Health Section 2 The Sick Pig
Learning to differentiate between a tail swish of contentment and a tail swish that indicates discomfort or pain, or the difference between inappetance from depression and inappetance from disease takes time and observation. To be able to give the vet the information he needs to diagnose the pig quickly and without great stress and cost requires that you be able to give him good information. Learn to observe closely the normal behavior so that the abnormal behavior is apparent to you. Here are things you should be able to determine with a pig that you suspect of being sick, and how to make spotting them a methodical and effective process.
Let’s say you have 12 pigs that live in one group. They all compete for the food by the usual pushing and shoving. You go out this morning to feed and one walks up to the dish and noses the food and goes back to bed or goes off and stands with its head down. You have a sick (probably very sick) pig. Make a list as you put the pig into a “watch” pen of everything that you observe and when you call the vet he can ascertain how quickly the pig needs his help and be ready for him when he arrives at the clinic.
1) Long before a sick pig makes it necessary, define a holding area where a pig can be moved to easily, can be loaded from and which is ready to accept a pig at any time...Water dish, shelter, bedding
2) When a pig acts abnormally in his group and you think he is sick move him to the “watch” pen so that you can observe other important behaviors. A little limping or a cut may not require moving. But it won’t hurt. If he has fever or other critical symptoms, call the vet pronto. Do a quick analysis of other conditions and get him some help. Don't rush him. If he has respiratory problems you can kill him just by hurrying him along. Work slowly and stop when he gets stressed and let him settle down.
Check list of symptoms and conditions to report to the vet when you call
· Choking cough
· Dry hacking cough
· Vomiting (check contents)
· Reluctance to eat with others, slow eating, dropping food, head held oddly while chewing or obvious signs of pain while eating
· Head tilt, eyes behaving with side to side movement
· Eyes dilated
· Reluctance to rise
· Reluctance to join herd
· Skin rashes, lesions, signs of bites, swellings
· Ear bothering them (shaking head and head tilt)
· Eyes glassy or blurry
· Attitude lethargic or confused
· Wheezing, gasping
· Groans or cries
· Split or cracked hooves
· Edema (swelling) in extremities
· Sudden weight loss
· Basic "windshield wiper" pattern of recent or current diarrhea
· Temperature below 98 or above 102
· Urination with straining
· Defecation with straining
· Gas, bloating
· Lameness like all feet are hurting and back arched
· Lameness like a particular limb hurts
· Lameness or dragging hind legs
· Lameness like the hind quarters are stiff
· Dipping with lateral, bleeding/oozing stripes across back (looks like big scratches)
· Signs of infections such as pus or bloody discharge from vulva
· Stools appearance, dry/grey/black/smelly/amorphous/contain particles/bloody/have white tissue or coating of slimy film
· Urine appearance, smell/color/ volume/stream normal, spasmodic or dribbling
· White granular precipitate below vulva
· Are there Cancer indicators? weight loss ; days of good appetite followed by days of no appetite, Good days/Bad days behavior over a long period of time. Unwillingness to be touched by a normally affectionate pig.
3) Use the watch pen to observe bowel and elimination behavior and the rest of the list before and during subsequent treatment.
4) Keep a sick pig in the watch pen to recover completely before turning him back in the herd. Surgery requires a minimum of 10 days for tissue to heal completely before being subjected to stretching and pulling on the sutures. Sometimes long antibiotic treatment may be necessary. Pigs get easier to care for as they get used to the “sick room” routine.
5) If he has to be taken in, plan on blood work unless the vet says he doesn’t need it. The chances of being diagnosed by simple observation is not great and if a day or two goes by before you realize he is no better, he now has to go back again and recovery time has been lost and stress added. Blood profiles and a good physical exam can ascertain most, though not all, conditions you will encounter. It usually requires sedation. Sometimes, in older pigs or very sick pigs, a simple intranasal spray sedative will keep them quiet enough and at very low risk for a blood draw. What does blood work tell you? See description of tests here.
