ThePigSite Pig Health
Jaundice(469) Jaundice is a yellowing of the skin and mucous membranes due to the breakdown of red cells in the blood, the accumulation of the bye-products in the liver and the production of a substance called bilirubin. The condition may be seen at any age but is usually confined to individual animals or litter mates.
In sucking pigs it is associated with a haemolytic anaemia where the piglets' red cells become sensitised by antibodies in the colostrum of the sow. (See purpura later in this chapter). Jaundice will follow the breakdown of red cells caused by the blood borne parasite Eperythrozoon suis and be seen in sucking and weaned pigs and occasionally in the sow. Jaundice can also occur in individual pigs under about three months of age, when the blood is infected with bacterium, Leptospira icterohaemorrhagiae, derived from rats' urine.
It produces a toxin that breaks down red blood cells. Jaundice can also be caused by direct damage to the liver by fungal toxins such as aflatoxin or fumonisin which may be present in feed components such as peanuts or corn. It can also be caused by coal tar toxicity from eating fragments of clay pigeons, builder's tar or by ingesting high levels of copper in feed, or by vitamin E and selenium deficiency.
In all of these there are usually other severe clinical signs such as loss of appetite, depression, and respiratory distress. It can also occur (rarely) from heavy ascarid worm infestations blocking the tube from the gall bladder to the intestine.