Use of Infra-Red Thermography to non-invasively assess neonatal piglet temperature

Oceane Schmitt, Keelin O’Driscoll

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13 Citations (Scopus)
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Hypothermia is risk factor for piglet neonatal mortality, especially for low birth weight piglets. Piglets with intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR) also have a higher mortality risk at birth. This study aimed to validate infrared thermography (IRT) as an alternative to rectal temperature (RT) to measure piglet temperature in the hour postpartum, and to identify piglets with thermoregulation difficulties. At birth (6.3 ± 0.35 min postpartum), 67 piglets were dried, weighed, scored for growth retardation (IUGR; 0-3), and isolated in a plastic box where IRT images were taken, followed by RT. Piglets were then returned to the farrowing pen, and the process repeated at 15, 30, and 60 min postpartum. Piglets were ranked according to their weight (quartiles: 0.57-1.27 kg, 1.27-1.5 kg, 1.5-1.74 kg, 1.74-2.44 kg). Temperatures (ear base and tip; minimum, maximum and average of back) were extracted from IRT images (Thermacam Researcher Pro 2.0). Pearson correlations between temperature measures were calculated, and the effect of time, IUGR score, and weight were included in linear mixed models (SAS 9.4). RT was correlated with all IRT data across time points ( P < 0.05); correlations were strongest with the ear base, and weakest with the ear tip and minimum back temperature. Both IUGR score and weight rank affected ear base ( P < 0.05) and RTs ( P < 0.05). The lightest piglets, and piglets with severe IUGR had the lowest temperature, relative to their counterparts. Indeed, differences between all weights categories were significant for RT. Piglets with the lowest weight (0.27-1.27 kg) had lower ear base temperatures than piglets in the third quartile (1.5-1.74 kg; 35.2 ± 0.36 °C vs. 36.5 ± 0.35 °C, t 64.9 = -4.51, P < 0.001) and the heaviest piglets (1.74-2.44 kg; 35.2 ± 0.36 °C vs. 36.4 ± 0.36 °C, t 70.4 = -3.97, P < 0.005). Overall, piglets with severe IUGR (score 3) had a lower RT than normal piglets (score 0; 35.8 ± 0.46 °C vs. 37.2 ± 0.42 °C, t 43.1 = 3.16, P < 0.05) and piglets with mild IUGR (score 1; 35.8 ± 0.46 °C vs. 37.1 ± 0.40 °C, t 45.3 = 2.92, P < 0.05); and they also had lower temperature at the base of the ear than normal piglets (35.1 ± 0.42 °C vs. 36.3 ± 0.36 °C, t 63.1 = 3.01, P < 0.05). These results confirmed that IRT is an interesting noninvasive tool for assessing neonatal piglets' thermoregulatory abilities and could be used in research investigating successful interventions for piglets at risk of hypothermia.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbertxaa208
JournalTranslational Animal Science
Issue number1
Early online date18 Nov 2020
Publication statusPrint publication - Jan 2021


  • Birth weight
  • Growth retardation
  • Infrared thermography
  • Pigs
  • Rectal temperature
  • Thermoregulation


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