact on the pig sector, both in terms of mortality in piglets and the associated slow growth and heterogeneity of the flocks.

However, identifying the cause of a digestive pathology can be complicated:

Non-specific symptomatology

The clinical signs and history of the farm may point to a presumptive diagnosis, but this will always need to be confirmed by laboratory analysis.

Multifactorial character

There are multiple factors that may trigger a diarrheal process, and more than one etiological agent may be involved.

Digestive microbiota

Some diarrhea-producing agents, such as E. coli or C. perfringens, are part of the digestive flora, but isolation of these bacteria does not mean that they are the cause of diarrhea.


Discovering the real origin of a digestive process in a pig farm requires an organized and methodical approach that includes the a differential diagnosis based on the clinical picture, so that laboratory analyses can be directed towards the detection of specific pathogens.


Differential diagnosis of digestive diseases in pigs

Establishing a differential diagnosis based on the age of the animals and the symptoms they show is the first step in deciding which samples will be taken to the laboratory and how they will be analyzed.


The importance of adequate sampling

The success of the diagnosis depends on the choice of the samples, as they must be representative and in good condition.

What animals?

  • Animals in the early stages of diarrhoea: Animals that have been suffering from diarrhoea for a longer period of time may make diagnosis more difficult due to the presence of secondary agents.
  • Untreated animals. Antibiotic treatment may prevent the isolation of bacteria such as E. coli or Clostridium.
  • Slaughtered animals. Avoid samples from animals that have been dead for several hours, as autolysis of the intestine occurs rapidly.


How many animals?

With 4-5 animals from different litters, a good representation of the farm is obtained.

What samples?

Digestive packages: they allow a complete analysis, including histopathological study.

Part of the small intestine and the large intestine with the ends knotted.



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