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Thrombocytopaenic purpura

Background and history

This is an uncommon condition seen only in young piglets from approximately 7 to 21 days of age. It arises when the sows colostrum contains antibodies that destroy the piglets blood platelets (thrombocytes). The immune system of the sow during the period of pregnancy recognises the platelets as foreign protein and produces antibodies against them. The formation of these antibodies is also related to the boar that is used. Disease commences 7 to 10 days after the intake of colostrum.

Clinical signs

Piglets

  • Clinical signs can be sudden.
  • Good pigs found dead.
  • Look closely at the skin of these and you will see haemorrhages and blue areas wherever there has been bruising, teeth marks or trauma.
  • Haemorrhages are evident throughout all body tissues.

Diagnosis

Seek veterinary advice and post-mortem examinations. Can be confused with swine fever.

Causes

  • It arises when the sows colostrum contains antibodies that destroy the piglets blood platelets (thrombocytes) which are responsible for the clotting of blood.
  • The immune system of the sow during the period of pregnancy recognises the platelets as foreign protein and produces antibodies against them.
  • The formation of these antibodies is also related to the boar that is used.

Prevention

Where a sow has produced such a litter make sure she is mated with a different boar at the next pregnancy or cull her.

Treatment

There is no known treatment other than good nursing. In the early stages of the disease it is worthwhile cross-fostering litters to remove exposure to any lingering antibodies in the sows milk.