One day I noticed the pig laying around a lot, and not being as active as usual. At first, I thought it was just relaxing, being silly. But then I began to worry that it might not be feeling well. After a closer look, I noticed that her eyes were a little runny, which is a sign of worms in goats so I figured it probably meant the same for pigs.
Internal parasites, or worms, are some of the most common diseases to affect pigs. Left untreated, they can be expensive and can kill your pigs. Even if your pigs survive, they are likely to cause damage to your animal’s organs and to rob pigs of the essential nutrients they need to gain weight and to grow.
Long story short – it’s important that you know how and when to worm a pig! Here’s how to do it…
Signs of Worms in Pigs
It can be tough to detect the symptoms of worms in pigs. However, it’s important that you keep an eye on your pigs especially during the summer and spring months, when worms are most likely.
Some common symptoms of internal parasites in pigs include:
- Slow weight gain
- Poor feed conversion
- Diarrhea (scours)
- Coughing with no fever (or other signs or symptoms of respiratory infection)
- Anemic or pale coloring of the skin
- Lethargic appearance
- Worms detected in the feces
- Rough hair coat (in the case of large roundworms)
- Pendulous abdomens
There are other symptoms that can present themselves, too, but these tend to be the most common. They may occur together or just one at a time. In some cases, you may not know your pig has worms at all until you detect them crawling about in the manure. This is why it’s so important to remain vigilant!
There are a few different types of internal parasites that affect pigs. All require nutrients from the host in order to resource and service.
Found in the bloodstream, lungs, liver, kidneys, and digestive tract, they can be broken down into four groups – nematodes (also known as roundworms), tapeworms, protozoa, and thorny-headed worms. Of these, large roundworms and whipworms tend to be the most common.
How Often Should You Deworm Your Pigs?
The frequency with which you should deworm your pigs will vary depending on several factors.
It can be tough to establish a totally worm-free living environment. Pigs that are raised outdoors as well as those raised exclusively in confinement are equally susceptible to worms. Therefore, you will want to work closely with a veterinarian to come up with a worm management plant that will address all the needs of your pigs.
Adult pigs (those older than 12 months) should be treated with a dewormer on a twice-yearly basis. If you have a breeding herd of sows and gilts, you should worm them about two to three weeks before farrowing. This can prevent worms from spreading to newborn piglets.
Younger growing pigs require more frequent deworming than adults because they are more susceptible to damage from intestinal dog worms. Treat them when they’re eight weeks old – even if you wormed their mothers prior to farrowing – then once every two months.
How Do You Worm a Pig?
Here are some tips to help you deworm your herd – the right way!
1. Choose the Right Dewormer
There are many ways to deworm livestock, and for pigs, the most common methods are by oral or injectable options. Talk to your veterinarian to decide on the best ways for you.
There are also deworming feeds you can use. These complete feeds have all the nutritional requirements your pigs need to be healthy along with a dewormer added right in. These can be used as the sole ration to reduce the population of common parasites.
Once you decide on the form of dewormer you’d like to use, know that there are several different drugs that can be used. The most common are ivermectin (also known as Ivomec or Noromectin) along with fenbendazole (also known as SafeGuard).
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It is important to note that both ivermectin and fenbendazole are safe for pregnant or lactating pigs. Don’t deworm young piglets until they are at LEAST six weeks old (again, eight weeks is what’s recommended).
2. Administer the Dewormer
If you’re giving an injectable dewormer, you will need to check the instructions on the medication to make sure you have the proper dosage. Generally, you’ll inject using a small syringe at about 0.1 to 0.2 cc or milliliters per 10 pounds of body weight.
Usually if you’re administering with food it’s at roughly the same ratio, but again, check the instructions on the label to make sure you aren’t overdosing or undergoing your pigs.
You may have to repeat doses, often two at 14 days apart. Be sure to check expiration dates on the medications you use, too.
Sometimes pigs aren’t exactly amenable to the idea of being given medication. They can taste bitter, so if you’re giving an oral dewormer you may want to mix it with certain types of food to mask the taste. This will cause your pigs to think they’re getting special treats – not medicine!
Some good ideas of foods to mix with the dewormer include canned pumpkin yogurt, cookies, fruit, etc. Think of your pigs’ favorite foods and use those to provide your pigs with the dewormer they need.
How do you decide whether you should go with an injectable or oral dosing system? It can be tough to decide.
Obviously, an injectable is good if you want to be able to know with 100% certainty that all of the medication was absorbed – if you go the oral route, there’s a chance that your pigs will spill some of the feed on the ground and miss some of the medication.
