Abstract Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC), an essential cause of post-weaning diarrhea (PWD) in piglets, leads to significant economic losses to the pig industry. The present study aims to identify the role of ETEC total RNA in eliciting immune responses to protect animals against ETEC infection. The results showed that the total RNA isolated from pig-derived ETEC K88ac strain effectively stimulated the IL-1β secretion of porcine intestinal epithelial cells (IPEC-J2). The mouse model immunized with ETEC total RNA via intramuscular injection (IM) or oral route (OR) was used to evaluate the protective efficiency of the ETEC total RNA. The results suggested that 70 μg ETEC total RNA administered by either route significantly promoted the production of the serum IL-1β and K88ac specific immunoglobulins (IgG, IgM, and IgA). Besides, the ETEC RNA administration augmented strong mucosal immunity by elevating K88ac specific IgA level in the intestinal fluid. Intramuscularly administered RNA induced a Th1/Th2 shift toward a Th2 response, while the orally administered RNA did not. The ETEC total RNA efficiently protected the animals against the ETEC challenge either by itself or as an adjuvant. The histology characterization of the small intestines also suggested the ETEC RNA administration protected the small intestinal structure against the ETEC infection. Particularly of note was that the immunity level and protective efficacy caused by ETEC RNA were dose-dependent. These findings will help understand the role of bacterial RNA in eliciting immune responses, and benefit the development of RNA-based vaccines or adjuvants.