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Quick guide to: Post farrowing discharges

By Dr Andrew Tucker, Charles Street Veterinary Consultancy
What is a post farrowing discharge?
In sows it is common to have a discharge from the vulva after the farrowing process. It is normal to find a clear, slightly mucous like or even bloody discharge post farrowing. This normally lasts for up to a day and a half after the end of the farrowing process and is simply the shrinking uterus ridding itself of materials left inside it after farrowing.
In some cases the discharge remains present for a longer period, five to seven days. This can lead to health and production issues like fever, decreased feed intake, longer wean – service interval and decreased farrowing rate on the subsequent cycle. The severity of the symptoms depend on the area of the reproductive tract that has been affected.
Infection of the reproductive tract is often caused by mixed bacterial growth. These bacteria colonise the physiologically disturbed tissue of the “newly farrowed” reproductive tract and cause inflammation and infection.
The mildest form of infection is a vulvitis. This results in a mild discharge (6 ml) that can last for two days and normally has no further negative effects. A vaginitis is very common, has a mild discharge (10-30 ml) and can cause decreased feed intake, but rarely has any further negative effects. An endometritis (infection in the uterus) causes a high volume discharge (100 ml), white-yellow in colour. This can result in fever, decreased feed intake, decreased milk production, death in severe cases and may have severe negative effects on the sows’ future fertility. These sows are normally culled at the soonest opportunity.
Treatment of post farrowing discharges
It is important to distinguish between a normal post farrowing discharge and an infection that needs to be treated as soon as possible.
Various broad spectrum antibiotics are effective in treating infection in the reproductive tract. There are different routes of administration possible and in cases where many sows are affected, preventative medication regimes can be very effectively implemented.
Prevention of post farrowing discharges
Most infections are thought to be ascending infections i.e. bacteria enter the vulva from the environment and move up the reproductive tract creating infection as it goes. Hygiene is therefore a critical part of prevention. Manure in farrowing pens should be removed on a continuous basis. Any aid given during farrowing can introduce bacteria and so should be done with clean hands, sterile gloves and followed up with antimicrobial therapy.
Pig Diseases – D.J. Taylor; Diseases of Swine – Straw, Zimmerman, D’Allaire, Taylor

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