Ultrasonography and infrared thermography as a comparative diagnostic tool to clinical examination to determine udder health in sows
The aim of the study was to examine whether the use of infrared thermography and ultrasonography can complement or replace the clinical examination of the sows' mammary glands for pathological alterations. Sows of different parities with inconspicuous udders on palpation before and after birth (n = 35) and sows at the time of weaning (n = 107) were examined. Thermal images were taken from both sides of the udder, while ultrasound pictures were taken from four sides of the respective mammary glands. Within three weeks before birth, a statistically significant increase in the average surface temperature of the glands of about 1.54 °C and of the thickness of the parenchyma of about 1.39 cm could be observed. After weaning, in 10.3% of the examined sows, roundish hyperechogenic nodules were detected sonographically in the glands´ parenchyma. The average skin temperature above the nodules was 1.24 °C lower compared to the total skin area of the altered complex. However, scratches on the udder skin showed similar temperature changes. In two sows, the nodules remained undetected during the clinical examination. Therefore, sonography seems to be superior compared to clinical and thermographic investigations, although it proved to be very time-consuming.