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Quick guide to: Congenital Splay Legs

By Dr Andrew Tucker – Charles Street Veterinary Consultancy
What is Congenital Splay Legs?
The Splay Leg condition is seen on farm as a piglet that is born and is unable to stand. These piglets often lie with the legs splayed apart and battle to drink as they cannot move easily around the pen.
What causes splay legs?
Splay legs is a genetic condition exacerbated by certain on- farm factors. The condition is caused by a failure of certain muscle fibres to mature in sufficient numbers. These weakened muscles are then unable to support the piglet at birth. This can occur in forelimbs, but is more common in the hind limbs.
Certain factors have been shown to increase the incidence of splay leg piglets, namely, large litters, shorter gestation periods, farrowing induction prior to day 113, zearalenone poisoning as well as certain diseases like PRRS.
How do you treat or prevent it?
The prognosis for these piglets is never good. Crushing and starvation are common as piglets have limited mobility. With enough care these piglets can show much improvement within two to three days of birth and can return 100% to normal within ten days. The care needed is however quite intensive. Piglets firstly need to be regularly fed (ideally hourly), they also need to be kept warm and if left with the sow need to be separated from her so that she does not lie on them. Repeated massage of the hind limbs improves survival dramatically and elastic bands on the legs as well as non-slip floors do help somewhat. Humane killing in some cases will be necessary where nursing has not been sufficient or in severe cases where recovery is too slow.
References:
Pig Diseases – D.J. Taylor; Diseases of Swine – Straw, Zimmerman, D’Allaire, Taylor

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