Periweaning Failure to Thrive Syndrome (PFTS) in Pigs

Information for farmers and vets in Great Britain on the clinical signs, diagnosis and prevention/treatment from the AHVLA Pig Expert Group.
calendar icon 4 October 2012
clock icon 5 minute read
By: Banrie

What is PFTS?

Periweaning Failure to Thrive Syndrome (pronounced P-Fits) is a clinical syndrome recognised in the United States and Canada since 2008. It was formerly known as 'Post-weaning Cachexic (or Catabolic) Syndrome'.

Clinical Signs

The case definition includes the following features (Huang et al 2011):

  • Progressive debility in weaned pigs with muscle weakness and loss of body condition evident within two to three weeks of weaning.
  • No infectious, nutritional, managemental or environmental factors to explain the clinical signs.
  • Affected pigs are of average, to above average, bodyweight at weaning.
  • Neither affected pigs nor their cohort show evidence of residual illness from the sucking phase.
  • Anorexic and lethargy develop within seven days of weaning.
  • Some affected pigs on all affected farms show repetitive oral behaviour, such as licking, chewing or chomping.
  • Morbidity and mortality by batch varies over time, but case mortality is high.

The proportion of affected pigs amongst weaned pigs varies greatly (from one per cent to 20 per cent) but most affected pigs die or require culling.

Specialist pig veterinarians in the US and Canada have produced a video describing the condition [click here; please note that a current version of adobe flash drive is required to play the video; the username is guest1 and the password is user1.

Has PFTS been Diagnosed in the UK?

To date, no reports fitting the diagnostic criteria of PFTS have been confirmed in the UK or Europe and the syndrome has not yet been reported outside the US and Canada.

Some experienced pig specialist practitioners have expressed the view that PFTS relates mainly to suboptimal management of pigs in the immediate post-weaning period, resulting in some pigs not finding food and 'starving out'. One difference between the US and Europe that may be significant is that pigs can be weaned earlier than 28 days old in the US, while this is illegal in the UK unless special provision is made.

Each quarter, cases of wasting in post-weaned pigs submitted to AHVLA and SAC Laboratories for which no diagnosis was reached are reviewed. To date, these have not raised concerns of PFTS. More details on the analysis of diagnosis not reached (DNR) are published in the Great Britain surveillance reports [click here].

What Should I do if I Suspect a Case of PFTS?

It is important to stress that there are many causes of wasting in pigs post-weaning. Wasting pigs might superficially resemble PFTS but it is likely that an infectious, environmental or managemental cause will be found after thorough investigation.

The recommended approach in Great Britain is for pig producers to contact their veterinary surgeons in the first instance. Where the problem needs further investigation, the veterinary surgeon should contact their local AHVLA or SAC Laboratory to arrange the submission of three live, or freshly dead, typical untreated, early cases for full post-mortem examination and diagnostic investigation.

Possible causes of post-weaning wasting include:

  • Infectious causes including enteric disease affecting the sucking pig (e.g. rotaviral enteritis or coccidiosis, causing residual intestinal damage and malabsorption); enteric disease post-weaning (e.g. E. coli or salmonellosis); viral disease such as PRRS or PCVAD; respiratory disease such as Glasser's disease; parasitic disease.
  • Managemental causes such as overcrowding at troughs, uneven pigs, poor water intake.
  • Environmental causes including chilling.
  • Feed causes including inappropriate formulation, deficiencies, mycotoxins.

It is only when all the various causes have been considered and ruled out that a diagnosis of PFTS might be considered.

How is PFTS Treated or Prevented?

Until the cause of PFTS is established, it is difficult to advise on appropriate treatment or management interventions which may mitigate the syndrome, should it occur. In all cases of wasting after weaning, a full assessment of the weaning process and post-weaning management and accommodation should be made.

Pigs should be carefully observed to establish that they are successfully finding food and water. Where unexplained problems occur, gruel feeding can help freshly weaned piglets through the first few days. Wasting or debilitated pigs should be isolated in hospital accommodation to ensure they can reach water and feed without competition.


Harding, J., Huang, Y., Auckland, C., O’Connor and Gavreau, H. 2011 Peri-weaning to thrive syndrome (PFTS) diagnostic investigation to identify possible infective etiologies. 6th International Symposium on Emerging and Re-emerging Pig Diseases, Barcelona 12-15 June, p50.

Huang, Y., Henry, S., Friendship, R., Schwartz, K. and Harding, J. 2011 Clinical presentation, case definition, and diagnostic guidelines for porcine periweaning failure to thrive syndrome. Journal of Swine Health and Production 19(6):340-344

October 2012

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