Pale pig syndrome (naval bleeding)

calendar icon 8 November 2018
clock icon 5 minute read

Background and history

At birth or within a few hours the piglet becomes extremely pale and in many cases dies. The condition arises in one of three ways:

  1. Anoxia or shortage of oxygen inside the womb during farrowing causes the piglet to pool its blood into the placenta. If it is born and the cord separated at this point, then it will be born very pale and anaemic. This picture is seen when piglets are delivered by hysterectomy and they are removed from the womb at a critical time before the piglet has time to recall its blood from the placenta. Affected piglets are more likely from old sows and in large litters.
  2. Pigs are sometimes born with a haemorrhage or a haematoma in the cord itself. The cause of this is unknown but in some cases it is related to premature removal of the piglet from behind the sow at farrowing. The blood vessels in the cord bleed.
  3. Continual bleeding from the navel during the first 3 to 4 hours after birth.

Clinical signs

Fresh blood on the floor of the pen arising from the end of the navel is diagnostic.


  • Navel bleeding is associated with the use of wood shavings as bedding. The reasons for this are unknown but wood preservatives or other substances may be responsible. Change the shavings to an alternate source or use straw for bedding.
  • Warfarin poisoning can be responsible for haemorrhage.
  • Vitamin C was thought to be involved and improvements by feeding sows with 1g/day have been reported. Experiences however with this vitamin have been disappointing.
  • Do not move pigs away from the sow immediately at farrowing. Allow the piglet to break the cord naturally. There is a particular part of the cord where separation takes place naturally without any haemorrhage. The navel cord is always slightly longer than the birth canal so that when the newborn piglet starts to rise and walk the cord is stretched, breaks and recoils to block the blood vessels. It should not be cut.
  • Supplementing the diet with vitamin K can sometimes help.
  • Mycotoxins from contaminated feed have been implicated.
  • A riboflavin deficiency has been implicated.
  • In some herds there appears to be an association with the use of prostaglandin to synchronise farrowings.
  • Do not allow excessive trauma to the cord within 3 hours of birth. This may occur if too many piglets are fastened in the creep area.


  • Early recognition of a bleeding navel is essential. The cord should be clamped approximately 13mm from the skin using an umbilical clip. (See chapter 15). Those used for babies are ideal. Nylon or plastic ties used to bind together electrical wires are also good
  • As an alternate and in an acute emergency the navel can be tied in a knot.
  • A ligature can be applied around the umbilicus but it shrinks and the bleeding often continues. The cord should be bent back on itself and re-tied in the shape of a "U".

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