Indicators to confirm death after euthanasia of suckling piglets on farm

  • Subject
    Euthanasia, piglets
  • Target audience
    Welfare inspectors, farmers
More info and sources
In a factsheet, EURCAW-Pigs suggests animal-based indicators to confirm death of suckling piglets following euthanasia. The factsheet elaborates on the recently published review on euthanasia of suckling piglets on farm.


The majority of animal losses in pig production occur during the first days postpartum, i.e. in new-born piglets. The necessity to euthanasia occurs particularly during this first period of pigs' life. Euthanasia includes ending the life of an individual animal in a way that minimizes or eliminates pain and distress. This corresponds to the general requirement of the Council Regulation (EC) No 1099/2009 to protect animals at the time of killing such that they are spared any avoidable pain, distress or suffering.

Confirmation of death

After pigs are euthanatized, there is still the risk that pigs are not dead due to ineffective or improper application of the killing method. A lack of monitoring and confirmation of death can lead to fear, pain and distress of the still living pig. Therefore, death of each pig must be confirmed before disposal of the carcass.

Animal-based indicators were suggested in the “Review on euthanasia of suckling piglets on farm”. Dead piglets show absence of muscle tone leading to a relaxed body, absence of breathing (apnoea), absence of heartbeat and no responses to corneal and palpebral stimuli and dilated pupils. The factsheet “Confirmation of death” describes and visualizes how to check these indicators.

Introphoto: Check for breathing (©FLI)