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Quick guide to haemolytic diseases of piglets

By: Dr Andrew Tucker, CS Vet
What are haemolytic diseases of piglets?
These are diseases of suckling piglets characterised by multiple haemorrhages (bleeding under the skin) and death of the whole or part of the litter. The diseases are caused by piglets drinking colostrum containing antibodies that in effect reduce the number of platelets circulating in the piglets blood. A similar condition can also cause the piglets’ red blood cells to be broken down resulting in yellow/pale piglets.

In order for the condition to occur, the blood type of the boar has to be different to that of the sow and it must be this sow’s second litter with a boar of this blood type. These conditions are found in less than one percent of litters.
How do you know if it’s on your farm?
These conditions are only found in suckling piglets and can be seen from day 2 – 30 after birth. Normally about a quarter of the litter is affected and most affected piglets don’t survive. Affected piglets are often pale and show difficulty breathing. Piglets often have a blotchy, purple skin with clearly visible scratch marks on the skin.
The characteristic clinical and post mortem findings help to diagnose the condition. Blood tests in a laboratory can confirm the diagnosis.
How do you treat or prevent it?
Piglets can be treated by supporting them with antimicrobials, fluids, multivitamins and anti-inflammatories as necessary. Piglets should be moved onto another sow for at least 24 hours or until the colostrum containing the antibody is used up. On farms where the incidence of the condition is high, the boar should be changed to reduce the incidence of the disease.
Pig Diseases – D.J. Taylor; Diseases of Swine – Straw, Zimmerman, D’Allaire, Taylor

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