6) Sedation: Most times, for most pigs it will require an injectible to knock them out, then gas to keep them under. Our vet recommends and uses a combination of several drugs for the injection ( this drug "cocktail" is available to your vet.) It has been used since the nineties with good results. Some pigs (and some vets) will work with you to make it possible to sedate by directly masking down with the gas which is in some ways safer and easier to recover from but poses logistics problems of getting an alert, frightened pig to and from a surgical room.. We have found that the best way to sedate an older or compromised pig is to give a dose of Midazolam ( aka Versed) by intranasal inhalation or injection and then go to gas. This requires some planning and scheduling by the vet as it is not an instant sedation; Midazolam is a tranquilizer. Once injected the pig must be left alone in a non stressful situation for 40 minutes or more. It is not quick, but it is SAFE and there are no nightmares when the pig recovers from the anesthesia. He comes awake as though from a nice nap. If you have seen pigs thrashing and bashing themselves against walls and floors and biting their tongues as they try to reorient themselves after sedation you will appreciate the Midazolam technique.
7) Reduced stress is key. By using a half crate with the door installed in it and a blanket tossed over it, a quiet and calm pig can be taken into the clinic and put onto a table in the crate and masked down, eliminating the majority of associated stress. This only works with calm natured pigs. Going to some effort to keep stress to a minimum is very important. Sick pigs are even more susceptible to debilitating stress than well ones. Our sanctuary vet says the elimination of much of the stress in pre and post surgical care has been the single most important thing we have done for our pig’s medical needs. Plan ahead. Know your pigs and you can save them a lot of added problems.
8) Know how you will transport the pig and how long it will take when you call the vet.
9) If the best care for a sick pig is 200 miles away...It’s still the best care.
10) Transport by closed vehicle only and control the temp to the moderate range of 70-75 when you can. Excess heat will add stress. Cold may make him worse but won’t in itself be as likely to cause a serious stress condition. (Within reason of course.. Don’t put a pig in a trailer when it’s 10 degrees and expect him to recover) Give plenty of bedding to keep him comfortable...At least a bale of hay in the nose of the trailer. If you don’t have a suitable vehicle to transport in the weather, rent a minivan or cargo van, crate him and go. The cost is minimal and the availability is immediate in most areas.
Signs and Signals
Before anyone goes running to the medicine chest because the BOOK said their pig had XYZ.. Let me say this.. There are almost NO signs or symptoms that point to ONLY one condition. What they mean to us here at Shepherd’s Green is based on our own limited experience.. And other sanctuaries can have an entirely different set of evaluations. We have all been doing this a long time and seen the same demographic of pigs.. So what’s the difference? Our own Experiences. Neither of us has a broad enough range of experience to say unequivocally that the most common ailment is this or that. The potbellied pig has been here in our country and in the hands of vets seeking to learn about them far too short a time for any real body of knowledge to emerge. No textbook exists. When I was with Pigs, inc, the first PBP sanctuary in the US. , Ohio State came in and did a vital signs data collection to establish bases lines for PB pigs for temperature, heart rate, respirations , etc. and the entire study was based on 100 pigs, the most ever assembled in one place at the time. That study still forms the basis of many diagnostics. But I see and touch and tend to the health of over 300 every day as do one or two other sanctuaries.. So .. The point is, there simply ISN’T a definitive study on pots to buy into. Use what I have written as a tool and ALWAYS call your vet for all medical issues. He has the medical training that can take the bits and pieces of knowledge you can get here and place those bits into a framework of medical knowledge and actually make some decisions that are valid.
