Piglet Anaemia also known as Iron Deficient Anaemia is a hypochromic-microcytic anaemia generally associated with young, rapidly growing piglets deprived of iron in their diet or from their environment.
“The most common parameter to indicate iron-deficient anaemia is haemoglobin concentration. When a piglet is born, it has sufficient iron to last for only 3–7 days and so must obtain sufficient iron from elsewhere”.
Under natural conditions, baby pigs may obtain sufficient iron from the soil, but most pigs today are farrowed and reared on concrete floors indoors and thus have no access to soil.
However, some soils contain very little iron, or iron in a form that is chemically bound and not available to the pigs. Indoor, the pig has no access to iron other than to the sows’ milk (which is deficient) until it starts to eat creep feed. The pig is born with a normal level of haemoglobin in the blood of 12-13g/100ml and this rapidly drops down to 6-7g by 10 to 14 days of age.
Iron is a vital component in forming haemoglobin, a protein comprising about one-third the weight of the red blood cell.
Haemoglobin within the red blood cell has the unique function of carrying oxygen from the lungs to the tissues of the body in support of cellular metabolism and transporting carbon dioxide resulting from cellular metabolism back to the lungs.
When there is a deficiency of iron, the baby pig cannot synthesize an adequate amount of haemoglobin.
“Piglet anemia is a condition of the blood in which the oxygen-carrying capacity is greatly reduced, and this condition is generally due to iron deficiency”.
Causes of Iron Deficiency
Anemia iron deficiency develops rapidly in nursing pigs reared in confinement because of low body storage of iron in the newborn pig, low iron content of sow’s colostrum and milk, and elimination of contact with iron from the soil.
Piglets appear pale from 7 days onwards and growth is sometimes slower. The colour of the skin may take on a slight yellow or jaundiced appearance. In severe cases, breathing is rapid particularly with exercise and there may be a predisposition to scour.
• The easiest method is to give the piglet an injection of 150- 200mg of iron dextran in either a 1 or 2ml dose.
• Iron is best given from 3 to 5 days of age and not at birth. A 2ml dose at birth causes considerable trauma to the muscles.
• The sites of injection are either into the muscles of the hind leg or into the neck.
• Iron can also be given orally but this method is time consuming and the pig must be treated on 2 or 3 occasions at 7, 10 and 15 days of age.