Dam Characteristics Associated with Pre‑weaning Diarrhea in Mink (Neovison vison)

Abstract: Background: Pre-weaning diarrhea (PWD) in mink, also known as “sticky kits”, is a frequently occurring syndrome in suckling mink kits on commercial mink farms. Outbreaks of PWD result in weakened kits, increased mortality and reduced growth and welfare as well as considerable economic losses for the farmers. The syndrome is regarded as multifactorial with a complex etiology, and studies have focused on associations with environment, management and dam characteristics. The present study was conducted from May to June 2015 and included 70 dams with mink litters with and without PWD. The aims were to examine associations between PWD and mastitis (bacterial infection and histological signs of inflammation or other lesions in the mammary gland), and to examine associations between PWD and other dam-related characteristics (age, litter size, body mass index, and weight and number of active mammary glands of the dam).

Results: Using multivariable mixed logistic regression analyses with farm id as a random intercept, we found that the odds for PWD in the litter were significantly higher in 1 year old dams versus > 1 year old (OR = 13.3, CI 2.0–90.2, P = 0.01), higher if litter size observed after birth was > 5 kits versus ≤ 5 kits (OR = 16.5, CI 2.2–123.7, P = 0.01), higher if the number of active mammary glands per kit was ≤ 1.5 versus > 1.5 glands per kit (OR = 6.5, CI 1.2–36.0), P = 0.03), and higher in farms with high prevalence of PWD versus low prevalence (OR = 16.8, CI 2.9–97.6, P = 0.002). There were no significant associations between PWD and bacterial infection, histological signs of inflammation or other lesions of the mammary gland, body mass index or weight of mammary gland per kit.

Conclusion: Pre-weaning diarrhea had a statistically significant association with age of the dam, litter size and the number of active mammary glands per kit. However, PWD was not associated with mastitis, body mass index and weight of mammary gland tissue per kit.