And so with that disclaimer... Here are a few things that always make my day go quickly to hell when I see them:
A boy pig, who stands a long time to pee and is peeing just a trickle or worse, just drops, instead of a stream.. Or who pees and then gets back into the position a couple minutes later and tries to pee again or who strains to pee and only drips. All of these are signals that there is a blockage of some sort in the urethra and/or possibly an infection or stones in the kidneys or bladder. If he is eating and is passing urine at least in a decent dribble and is not obviously in pain, I call the vet and usually we talk about the surrounding health signs and most often put him on Ammonil, a urine acidifier, which dissolves the calculi quickly and in a few days the urine stream is usually strong and the pig back to normal. The drug may need to be continued for months and some pigs may require a higher dosage than others. Urinary slow downs and blockages are critical issues. You need to call in sick if you work and stand there and observe this pig until you are certain what he needs. If he is straining and not peeing, he needs immediate.. that means right now, loading and taking to a qualified pig surgeon. The surgery that is now done is to empty the bladder by a direct tube to the outside, draining the bladder through the tube while the blockage is addressed through drugs.
Some pigs will repeatedly have the problem throughout their life. (It is rare in girls )
Dying of a ruptured bladder or the poisoning that results from urine buildup is a hard way to go and way too common.
This is no time to wait and watch, it is time to act.
With dogs there is a standard surgical procedure which re-routes the urethra of a boy to make him urinate out the back. Its a successful procedure with dogs. IT IS NOT SUCCESSFUL with pigs. NOT EVER. If your vet hasn't been to a seminar on pig surgery dealing with this subject, he may not know this and it may be the surgery performed for a blocked urethra. It will result in great suffering and the death of the pig. The Folley tube drain and medication procedure is the only procedure used successfully for pigs.
Dr van Amstel at the University of TN can provide surgical details to your vet. He has talked through the surgery more than once. 865-974-5702
Pus or blood in the urine is another signal all its own and needs a vets attention to ascertain what’s going on. X-rays or other diagnostics may be needed. It does not carry the critical headline that a blockage does and can be scheduled into the vet without the sirens, but should not be put off as it indicates a certain problem..
We used to see a lot of ulcers and I lost several good friends to ulcers that weren’t discovered and treated early enough. Ulcers can be a very silent killer if you are not observant. Now that we recognize the signals we have not lost a pig to ulcers in nearly a decade.
Preventing ulcers means
Any time a pig goes without eating for any reason an ulcer can begin. Any pain remedy or steroid will cause ulcers quickly. If you are giving these drugs then give an acid reducer at the same time. There are 2 classes of stomach acid reduction drugs.. The ones like Nexium and Prilosec that are acid pump inhibitors and will heal reflux damage, and the kind like ranitidine and fomatidine that simply reduce the acid in the stomach to stop the pain and damage to the stomach itself. Here we use fomatidine as a preventative and Nexium to heal.
Diet: dry pellets for his entire diet will cause health problems. It may be ulcers, it may be obstructions or cancer or other diseases.. But dry grains are not the diet he is designed to eat. It is absolutely imperative that all day grazing be available and if he does not do so that fresh fruits and vegetables, especially leafy green ones, be in his diet. Diet is discussed in more detail here. Nutrition.
Particle sizes of dry matter (grains) cause ulcers. Vitamin supplements are suspected of causing ulcers. (Use only whole food supplements, never derivatives). Junk foods no doubt add to the probabilities.
Signals: (when these are new behaviors)
1. Pig acts reluctant to eat his meal with real enjoyment
2. Shy behavior around the other pigs at meal time
3. Leaving food
4. Eating one food one day, then not the next day but will eat something different; then different the next
5. Refusing all grains but eating grass
If these conditions exist and he does not seem “sick” in any acute manner, we usually start by discussing the pig and his history with the vet and if he agrees, we start treating him for ulcers immediately. We take him off all grains and substitute fruits and veggies only. Be sure to give lots of them as lack of food in the stomach causes ulcers by itself. It takes approximately 4 cups of fresh vegetables and fruits to replace 1 cup of pellets. Drug therapy starts with a week or two of Nexium and if results are forthcoming then we may drop back to ranitidine. The length of time they will stay on the drugs is up to your vet and will depend on how he responds and if there are complicating factors. Treatment usually results in a positive change in health signals within a day or two. If not there may be another problem that isn't being addressed and diagnostics are needed. They usually return to grain in a few weeks.
