Navel bleeding

Occurrence: Worldwide.
Age affected: Newborn.
Causes: Chemicals in woods shavings; prolonged farrowing; mycotoxins; warfarin poisoning.
Effect: Trail of blood, pale skin, death.


Affected piglets bleed to death as a result of failed closure of the umbilicus or relaxation of previously closed vessels 2-6 hours after birth. There are a number of possible reasons: the condition can be familial; there may be an underlying immaturity of collagen (a structural protein); underlying low levels of fibrinogen (the blood protein which forms clots); deficiency of vitamin C in the sow; inadequate levels of vitamin K in the sow; it may occur in coumarol poisoning; mycotoxins may predispose to it; disinfectants or wood preservatives may cause it or it may be physical, due to the premature rupture of the cord at birth, or the failure of the cord vessels to close because of material such as sawdust in or on the cord.

Mode of transmission

As the cause is uncertain, the condition does not seem to be transmissible, but to depend on the environmental factors listed above.

Clinical signs

Large pale piglets are often found dead in a pool of blood at the end of a fleshy umbilical cord. When see alive, they are pale, and if they recover are found to be profoundly anaemic. When seen alive, they may be seen to be losing blood through the end of the fleshy umbilical cord.  

Postmortem lesions

When animals are found dead, there is no evidence of any internal bleeding or physical damage such as occurs in overlying and the animal is pale throughout.

Treatment and prevention

Treatment consists of tying or clipping the umbilical cord of affected piglets in order to stop the bleeding and in supporting the piglets thereafter by ensuring that they get colostrum and have adequate water or ion replacement fluid. Attendance at farrowings, careful separation of sow and piglet at farrowing so as not to cause premature breaks in the umbilical cord and ligation (tying) of the umbilical cord with baby umbilical clamps can reduce mortality in herds where the condition is occurring. The condition may be prevented in some case by feeding ascorbic acid (1-5 g per sow per day) to sows for at least six days prior to farrowing. Injection of sows at risk with Vitamin K has also been reported to have some effect.The use of soft whitewood sawdust can prevent some cases where the condition is caused by rough or improperly preserved sawdust.