Lameness in Adults


Sow lameness is not uncommon and is a major cause of culling or euthanasia on the pig farm.


Bush foot/swollen foot



Lame sow


Infection enters the foot through a number of routes - following a puncture or trauma wound to the lower leg. - Toes can become trapped and torn in slats.  - Open wounds are not uncommon following abrasion from rough floors.  Treatment must be vigorous.  Failure to respond quickly usually leads to euthanasia.  Move the pig to a compromised pig pen with good footing, ideally straw based.  Inject with Lincomycin or other suitable antibiotic.  Ensure the pig is encouraged to rise regularly – several times a day.  Make adequate provision for food and water.

Osteochondritis dessicans (OCD)

Legs osteochrondrosis

The OCD lesion is the rough looking area on the right area of the joint.

In young growing adults, osteochondritis may be seen.  Note that OCD lesions are very common and are only clinically painful when the lesion is severe enough either to remove the joint cartilage revealing the underlying bone within the joint or synovial tissue becomes trapped within the joint or significant numbers of joint mice (pieces of cartilage or bone) are present.  A pig with a small cartilaginous erosion is likely to be an incidental finding.  The picture shows a moderate erosion of the ulna radius.


Femoral Head Fracture – epiphysiolysis

Legs epiphysiolysis gilt

This is a specific form of osteochondrosis which affects the neck of the femur.  Following trauma, often associated with bullying, pushing through a narrow doorway or a mating injury, the young sow presents with sudden unilateral hind limb lameness with collapse of her gluteal (hip) muscles, mainly on one side.  There is no effective treatment.

Split Hips

Legs dog sitting position kr

If a sow falls or does the splits, she can tear pelvic muscles resulting in an inability to rise.  There is generally no effective treatment and euthanasia must be carried out as soon as the decision is made that the pig will not recover and at the most seven days after onset of the injury.  Control the problem by reviewing the floor and laying patterns of the sows.

Shoulder sores

Classically seen in the later stages of lactation and generally associated with a thin sow.  Some of the lean modern sows may easily develop shoulder sores.  The problem is ischaemic (no blood supply) necrosis over the shoulder blade.  Treatment is to keep the wound clean until weaning.  After weaning place the sow in a compromised pen with straw.  Feed the sow to restore body condition.  Healing is normally complete within a month.  The sow, however, should be bred as normal after weaning.


Ulcerated granuloma

Legs chronic granuloma large 1

A large granuloma develops on the fore or hind leg of the sow.  The lesion looks more severe than the behaviour of the animal would indicate.  There is no effective treatment.  Lesion size can be controlled by housing on straw.  Culling may be beneficial.  As the slaughterhouse may become very concerned about the lesion, therefore, telephone and discuss any welfare or transportation issues, with the duty veterinarian before sending in the animal.  On occasions Borrelia suis may be a specific cause

Overgrown feet




Legs overgrown feet 2

Overgrown feet are not uncommon on pig farms particularly in certain lines of pigs.  Pig feet should be regularly inspected and trimmed, ideally immediately after farrowing.  Sows do not like having their feet trimmed.  Note sow’s feet can be very hard and may be difficult to trim. Using a small grinder can be very effective.  Overgrown feet contribute to preweaning mortalities by making the sow clumsy.

Erysipelas and adult arthritis



Leg lame boar hind leg kr

Arthritic boar

Erysipelas is covered in detail elsewhere.  However, it is a major cause of chronic arthritis in the sow and boar.  Unfortunately vaccines do not cover the problem.  Treatment is difficult and unrewarding.  Relief may be provided through painkillers given by mouth (hide in an apple or chocolate).  This may be particularly important in breeding boars or boars on an AI stud.



Broken legs

Legs humerous break, gilt overweight boar

Unfortunately broken legs occur on farms.  On several occasions it is associated with poor building design or failure due to wear and tear, for example due to holes appearing in the floor.  Sows sleeping in a stall area may be trampled on by other sows and breakages occur.  Miss-sizing boars and young sows can also lead to catastrophic breakage of the humerus.  It is very unlikely that nutritional imbalances are the cause of leg breakages, but it must be investigated when breakages become a ‘herd’ issue.  Gilt may have weakened bones with osteoporosis at weaning.

Infected joints in the leg

Legs infected gross tarsus adult Legs infected joint adult tartus PM

Sow with a swollen ankle which at postmortem shows severe infection

Trauma to the legs can result in infection into the tissues around the joint and muscles.  When the infection is severe enough to cause severe lameness and collapse the response to treatment in generally poor. 

Conformation problems

Conformation of the sow and boar varies depending on the breed.  Discuss with your breeding company specific conformation of the stock.

Specific conformation errors:

Leg conformation hind held forward kr

Hind legs under abdomen

Leg conformation pointing kr

Toes pointing

leg conformation kr

Forelegs too straight

Deformed legs 2

Dipped shoulder gilt

Feet pet pig 7

Excess muscling

Dipped shoulders

Misshapen and uneven toes