Ulcers, untreated, can kill without a visibly sick pig, just a bit shy or not too hungry every day.. Then you find them dead. Necropsy will show the ulcers. Treating a suspected ulcer is not harmful even if they don’t have one . But treating for ulcers if there are other symptoms that may indicate kidney failure would be treating symptoms and not disease. The vet will determine when additional diagnostics may be needed. Scoping is seldom required to determine if ulcers are the problem. They are so common in pigs they are assumed to be the problem in the absence of other indicators.
Pale gums can give you an indication of anemia.
Looking for blood in the stool is useless. It isn’t there. Their digestive system works too slowly. Black stools that you may think are occult blood are often caused by nut shells and certain dark green vegetation. Visible blood in the stool may or may not be due to ulcers.
With an arthritic pig, often the first medication a vet will suggest is for pain relief. Given with acid reducers for a short time, they can spare your pig a lot of discomfort. Pain meds are to be used while you get him established on a routine of Glucosaminiglycans injections (Adequan) or Cosequin.
Just as with humans, long term (over a couple of weeks) use of pain meds will destroy the stomach and intestines. Unlike humans, this will happen quickly and is often fatal.
It sometimes seems that all the same drugs are used for both pigs and humans. NOT SO. Never give any drug without the vet’s OK. Many common human drugs are unsafe for pigs.
Acute indicators; infectious diseases
Yesterday I found Butch, a young active pig slipping under the barn door to get to the food first as was his custom. He took a few bites and went and laid down by the fence. He was lethargic, probably from fever, and was flicking his tail, hard, to one side.
Without any further indication I knew it was an emergency and put him into the catch pen and took him on to the vet to be seen as an emergency. They called after the diagnostics were complete. He had pancreatitis.
It may be acute and a “right now” emergency if he:
He was fine the day before but now….
Fails to eat
Stands by a fence or in a corner with head down
Lies down without eating or in an unfamiliar spot (not his bed)
Noticeable fever (you can learn to read a significant fever by touching their ears )
Pain indicators like tail flicking to one side or signs of discomfort on lying down.. Getting up and down repeatedly.
Breathing rapidly and with difficulty (though if this is the only signal then call the vet first; it could be stress or heart which may not be advisable to move)
These and other things that you will learn from your pigs by observing their normal behavior will give you the Emergency signals.
When you see them.. Act quickly
Some warning signs:
1. (Non arthritic pig) Sitting down or lying down during a meal as though standing and eating was too much effort
2. Stopping to sit down frequently as he walks from one point to another
3. Gasping /breathing with effort like he is short of breath
4. A gagging sort of cough as though he was choking but is not spitting up anything or foaming saliva.
5. If you can use a stethoscope, irregular or rapid heartbeat
6. Reluctance to get up
With suspected heart problems any stress is dangerous. Use great care in forcing him to move or trying to take him anywhere. Let him take his time and go at his own pace. If he seems stressed, stop. The vet can often prescribe something to relieve the symptoms enough to get him in for an evaluation. Or have a house call. With a heart condition your pig’s activity will be greatly reduced. Some changes in his environment may be necessary. Steps may put too much strain on his heart. He will begin being very careful and may not want to walk on a wood or tile floor anymore. Companionship may be limited to just a couple of his closest buddies. A quiet place to sleep away the days and a good diet and lots of sunshine to bask in will be his favorite things. Drugs like Lasix are commonly used to reduce fluid buildup from poorly functioning hearts.
Often the result of particles in the hay or straw in winter, you will see a partially closed eye with white or yellow “matter”. A weak solution of Spectinomycin in a spray bottle (1 OZ to a Qt of water) will make it easy to clean up the infection . If it doesn’t clear up quickly examine the eye for a particle stuck inside or take him in for a more thorough exam under sedation.
