Tributyrin (TBU) is a good dietary source of butyrate and has beneficial effects on the maintenance of normal intestinal morphology. The present study tested the hypothesis that dietary TBU supplementation could alleviate intestinal injury in the acetic acid (ACA)-induced porcine model of colitis. A total of eighteen piglets (25 d old) were randomly allocated to one of three treatment groups (control, ACA and TBU). The control and ACA groups were fed a basal diet and the TBU group was fed the basal diet supplemented with 0·1 % TBU. On day 15 of the trial, under anaesthesia, a soft catheter was inserted into the rectum of piglets (20–25 cm from the anus), followed by administration of either saline (control group) or ACA (10 ml of 10 % ACA solution for ACA and TBU groups). On day 22 of the trial, after venous blood samples were collected, piglets were killed to obtain mid-ileum and mid-colon mucosae. Compared with the control group, the ACA group exhibited an increase (P< 0·05) in lymphocyte counts, creatinine, PGE2, and malondialdehyde concentrations and diamine oxidase and inducible NO synthase activities in the plasma and lymphocyte density in the colon and a decrease in insulin concentrations and glutathione peroxidase activity, ileal villus height:crypt depth ratios and goblet cell numbers in the colon. These adverse effects of ACA were attenuated by TBU supplementation. Moreover, TBU prevented the ACA-induced increase in caspase-3 levels while enhancing claudin-1 protein and epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mRNA expression in the colonic mucosa. Collectively, these results indicate that dietary supplementation with 0·1 % TBU alleviates ACA-induced intestinal injury possibly by inhibiting apoptosis, promoting tight-junction formation and activating EGFR signalling.