That said, it’s not recommended to give an injection unless you have experience giving pigs shots. They have very tough skin (especially older pigs) and it’s all too common to accidentally break a needle off inside the pig. This causes pain, stress, and raises the potential for infection.
There are also pastes or pour-ons for pigs but these can be difficult to give to pigs because their strength is difficult to dose.
Monitor Your Pig
After deworming your pig, keep a close eye on him to make sure there aren’t any additional problems and that he is reacting well to the medication. You may see a large flush of worms coming out in the manure – that’s okay. It simply means your pig is shedding the parasite load from his body.
If you aren’t sure that the parasites were eliminated, you can do a fecal egg count a week or so after you administer the dewormer.
Also, be aware that most chemical dewormers have withdrawal periods. This is important if you are raising pigs for meat. This is the amount of time it takes for a pig’s body to clear the medication from its tissues. You can’t take a pig to market (or at least, you really shouldn’t) until the medication has cleared.
Preventing Worms in Pigs
The easiest way to address worms is to prevent them.
Keep your barn as clean as possible. This can be challenging when you’re raising pigs, but cleaning out any old or used bedding from the pig pen can go a long way in preventing pig parasites. Scrape out and replace the bedding often to prevent infestation of your pigs.
Pig parasites can be spread in numerous ways, but the most common is through direct contact with another pig or the pig’s feces or mucus. You may also find that your pigs pick up parasites when using a paddock that was previously inhabited by a pig that shed parasite eggs. Therefore, rotating pastures regularly is essential.
Parasites can even be spread via mechanical transfer methods, such as birds or rodents visiting the paddock with parasite eggs on their feet. Because of this, it’s a good idea, again, to keep the area as clean as possible. Remove spilled feed and messes promptly. Feed at dawn or dusk so the pigs can eat before birds start frequenting the paddock.
Coming up with an effective deworming plan is the most effective thing you can do to keep your pigs healthy. Inspect pigs carefully when introducing them to the herd and keep records of when and how your pigs were wormed last.
How Do You Worm a Pig Naturally?
You can also worm a pig naturally. These methods might not be as reliable as the chemical methods listed above, but there are several advantages to doing this.
For one, it is possible for pig parasites to develop a resistance to the drugs that are used. This can lead to bigger problems over time as you will be unable to treat your herd for new parasite loads.
Using organic methods helps you get around this resistance element. You can use items to deworm your pigs such as:
- Pumpkin seeds
- Apple cider vinegar
- Diatomaceous earth
- Cayenne pepper
- Wood ash
- Various herbs
The jury is still out as to whether these methods are effective but since they are healthy additions to a pig’s diet, they certainly aren’t going to do any harm and are worth a try!
Worming Pigs: What I Did
I called my husband and told him to swing by Tractor Supply and pick up some pig wormers. I asked him to get the injectable kind, because the oral medicine needs to be given after withholding food and water for 24-hrs, and I was afraid she didn’t have that long. I just didn’t want to wait and have her die. So, he brought home some Swine Ivomec and some 18 gauge needles.
We weren’t sure how to go about doing the injection. After a little reading, we decided that the shot needed to go into the softer skin between the pig’s ear and the shoulder blade. Now, when giving an injection, you are supposed to pinch the skin up, and give the shot just beneath the skin- not into the vein. But when we tried to pinch her skin up, it was so tight, we couldn’t get any within our grasp!
And getting her to sit still long enough to even attempt this was a real trick! My husband snuck up behind her several times, and stuck her with the needle, but as soon as she felt the sharp little prick, she’d jerk her head, squeal, and run away. Pretty soon she caught on to what he was doing, and wouldn’t let Jerry get within 10 ft of her.
The poor pig.
Jerry decided we’d try to corner her in her pen, and he’d jump on her to hold her down. Yeah. Good luck with that! I tried to warn him, but he was dead sure it would work.
That pig is entirely too fast!! She ran laps around him as he lunged at the moving target. I stood by cracking up, being of no help whatsoever. My husband finally gave up, exhausted and sweaty.
I let her rest until the next day before we tried again. I didn’t want to scare her too much. When my husband had left for the day, I decided that it was my turn to give it a try. I’ve never given an animal a shot before, so I was not looking forward to this. Nevertheless, I knew it had to be done.
I tried sneaking up behind her a couple of times, and sticking her with the needle. But she never would stay still long enough for me to push the injection in. I realized I’d have to change strategies if I wanted to get the job done.
I decided to fill a bucket with food as a distraction. As soon as she found it, she dug right in; her head entirely in the bucket. With her vision blinded and her attention off of me, I once again snuck up behind her. Quickly, I stuck the needle into her flesh, and squeezed the medicine into her.
And then life was good again.
updated 09/23/20021 by Rebekah Pierce
A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.