The one we all worry about and see way too much of. It usually gives warning but its subtle. And way too often you will get “comfortable” with a signal because it goes on a long time and nothing bad happens.. The pig doesn’t seem to get any worse so it must be OK right? No, its just a long slow process with most types of cancer. And the older the pig, the slower the growth of tumors.
1. Good days, Bad days.. One day he will eat, the next he won’t leave his bed.. Then everything is fine for 3 weeks then another day where he won’t eat. He seems to look fine, then look awful, then look ok again. You begin to think you are going crazy.
2. Slow weight loss no matter what you feed him. And now is very good time if does have cancer or is losing weight for any reason, to feed him a very digestible, very high nutritional diet. See Aging or Nutrition sections
3. With uterine tumors sometimes you can actually see a bulge on one side the other. Sometimes they have discharge, though most discharge is not indicative of cancer but of other problems. Girls may appear to be straining to pee or have bloody urine.
4. Bumps and swellings which are in bony areas like the snout or forehead.
5. Wounds, lanced abscesses that don’t heal. Raw skin and eruptions on white pigs are often very treatable skin cancer.
7. The Look.. I hope you never see it.. The look of a pig who comes out for breakfast and suddenly realizes he doesn’t feel good enough to eat.. And never will again.. He looks up at you with a look of sadness and parting.. And it strikes you in the heart like an ice pick. Surgery is often too late if they have reached this point.
If he is dying of cancer he will go quickly. Once they pass a point of not eating it is only a few days. Keep him comfortable with whatever drugs the vet will give you and make his last days count as loving ones. If he is suffering then you may have to make the decision to end it. It’s the last act you ever get to do for one you love. Get a shot from the vet to drug him into Nirvana, then gently load him and carry him in. His last moments should not have to be painful or fearful.
Just like their human friends they get allergies. They sneeze and snort and cough from hay fever type reactions and have seasonal allergies to pollen and grasses. Also many have food allergies. Food allergies can cause a white pig to turn bright red when they eat the allergen, a very disturbing sight! They can also get a rash under the chest and front legs and under the back legs from allergic reactions to hay or bedding.
Treatments are usually Benedryl or other antihistamine and sometimes steroids. All summer long Fate has cortisone nasal spay twice a day to keep him breathing freely. Pigs cannot take any kind of decongestant (another of those toxic human drugs).
Dippity is probably the most frightening thing most pig owners ever see. A young or baby pig who was fine last night gets up this morning with long “gashes” across his back and when he tries to walk his hindquarters just seem made of rubber and he almost falls, “dipping” down to the floor with his belly. He hurts and cries out if you touch him and the gashes ooze a reddish fluid of thinly diluted blood (serum). Awful as it is, it is short lived and is usually gone in a couple days. There is no treatment. Its assumed to be neurological and may strike the same pig multiple times before they outgrow it. The sun may exacerbate the condition so keep him in until it passes or make sure he has plenty of shade. You can put some soothing ointment on the lesions or just let them dry up on their own. Do keep flies away from him by dusting with Wonder Dust.
The “gashes” look just like the work of a predator its no wonder many people think their pigs have been attacked by a big cat or an eagle or something equally dangerous. But no such attack has occurred.
It makes no apparent difference if the pig is male or female or black or white. It rarely happens to a pig over a year old.
Pigs vary in their bowel habits. Some pigs have large droppings that make you think an elephant passed through in the night, others drop little berries like a rabbit and you wonder how he can eat so much and have so little exit. Most pigs go every day but have the ability to hold it for many days. Get well acquainted with your pigs droppings to know how his normal habits are. Fortunately pigs who live right (outside) and eat right (graze) have odorless well formed droppings that are soft but not wet and can be easily broken apart if need be to examined for anything unusual. (You know you have reached the pinnacle of pig parenting when you find yourself rushing to the phone to call a friend with the great news that “Hammie Pooped!!”) . There is no better news for a caregiver with a constipated pig.
