Marty Misener from Southwest Ontario Veterinary Services, Dexamethasone Reduces Frequency Of Sickness Behaviour


Improving animal welfare is a continuous process that requires that we evaluate the various  treatment  strategies  that  we  use. Often  our  collective  field  experience  in evaluating  the  efficacyof  medications  can  differ from the current body of scientific evidence that is available to support that use. Dexamethasone (DEX) is a widely used immuno regulatory agent. Previous studies have suggested that pigs are less sensitive to the  immuno suppression  conferred  by  DEX  and therefore  more  sensitive  to  the  threat  of  bacterial endotoxins. Researchers wanted to do a deeper dive on that assumption. They developed an endotoxemia model  using  gram  negative  bacterial  cell  wall lipopoly saccharide  (LPS)  so  that  they  could scientifically measure the effect of DEX treatments on  a  variety  of  endotoxemic  responses  in  the  pig, including sickness behaviour.

The researchers were able to demonstrate that DEX reduced  the  frequency  of  sickness  behaviour following  LPS  challenge.  In  addition,  they  were able  to  show  that  DEX  pre-treatment  decreased cortisol, adrenocorticotropic hormone  (ACTH),  red blood cell, hemoglobin, hematocrit, and lymphocyte whereas glucose concentration was increased under both  normal  and  endotoxemic  conditions.  By contrast, DEX decreased triglyceride, lactate, and IL-6 concentrations and increased platelet count only under an endotoxemic condition.

Take Home Message

Dexamethasone  treatment  protected  the  pigs  in this  study  from  inflammation  and  behavioural signs of sickness that are related to endotoxemia.

It is important to have strong scientific evidence that  justifies  the  use  of  medications  in  pig production  and  this  is  especially  true  when  the products are used in an off-label manner.

Sometimes the scientific evidence with respect to the usefulness of the therapies that we use has to catch  up  with  the  “boots  on  the  ground” experience.

Submitted by Marty Misener, DVM


Ref:Li  Z,  Kanitz  E,  Tuchscherer  M,  Tuchscherer  A,  Metges  CC, Trakooljul N, Wimmers K, Murani E.Kinetics of Physiological and Behavioural  Responses  in  Endotoxemic  Pigs  with  or  without Dexamethasone  Treatment.Int  J  Mol  Sci.  2019  Mar  20;20(6).  pii: E1393. doi: 10.3390/ijms20061393



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