The effect of environment on plasma cortisol and beta-endorphin in the parturient pig and the involvement of endogenous opioids

S Jarvis*, AB Lawrence, KA McLean, J Chirnside, LA Deans, SK Calvert

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Previous work has indicated that plasma cortisol increases during farrowing in the pig suggesting increasing physiological stress. The aim of this study was to determine changes in plasma cortisol and beta-endorphin over farrowing in the pig to obtain a more detailed profile of pituitary and adrenal release at this time and also to investigate the involvement of endogenous opioids in the mediation of the HPA axis. Indwelling jugular catheters were implanted, under general anaesthesia, in 31 Large White x Landrace gilts approximately 15 days before the expected parturition day (EPD). Gilts were moved into either a farrowing crate, without straw (n = 15), or a straw-bedded pen (n = 16) 5 days before the EPD. Samples were taken during the pre-farrowing period and then during farrowing itself. At 7.5 min after the birth of the first piglet (BFP), gilts either received naloxone, an opioid antagonist, (1 mg kg(-1) body weight, i.v.) or a control dose of saline. Plasma beta-endorphin increased following the BFP but remained fairly constant over the third and fourth hour of farrowing. Plasma cortisol continued to increase over the 4 h following the BFP. Changes seen in these hormones were generally insensitive to the environment and there was little evidence of opioid mediation of the HPA axis at parturition. From these results it is suggested that certain aspect(s) of parturition itself stimulate the HPA axis. However it is unknown if the rise in plasma cortisol is a result of some stress-inducing factor of the parturition process or whether it reflects a metabolic function. The study also demonstrates the lack of any inhibitory mediation of the HPA axis by endogenous opioids at parturition. (C) 1998 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-151
Number of pages13
JournalAnimal Reproduction Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 21 Aug 1998

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • gilt
  • farrowing
  • opioid
  • cortisol
  • beta-endorphin
  • SOWS


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