Keeping healthy bowel action means keeping plenty of fresh fiber (grazing and fresh greens) and adequate water in the diet. In winter some alfalfa hay will be welcome but its not going to have a good moisture level so added moisture is needed in the diet through wetting the feed or a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Pigs who don’t drink plenty of water need additional foods containing it. Adding fruit juice to their water often makes them refuse unflavored water and can make matters worse. Click here to find Foods with lots of moisture
If a pig has gone a couple days without a bowel movement, but has no other indicators of illness, a fleet enema may help you diagnose the problem. It only affects the lower colon so it will only give you limited info but sometimes that’s all that’s needed. If he follows the fleet enema with very hard, very dry tiny “berries” then he may indeed be bound up and you may need the care of the vet. If instead the droppings seems few but are normal in terms of soft and moist then he is probably not constipated, he just doesn’t need to go. Increase the wet foods and reduce the grain and observe.
If constipated, or if he has perhaps been feasting on acorns and is bloated and miserable, then 2 OZ. of mineral oil given orally twice daily for a couple days will usually clean him out (ask the vet before giving mineral oil .. This can be dangerous in some cases). If its been 4 or 5 days and nothing, he may need the high colonic enemas that only a vet can give safely.
If the constipation turns out to be an obstruction then surgery is required. This is rare with outdoor pigs but way too common in housepigs who ingest carpet and blanket fibers which are not digestible and build up in the colon as solid masses.
Ok...You have a sick pig and he is locked in the watch pen and you have observed several abnormal conditions. Now what?
Call the vet. Not the local sanctuary or the man who wrote a book on breeding and selling pigs, nor the lady in Montana who posted a sick pig to the chat list last week...CALL The VET. If he is not available, explain that you have an emergency and ask for a call back. If it is urgent call a teaching vet school for information on what you should do and how long you can wait. If it’s urgent load the pig and drive to the vet and wait for him to see you. The problem is medical, and only a medical professional has the education and practical experience to help. People constantly say, “oh you know way more than my vet about sick pigs.” No, I don’t. I take MY pigs to the vet. I have learned what I have learned from my vets by taking sick pigs in for their professional care. I help my vet do his best work by doing a good job of defining what I am seeing in the symptoms and giving good pre treatment and post treatment care. That's my contribution to good health. Don’t let anyone without the proper education and training treat your pig. He is dependent on you to seek out the care he needs . If he doesn't have pig experience find one who does. Call the vet school nearest you for help . Vet School listing.
Discuss the symptoms with the vet and include the abnormal conditions that don’t exist as well as those that do. “He is not constipated, he has no fever, he doesn’t seem to be hurting at all on the leg.” He may opt to try some medications before bringing him in. Follow directions explicitly. If you have difficulty performing the needed treatment get back to the vet for alternatives before he misses a second dose. Saying, “I tried, but he wouldn't take his pills” means he has not received the necessary care. Results are all that matter in health care. All the love and good intentions are meaningless when a pill is what he needs.
Things you need to know from your vet:
· How long before I should see an improvement?
· When should I call you again?
· If he gets worse, how can I reach you after hours or what should I do to get him care then?
· Call him with the results after you begin to see them, discuss the treatment
· If he is sick the loading and vet visit are hard on him. Try to keep your own stress under control, keep children and dogs out of the loading process and load him with patience and as little rough handling as possible. NEVER chase him. Let him walk slowly and quietly and when possible trap him into a room or stall, not by force but by trickery. There are many ways to load and carry pigs...From crating to blanket loading. These are covered in the hygiene section. Keep him warm and dry and out of drafts as he is transported.
If a broken bone is suspected or he is showing a great deal of bloating or pain in his belly it may be best to get a shot of painkiller or tranquilizer before moving him. If he is very short of breath, breathes heavily if you try to get him up and seems to want to sit down every few steps...he may have a heart problem. Before moving any of these pigs consult the vet and describe carefully the symptoms and ask how to safely get him in or get medication to him.
