I wanted to give you an update on Spoinky. I wrote to you in the past for advice on pig arthritis and what to do. Spoinky's arthritis was very, very bad. Just wanted to update you with good news! Spoinky (age 11) has been on Adequan since October (is now on the monthly dosage) and is doing much better! I have had him on 15 different supplements for years and nothing has helped him as much as the Adequan! It really has given him a new life!!! It has been a miracle. Previously, he would walk only a few feet, more a good day (only bribed with fruit). Now, he walks all around the large yard, and he really has been walking more than he has in 5 or so years. Thank you again for your recommendations and help! I will be forever grateful!
Wanda and Spoinky



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Arthritis is a disease, not a sign of age. It can affect all ages.

 Four major types are seen:

  • Osteo arthritis. This is the most common and the one we usually refer to when talking about treatments and medications. It is caused by stress on the legs and back, genetics and may be influenced by diet. It is a chronic condition and responds well to treatment. Often the first sign is knee walking.
  • Rheumatoid or immune mediated arthritis is not as common,  and causes totally different mobility problems. Once established, the acute condition may return from time to time but show no symptoms between episodes. It is often brought on by stress from changes in weather, heat, cold or activities that frighten or push the pig's limits.  It is treated with pain relievers, anti-inflammatories  and antibiotics.
  • Septic Arthritis from Strep Suis;  appears like the rheumatoid type but from a specific origin, the Strep Suis microbe.
  • Juvenile arthritis is rare and is treated as an acute condition with steroidal injections into the joint.



Osteo Arthritis

When the joints begin to lose the fluids that cushion the bone, it can start showing as minor pain, a limp, some knee-walking to food, reluctance to use steps or a ramp and a less active life. Starting now with an effective treatment program will usually put this problem out of his life for many years.


Environmental Needs

Treating arthritis medically is only part of the solution. The environment often needs significant changes for long term care.

Older pigs should have well cushioned heated beds. Be sure to pad his bed well. Pigs should never be on concrete. Arthritis is greatly aggravated by concrete, can actually be caused by a few months on concrete,  so if that's all he has to sleep on put thick rubber mats over the concrete and under his bedding. Rubber stall mats are available at any horse supply store. Pet bed warmers are available from Kane Mfg, Nasco and many pet, farm and feed supply stores. Ask for the commercial, sealed bed warmers made by Kane or Stanfield.  Always provide room for the pig to get off the warmer if it gets too hot. Better no warmer at all than one that gets hot so he sleeps outside his house in the snow and cold.

Click here to go to Essentials page where you can find links for heaters.

Our Special Care facility here at the sanctuary is devoted to pigs who have such problems.  Its development over the last 10 years has taught us a lot about the necessary environment for the crippled ones.

Pigs are very smart, and will not carelessly put them selves at risk. And their "footing" under them is very much an issue.. if the ground is soggy or steep or gravely, they will test each step to be sure its safe. When they become arthritic they know their mobility is compromised. They will refuse to go up or down a single step that they have been using for years. They will refuse to get out of their beds to walk across a tile floor that they have always walked across. Suddenly they seem cranky and they won't go out to use the bathroom.  These are not signs of getting old.. they are survival instincts that tell them they are not able to negotiate the surfaces in front of them. Add to that the pain of arthritic joint and you have a sad situation of a pig who will stay in his bed the rest of his life. Many people euthanize their pets because they feel sorry for the suffering becasue they do not know arthritis is treatable by correcting the environment and getting the right medication.  

Arthritic or otherwise crippled pigs have  special needs:

  • Totally level walking surface
  • Outdoor living with dirt, or much better, sand as the walking surface for their environment
  • Sleeping area that does not require any step up (house with dirt floor is excellent in good weather)
  • Heated bed
  • Proper nutrition to include lots of daily greens and vegetables and a higher protein feed
  • The company of another pig, a cat or a radio .. the days get long is you don't move around much. Depression will make his condition worse.
  • Plenty of light in the building is essential. A dark cramped dog house style living is no good for an arthritic pig. Good ventilation and available sunlight are needed to provide the synthesis of some needed nutrients.
  • Ventilation should be both Low (bringing in cool air)  and high to exhaust it. Excess heat is very hard on arthritics, just as excess cold is. Be sure he has lots of shade where his bed is. Don't expect him to get up and GO to shade. He may not.

Our special care unit was built to accommodate pigs with these problems and we have been very successful at getting them out of depression and pain. Pigs who never got up, who messed in their beds because they couldn't stand, who never got out to lay in the sun.. these pigs are now very mobile, coming out almost every day to eat and use the bathroom and enjoy the day.  They have plants and wind chimes in their house and a fully excavated flooring system to allow for drainage for the times when they choose not to go out. They have a life.. more than survival...and we are happy to see them enjoying it.

 Creating a comfortable environment in the home can be challenging. If his life is to be comfortable and happy, changes will have to be made.

If we can help you with your arthritic or crippled pig just email us anytime.



Click here to go to Essentials page where you can find links for medications.

