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Potbellied Pig Health Care Articles and Information

Points To Ponder
by Phyllis Battoe (Originally Presented At The PA Pet Pig Congress April 2002)

Many things have happened in the past few years since we started the Pig Congress. More information comes to us every year. Today we are talking about the old problems along with the new and ways to treat those problems that have come up.

The number one problem with our older pigs remains the same. Constipation and blockages, and how to tell the difference.

Should there be no stool or very small amounts then it's time for any x-ray or ultra sound. Both of these problems give the same symptoms without the animal running a fever. Pigs refuse to eat and appear to be lethargic in their actions. Some pigs show discomfort by digging and biting.

For the problem of constipation we have found that feeding canned pumpkin works well and in a natural way. You do NOT want to give an enema or oil until you know for sure that it is constipation and not a blockage.

For a blockage the usual procedure is surgery. This can be done with few ill effects if caught early and there are no other problems.

We now have problems with cancers of all kinds with our pigs. Seems they can develop it just as humans do. In the last two years we have seen cancer of the mammary glands, cancer of the pancreas, cancer in the liver and skin cancers. Some of these cancers are very rapid in their spread.

There have been numerous cases of tumors in the uterus and other problems in the reproductive organs when the pig is unspayed. One would have to think that the unspayed female is susceptible because of the hormones involved in the monthly cycles.

Not only are tumors developing, but also cases of Pyometria, which is an infection inside the uterus. Unlike having the tumors and constipation and blockages, pyometra does cause a fever and should also be considered life threatening. In an open pyometria there may be a green discharge from the vulva. The pig will not eat and will run a fever. In a closed pyometra the infection is kept inside the uterus and harder to diagnose making it worse than having it drain.

In the very beginning antibiotics may hold the fever down, but it is unlikely to cure the problem. The best method is to spay the female and take the uterus out. Knowing what we do now about the tumors and pyometria, it is now a practice to spay all incoming females that are young enough to have the surgery done. This assures us that we won't be looking at these problems later on in the pig's life.

Now for a word about fevers and your pig. A pig dehydrates very quickly when ill. There may be a time when you and your vet make the decision to give your pig fluids by IV. There are different ways to do this.

There is a vein on the ear that can be used in the perfect scenario, but this vein also disappears quickly when the pig is dehydrated. A rubber band on the base of the ear will give you the best opportunity at this vein.

The second method is the sub Q IV that is under the skin in the flank area. Any loose skin on the pig will work for this, but this method also raises a large lump that can be uncomfortable for the pig until he absorbs it.

The third method is one that we have used here many time with good results though it might sound terrible to some of you. It is the inter peritoneal IV through the wall of the stomach. Our vet told us about this method two years ago and I can say that it has saved a few lives in that time. The needle is inserted past the last rib and before the flank, about half way down the stomach of the pig.

The idea is to go straight into the stomach through the outer skin and the stomach wall. The IV can be run full speed and is done in about fifteen minutes as opposed to an hour or more in the ear. Medications can be added to the ringer solution so you don't have to inject the pig separately. The vet assured me that all internal stuff would move over when the needle goes in and the only down side is that there is a very small chance of peritonitis, but on that note we should understand that if a pig is in such bad shape as to allow this to be done easily, than worrying about peritonitis is a moot point. As my vet told me, should it ever happen then we would fix the peritonitis.

In the times we have used this method there have been no problems in that area. It is also apparent when you are making progress, as the pig will not allow you to do it any longer. We have given this IV as often as four times daily for three days on pigs before they stood up and said "NO MORE!". The fact that they could stand and say no was when we knew we were over the worst.

The need for fluids is on a sick animal that refuses to drink or eat. Much better he go without food than to go without water. We wait no longer than twenty-four hours on a pig that is down to start fluids along with vitamin B12 and antibiotic therapy added to the ringer solution. In that twenty-four hour period prior to the IV we are giving antibiotics by mouth or by injection and if there is no progress in that length of time the IV is started.

Should you ever need fluids it would be wise to check all these methods out with your vet. It could save the pigs life.

2002 This material is copyrighted, and is not to be reprinted without permission
Copying or Linking Without Prior Permission is a Violation of INT'L Copyright Laws

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