Moving a pig in great pain from an arthritic joint that just began rubbing bone on bone is downright inhumane. A painkiller can be injected or a prescription pain patch applied before moving him. (Be sure to shave off the spot first)
You may be taking him in to be euthanized but getting him out of pain NOW is the first topic. The euthanizing can come later. Once out of pain it is much easier to blanket load a pig onto a soft bed of rugs. If he is in pain or drowsy put him in a half crate so he doesn't roll around as you drive and hurt himself.
Always consult the vet first as some drugs must not be given before anesthesia.
If the pig is going to have anesthesia and is 10 years old or more now is a good time to do a dental check while he is under. Dental problems are very common and can lead to poor nutrient absorption and infections that can be deadly.
The most important tool is your readiness
· Your vet’s call numbers
· The nearest university hospital that works on potbellies and their contact numbers. Starting from scratch to find a vet in the local area may use up a lot of time to little purpose. If there is a University in a couple hundred miles it may be the best care this pig is going to get.
· A few basic drugs at hand for emergencies and quick starts on treatment. You can get more from your vet: SMZ, penicillin (injectible), prednisone, Ranitidine, if you have older boys, a bottle of Ammonil would be a good choice, Benedryl, a couple of fleet enemas, some mineral oil and peroxide. Our pharmacy also includes Baytril, Draxxin, Excede, Dexamethazole, Doxcycline, Amoxicillin, Lasix, and several others, but we have over 300 pigs who may need something on a weekend. .
· Tools: a couple of rectal thermometers, some scissors with blunt ends, and some clean towels. (Throw away those Q-tips and quit cleaning the gunk out of the pigs ears with anything more than your finger.)Keep a sports bottle handy for watering a down pig.
· A plan: how to load him and transport; a ramp, a blanket, a half crate… a pig sorting board. See examples and sources for these items here.
The phone numbers of a couple of friends or animal people at a local shelter willing to help load or transport or hold him for medications.
· Stay calm and be precise in directions and relaying symptoms. A concise list to a vet is much appreciated as it helps him do his job better. A positive attitude is essential. I cannot tell you how many frantic pig parents call every month starting their conversation, “I can’t”. I can’t get the pig to the vet, can't get the pig to eat, can't get the pills into the pig… Start with “I must” instead of I can't and the way to do it will come much faster and the help you need will be easier to find.
· Being ready for an emergency means you can concentrate on getting the job done, not kicking yourself for not having the right tools or knowing how to reach the vet on a holiday.
· Farm calls vs. Clinic treatment. I have seen many cases where a farm call was beneficial, but 90% of the time or more, the pig will need to go to the clinic. Diagnostic tools for pigs are seldom mobile.
Whether you have a 6 month old piglet or a 14 year old adult pig, he will at some point need medical care. Pigs need dental checkups and abscesses drained and at the end of life, diagnostics, perhaps euthanasia. No pig dies of "old age". Age related illness, yes, but these are diseases, often treatable, always manageable, even if its only controlling pain. Pigs are subtle in their communications but a pig who dies without warning is a rarity. And a pig who dies before the age of 15 is a tragedy.. We calculate their years at 4:1 so a 15 year old pig is 60 in our years. Certainly he is a senior and should be getting all those "golden years" perks; the soft and tasty foods, the warm bed and the caring vet who will make certain the final years are as good as good medical care can make them..
Start developing the vet relationship while the pig is young. By the age of 10 he should have his first dental check and may have already been in for tusk trims or other basic care.
Very few vets see pigs. Pigs are very difficult patients, hard to handle in an office, loud and sometimes dangerous to themselves and everyone around them. They are too big to pick up and can't be haltered and led. They present very few symptoms and do not handle anesthesia well and are difficult surgical patients.
So if you find a vet who has the willingness to see your pig, appreciate him. He either likes pigs or sees that the need is great and that without a few trained pig vets willing to see these difficult patients, they will be left out of the medical agenda entirely.
Learning to work with the vet means a lot of give and take . No vet sees pigs for the money. Learn how to be an easy client to work with so he will look forward to the challenges your pig presents.