The pathogenesis of postpartum dysgalactia syndrome (PDS) in sows is not fully elucidated and affected sows often present vague clinical signs. Accurate and timely diagnosis is difficult, and PDS is often recognized with a delay once piglets begin to starve. Increased rectal temperature of the sow is an important diagnostic parameter, but it may also be influenced by a number of other parameters and is thus difficult to interpret. Inflammatory markers may be important adjuncts to the clinical assessment of sows with PDS, but such markers have only been studied to a limited extent. The objective was to characterize the inflammatory response in healthy sows and in sows suffering from PDS, and to identify biomarkers that may assist in early identification of PDS-affected sows.
Thirty-eight PDS-affected (PDS+) and 38 healthy (PDS-) sows underwent clinical examination and blood sampling every 24 h, from 60 h before the first piglet was born to 36 h after parturition. In both groups, inflammatory markers changed in relation to parturition. Most inflammatory markers changed 12-36 h after parturition [white blood cell counts (WBC), neutrophil counts, lymphocyte counts, tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α), interleukin 6 (IL-6), serum amyloid A (SAA), C-reactive protein (CRP), haptoglobin (Hp), iron (Fe) and albumin (ALB)]. Changes in neutrophil counts, lymphocyte counts, CRP, Fe and ALB were observed -12 to 0 h before parturition. WBC, neutrophil and lymphocyte counts, serum concentrations of TNF-α, IL-6, Hp and Fe differed between PDS+ and PDS- sows. These differences were mainly apparent 12 to 36 h after parturition, but already at 12 h before parturition, PDS+ sows had lower lymphocyte counts than PDS- sows.
Parturition itself caused significant inflammatory changes, but PDS+ sows showed a more severe response than PDS- sows. WBC, neutrophil and lymphocyte counts, and concentrations of TNF-α, IL-6, Hp and Fe can be potential biomarkers for PDS. Lymphocyte counts may be used to detect PDS at pre-partum. To assess their diagnostic potential, these markers must be investigated further and most likely combined with assessment of clinical parameters and other biomarkers for improved identification of sows at risk of developing PDS.