Postpartum Dysgalactia Syndrome in sows

Postpartum Dysgalactia Syndrome in sows

Kepro gets a lot of questions about piglets who do not get enough milk of the sow. A reason for this can be Postpartum Dysgalactia Syndrome.

Postpartum Dysgalactia Syndrome (PPDS) is a common disease in sows worldwide. Affected sows have a decreased milk production during the first days after parturition (giving birth). The reduced milk production has serious consequences for new-born piglets. Due to insufficient intake of milk, the new-born piglets show a reduced weight gain and an increased mortality. Reduced productivity and high mortality rates may result in major economic losses in pig farming.

PPDS was previously described as Mastitis-Metritis-Agalactia (MMA) complex. However, sows with lactation problems after parturition do usually not show all three symptoms (mastitis, metritis and agalactia). PPDS is therefore a more adequate term for this condition, while MMA complex is considered to be a subtype of PPDS. Other terms that are used as synonym for PPDS are lactation failure and periparturient hypogalactia syndrome.

Causes of PPDS

PPDS is a complex and multifactorial syndrome. Numerous infectious and non-infectious factors may play a role in the development of PPDS.

Infectious causes

The most common cause of PPDS is a bacterial infection. Bacteria such as E. Coli, Citrobacter, Enterobacter, and Klebsiella species are frequently found in affected sows. Bacteria may enter the sow’s body via the mammary gland, uterus, urinary tract or gut, however, the major route of infection is the mammary gland. The bacteria and its endotoxins may not only cause a local inflammation, the endotoxins can also be absorbed from the tissue into the blood leading to a systemic infection. Bacterial endotoxins in blood suppress the release of prolactin (hormone that stimulates milk production) by the pituitary gland, reduce circulating levels of thyroid hormone and increase the concentrations of cortisol and progesterone. These effects can result in a reduction of the colostrum and milk production. The bacterial infection may also lead to general illness resulting in a reduced appetite and thus a negative effect on milk production as well.

Endotoxaemia has been associated with constipation. Due to constipation, bacteria such as Escherichia coli have more time to proliferate in the gut. Increased proliferation may lead to an increased secretion of endotoxins and absorption of endotoxins through the gut wall into the blood. Endotoxins and the stress because of the pain, may reduce the production of milk.

In case of mastitis, the glands may be warmer, harder and more sensitive than usual. Due to pain in the gland, the sow may refuse the piglets to drink milk from the teats. This may further contribute to starvation of the piglets.

Non-infectious causes

There are also non-infectious factors that are involved in the development of PPDS:


  • Mouldy feed
  • Obesity
  • Constipation
  • Insufficient water intake before parturition
  • Diet with low fibre content
  • Low vitamin E and selenium levels
  • Ad libitum feeding (unlimited availability of feed)


  • High ambient temperature
  • Slippery floors
  • Insufficient exercise
  • No slatted floors in the farrowing area
  • Poor cleaning of the farrowing area
  • Late movement of the pregnant sow to the farrowing area
  • Major environmental changes


  • Induction of parturition
  • Prolonged parturition
  • Large litter size (number of piglets per sow)

Physical causes

  • Non-functional mammary gland
  • Genetically determined
  • First-parity sow

In the paragraph ‘prevention’ below, the prevention of these cases is explained.

Clinical signs

Clinical signs usually appear within 12 hours - 3 days of farrowing. Clinical signs are variable and may vary from mild to severe. The following clinical signs can be observed:


  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased mortality
  • Depression
  • Restlessness during suckling
  • Traumatized teats
  • Red and swollen mammary glands
  • Fever (39.5 - 41 ⁰C)
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Constipation


  • Loss of condition
  • Reduced uniformity of the litter
  • Altered behaviour
  • Diarrhoea
  • Increased mortality


  • Diagnosis of PPDS is mainly based on clinical signs. Early diagnosis can be difficult because sows do not always show clear symptoms. Examination of the litter may give more information. Piglets may repeatedly try to nurse or may migrate to warm places of the farrowing area in case of energy losses.
  • The sow should be physically examined:
    • Palpation of the udder:  in case of mastitis, the glands may be warmer, swollen, harder and more sensitive than usual.
    • Rectal temperature: high rectal temperature (> 39.5 ⁰C) can indicate the presence of fever, but a physiological high body temperature in lactating sows is also possible.
  • Milk samples should be examined to confirm bacterial mastitis. Oxytocin injection will be needed to collect milk.

Step by step treatment

  • The milk production should be stimulated. Give 2 ml of Oxytocin Inj. in the muscle every hour. It is also beneficiary to massage the udder with towels soaked in warm water, and to milk by hand. When the piglets are regularly suckling, Oxytocin injections are not...

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