  • Oral medications that repair joint and relieve pain
    • Glucosamine and Glucosamine with chondroitin, MSM and other products can be found in any horse supply outlet. They may offer some help in early stages but have never been proven to do so by any scientific studies. Ask your vet about dosing, typically recommendations are 1/2 the smallest horse dosage.
    • Cosequin. It too is an equine product, though it is released for dogs and cats  and has been tested on humans with good result. The reports I have had from many people using this product on their animals, especially horses, speak very well of it.. they are getting excellent results to long standing problems. This is the only oral product that has been tested and found effective  It is the only oral medication (of the type)  listed in the Merck Veterinary Manual.
  • Oral Medications that only relieve pain and do not repair the underlying condition: These are not good for long term use and must be accompanied by the use of an acid reducer such as Ranitidine,Famotidine, or Omeprazole . (Equate is the Walmart OTC brand and famotidine is our commonly used type) 
    • Rimadyl
    • Derramax. (best oral pain med)
    •  Prednisone (steroid)
  • The injectible solution IS the solution
    • Adequan and other products with the basic ingredient,glucosaminoglycans of high molecular weight,  are  very effective at restoring the synovial fluids around the bad joints. Given weekly for 4 weeks, then monthly, these injections are very effective on most pigs with osteo arthritis, especially those  in the legs, less so on pigs with arthritis in the back or neck.   It  works. We have seen remarkable results on our severe cases. The effectiveness does not diminish over time.  And in many pigs much of the damage is actually reversed, and they keep getting better over time.  It is a prescription drug under any name. Adequan holds the current patent and is available from any vet. Heartland Vet Supply in Kansas carries a  product called Chondroprotec which is essentially the same and considerably less expensive. Adequan costs about $25 to $35 per month.  Discuss treatment with your vet when you get the prescription.   This treatment is for life. It isn't a quick fix. But it will add many  years of mobility and alleviated pain. Giving a shot every month will become an easy thing to do and your pig will get accustomed to it. Its a small dosage and easy to give.
    • For the few who show no improvement with Adequan, and are in increasing pain, there are shots given directly into the joint. These shots are depo-medrol and Sarapin.  The pig must be sedated before injection into the joint as it must be done with great precision to do the job. Age and condition will determine if he is a good candidate. We had one pig who got total relief from pain with one shot a year in a front leg.
  • Topical:
    • DMSO.. some pigs have shown good results from the application of medical grade DMSO gel.   DMSO is NOT FDA approved for drug use. Discuss the possible side effects and appropriate use with your vet before using it. DMSO is exceedingly transdermal so wearing gloves is recomended.


How Bad is the Arthritis?

When a pig reaches a severe stage he is in terrible pain. Do not try to move him, he has bone grinding on bone. Get the vet to give him an injection of strong pain reliever to relive the pain so you can transport him in to the clinic for injections in the joint and xrays. An injection in the joint will provide for short term relief while you start him on twice a week Adequan. He will need some time to be out of pain while the Adequan does its job. It cannot undo the effects of years of damage overnight.  Certainly its best never to let it get this far. Start Adequan treatment early in the disease.



Arlo smiles after years of environmental abuse (Living underneath a barn in the cold and wet). Once the Adequan started working he started walking and climbing up onto an old army cot that was his special place to lounge around.. smiling all the day long.




Recognizing which type of Arthritis your pig has:


Osteo Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis  (Immune mediated) and Septic Arthritis

Most common type and usually in the front leg joints. Constant limp, does not get noticeably better or worse under stress such as weather changes or upsetting events. Knee walking is common. Usually progressive over time. Chronic. Very treatable.

Once contracted, episodes are brought on by stress; sudden onset; arched back, tail raised, appears to have extreme pain in all four feet, lies down every few feet May go months or years between episodes. Sudden death by heart attack is possible. Necropsy should look for fibrin to determine  presence of Strep Suis infection. Rapid treatment is needed for acute episodes. Vaccine is available but we have seen little positive protection from it.

Below: Colleen; front leg lame. She will enter the Arthritis Care group in the fall and begin Adequan treatments.

So too will Whiney Wilbur, second video, who is also showing moderate lameness in the front.

BoJangles, the big black and white boy in the middle.  Two videos; Day 1 of the current episode and day 7 as he is improving. Today, 2 weeks later, he shows no sign of pain, stiffness or any kind of lameness..


Osteo Arthritis in the back or neck is characterized by difficulty rising, arched back, stiffness in walking. Stiffness is also noticeable with hip problems.

Below Oreo shows the  posture and stiffness of hip/back arthritis.

His bald butt is just from annual shedding.



Juvenile Arthritis

Below,William, had juvenile arthritis in his shoulder at 2 years old. It was so painful that he cried out when he stepped down and moved like he was hurting every minute.  We had his joint injected and it has never bothered him again. As seen below, he is now a normal, active 6 year old with complete freedom of movement.


Other mobility issues include neurological damage such as we see below with Helen. She is 12  and has been here 10 years. She came in with this affliction and no history.  She seems not to be in any pain, leads a normal life, if a little slow to get places,  and X-Rays show no abnormalities in the bones.