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Amylase and Lipase Values in Potbellied Pigs

Thyroid, T3, T4, TSH 
Amylase and Lipase Values in Potbellied Pigs

Bruce Lawhorn, DVM, MS

The Duchess Fund has been very proactive in funding projects that aid in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of diseases and conditions of pet pigs. The search for normal laboratory values where none exists is an example. To be more specific, little or no information is available on normal amylase and lipase values in the potbellied pig (PBP). Confirmation of the diagnosis of pancreatitis depends on these values.

In general, pancreatitis is rare in swine and it is unknown if (PBP) are affected. However, pancreatitis is in the differential diagnostic possibilities for the geriatric PBP that is presented to a veterinarian with sudden onset of clinical signs including anorexia, vomiting, painful abdomen, and reluctance to move.

Serum amylase and lipase are laboratory tests that are used to help confirm the diagnosis of acute pancreatitis in other species such as the dog. In canine acute pancreatitis, serum amylase is usually elevated within a few hours and back to normal by 2 to 6 days later; serum lipase is usually elevated after several hours and remains elevated for 5 to15 days. There is a lack information on normal values for lipase and amylase in PBPs. Limited
information for amylase values in domestic swine is available (The Merck
Veterinary Manual, 8th edition, pages 2192-2193).

In early summer 2003, the Duchess Fund collected 38 sera from normal adult
PBPs for the purpose of understanding the range of values for amylase and
lipase. On July 8, 2003, testing was performed on a Hitachi 311 (Roche)
Automated Clinical Chemistry Analyzer in the Clinical Pathology Department
of the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (TVMDL), College
Station, Texas.

The mean amylase value was 2,321 U/L (range: 914 to 5,973U/L). The PBP with
the 5,973 U/L value was an extreme outlier, so when it was omitted, the mean
amylase value was 2,223 U/L (range:914 to 2,997 U/L).

The mean lipase value was 30 U/L (range: 7 to 217 U/L).

One problem with collection of swine blood is red blood cell fragility and
rupture which causes hemolysis, which gives a red tint to serum. It is
actually difficult for anyone to collect swine blood samples without having
some hemolysis in the sera.

Extreme hemolysis may alter amylase and lipase values. On the TVMDL’s scale
of hemolysis of 0 to 4+, all but one of the 38 PBP serum samples was 3 to 4+
(one sample was 2+). It is thought that greater than 2+ hemolysis will
decrease amylase and possibly inhibit lipase enzyme activity with the TVMDL
automated testing equipment and procedures.

Therefore, the limitation to interpretation for these data is the high
amount of hemolysis altering the values (how much alteration is unknown!).
Nevertheless, a ballpark idea of what serum amylase and lipase values should
be in normal, adult PBPs is provided. This is particularly true
considering: the difficulty encountered in obtaining unhemolyzed sera when
blood sampling swine; and providing any serum samples from sick PBPs that
are compared to these reference values are run on the same TVMDL equipment,
using their same procedures.

Barbara Baker
I am my pig’s mom!
The Duchess Fund


Thyroid, T3, T4, TSH 
Dr. Peter Graham

The Endocrine Section of Michigan State University’s Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory was provided the opportunity by the Dutchess Fund to assist in the development of valid laboratory tests for thyroid function in Pot Bellied pigs.

The initial phase of this undertaking included the collection of 50 healthy Pot Bellied pig serum samples by the Dutchess Fund which were then forwarded to us at Michigan State University. We analyzed these samples for their content of total thyroxine (total T4; the principal thyroid hormone), total triiodothyronine (total T3), free T4 by equilibrium dialysis (FT4d), and thyrotropin (TSH).

We still have some work to do in determining how valid our assay systems are for these analytes. Further work will include the assessment of test precision (that is how closely do the results agree from the same sample when it is run numerous times or run on different days). We also hope to assess the accuracy of our assays (that is to determine whether we are truly measuring the substance that we think the assay is measuring).

We have established temporary reference ranges for these analytes based on our current understanding of the assay systems we are using:


Reference Range

Total T4  

18 to 73 nmol/L

Total T3  0.1 to 1.2 nmol/L
Free T4 8 to 36 pmol/L
TSH  0 to 0.13 ng/ml

These reference ranges could change as we learn more about the performance of our assays in this species. We are grateful for the opportunity to work with the Dutchess Fund and hope to provide additional, useful information in the near future.


The Duchess Fund
408-14th St. S.W., Ruskin, FL 33570 USA
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