Sick and grumpy: Changes in social behaviour after a controlled immune stimulation in group-housed gilts.
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Poor health is associated with an increased risk of tail biting outbreaks in pigs. We propose that this is because illness changes social dynamics either by changing the behaviour of the sick pig towards its penmates, the behaviour of the healthy penmates towards the sick pig, or both. We tested the effect of immune stimulation (lipopolysaccharide (LPS) injection: O111:B4; 1.5 μg kg−1 IV) on social behaviour in gilts housed in triplets in a cross-over experiment. Each pen was subjected to the control treatment (all three pigs injected with saline) and then LPS treatment (one pig injected with LPS, two injected with saline), or vice versa. LPS injected pigs had a shift in social motivation and performed more tail- and ear- directed behaviour than saline pigs two days after injection. They seemed to fit the description of ‘sick and grumpy’. This change was seen about 40 h after the signs of acute illness dissipated and was not accompanied by a similar increase in activity. We discuss possible mechanisms for this behavioural change in light of changes in neurotransmitter levels at three days after LPS injection described in a previous experiment.