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Urine-sampling options make it easier to evaluate gilt and sow health

Urine samples are an effective but underutilized diagnostic tool for evaluating the nutritional, physiological and health status of gilts and sows.1

 The challenge is how to collect quality urine samples efficiently and reliably on the farm. The free-catch option, where a person collects a free-flow urine sample from the animal, is challenging and time consuming.

Consequently, Iowa State University veterinary student Megan Nickel investigated two alternative methods: the tampon technique and the Whirl Pak® technique.

Her goal was to develop urine-collection methods that were reliable, reproducible and economical. Nickel also wanted to determine if any of the options altered the urinalysis (UA) or calcium, phosphorus and creatinine values.

For the study, she obtained urine samples from 14 sows using all three collection options:

  • A 120-mL urine cup was used for the free-catch sample.
  • The tampon technique used a super-sized, unscented tampon with a plastic applicator and umbrella absorbency. Once inserted into the gilt’s or sow’s vestibule, the exterior string was secured to the outside of the animal with waterproof tape. Following urination, the tampon was transferred to a urine cup.
  • The Whirl Pak technique used a 24-ounce bag positioned around the vulva and secured with elastic tape. Following urination, the bag was removed and the sample was transferred to a urine cup.

From there, Nickel used 15 mL of urine from each sample for the UA evaluation, which included blood, bilirubin, urobilinogen, ketones, protein, nitrite, glucose, leukocytes and ascorbic acid, as well as pH, specific gravity and sediment. She sent an additional 5 mL of urine from 10 samples to the Iowa State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory for calcium, phosphorus and creatinine ratios.

Nickel concluded that either of the two new methods — tampon or Whirl Pak — offered a practical, in-field urine-sampling option.

She noted that tampon placement took 19 seconds, while the Whirl Pak method took 104 seconds, with workers placing both effectively after just one example.

Nickel said the tampon provided an adequate sample 89% of the time at a cost of 23 cents per sample. The Whirl Pak cost $1.19 per sample and had a 59% success rate.

There was no significant difference between the UA results or the calcium, phosphorus and creatinine ratios between the three sampling methods.







1 Nickel M, et al. Development and Validation of Ante-mortem Urine Collection Techniques for Gilts and Sows. Student Seminar, Proceedings of the 48th American Association of Swine Veterinarians’ Annual Meeting. 2017;63-64.


Posted on September 26, 2017

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