Thursday, October 11, 2018

The Aging Pot Bellied Pig

Life Span: I still feel that the average age for these pigs 12-15 years of age. There are cases of pigs living into their late teens or early twenty's, but I feel that the life span of these pigs is not what we assumed in the beginning (25-30). It is closer to the truth that they will have a productive life that equals the life span of the well cared for dog. This would make it between twelve and fifteen years.

Eyesight: Eyesight on the normal pig is considered very poor, and as the pig ages it appears to become even more poor. Due to the wonderful sense of smell this should not cause a problem with our pigs unless we change their environment or surroundings without using time and supervision during the acclimation period.

Body Functions:
The geriatric pig may have more problems with urination and bowel movement. It is not unusual to have problems with constipation on the older pig. The older the pig, the more of a problem it can become. In severe cases the pig will refuse to eat and appears to be in pain showing a tenderness in the stomach area, crabby and irritable, much like a human with these problems.

I know that some of you count every little calorie that goes in, but for this problem I suggest a teaspoon of low fat oil put on the food three items a week for prevention. Or something like Piggy Lax that is sold for this specific purpose. We also wet all feed for our older pigs.

Water intake is a very important part of this prevention on older pigs and should be encouraged as much as possible. We use a 50/50 mixture of cranberry juice added to the water. You can also use Pedialyte®, Ensure, apple juice or even kool-aid powder if it makes the pig drink more water. It is very important that older pigs have unlimited access to water at all times.

If you have one of the pigs that takes a bite of food and then a drink of water, this is sometimes a habit. It will work to simply move the water bowl across the room if you object to the pig doing this, and by wetting his food he will continue to eat well.

Exercise is another important part of keeping your porcine friend on schedule. Not only is exercise good for the pig in general, but it also encourages the pigs body to lose the waste material. Just as older humans tend to lead a more sedentary life style, our pigs are no different. Sometimes we have to push them to get them to do what we know is best. In the older pig the more frequently that they can go the better off they are.

For those pigs kept outside this is not a problem, as they have free access to potty time. For the house pigs however, this is not always the case. These guys tend to have absolutely wonderful house habits, and are generally creatures of habit, period. Meaning that they are used to going at certain times during the day. Heaven forbid that we should ask them to get up from a nap to go out and do their business when it's not on their internal schedule!

Pigs that have been going out three times a day are in the habit of going three times a day. Just as in humans, when they get a little older they may really need to go more often. Since it's not their habit to do so, they just don't and they don't ask, nor do they really think they should make this break with routine.

We really need to push this issue with them when they get older for their own good. The more time that they are given the chance to do their business, the less problem we are going to have with the pig in respect to the bowels and urinary tract.

The idea behind all this is to prevent any problem rather than trying to cure the problem once it exists. For pigs that show they do have a problem, we use the age old remedy of buying cans of stewed prunes and feeding them a few spread out over the day. Encourage more water consumption and less feed until (no pun intended) this problem passes.

Exercise: Along with what was talked about above, the benefits of moderate exercise cannot be stressed enough. It makes the blood flow, gives the heart a boost, supplies oxygen to the lungs, and is imperative to the older pigs health and well being. (Not to mention your own health if you are the one supplying the exercise for the pig.)

This does not mean that your pig has to run a marathon daily to be healthy, but by giving him the incentive to do as much walking as possible (in between his naps) you are giving his whole system a chance to wake up. If the snow, rain and mud prevent you from taking him outside for walks then make him follow you around the house for ten or fifteen minutes at a time.

This is not as easy as it sounds. I know from our experience with older house pigs, that these guys seem to almost go into a hibernation mode in the winter. They really don't want to do much of anything, and are crabby and irritable most of the time. This means it is up to you to find some creative way of making them want to stay up and do some walking.

Teeth: As the pig gains years he also has the potential to lose teeth and to develop sores on the gum line. While this problems isn't necessarily an age related one, the potential for problems increases with the age of the pig.

Weight: As a rule around here we keep a close eye on the weight of the older pig. If they look like they are losing weight then we up the feed. This is one of those things where you will be the best judge on their looks.

Vaccination Schedule: This is a controversial one that can be seen more than one way. My vet personally sees no reason to vaccinate pigs over the age of seven. (Not a stand that would be very popular with some vets.) The thinking behind this is that if the pig has had the vaccinations every year for most of his life, that the immunity is there and has been built up over a period of time, so to continue after this age is not a necessary thing.

This is a personal decision to be made by the individual and their vet. We do not vaccinate after the age of seven here (pigs or dogs) if we know the history of the animal. We just feel that this is one less stressful situation for the older pig to have to go through.

One has to remember that pigs at a sanctuary do not go to shows, are not around other pigs, and older pigs are not adopted out. Therefore these pigs are at low risk to begin with. This is a question that you may want to discuss with your own vet and then make a decision.

Anesthetic and the Older Pig: One can only assume that we all know that Isoflurane gas is the choice when it comes to our pigs having surgery or any of the other pig related things done that require them to be asleep. This is by far the safest method but even that method, on older pigs may alter. It may take less to knock down an older pig as time goes on. It is a good idea to remind your vet that the pig is getting up there in years.

We never give an older pig a tranquilizer by injection prior to the use of the gas. I know that most people here have the type of pig that can be taken in for the gas, but for those who may have the rescue pigs or pigs that may be too large or not dispositionaly inclined to this there must be an alternative.

We have used an injectable for the last two years on a multitude of pigs needing vet care without any problems. Following is the dosage and drugs that we use on these pigs. It may be something that you want your vet to have on record just in case it is ever needed by you or someone you know. My vet was very impressed with the way it works, and as I said we have used in many occasions at the sanctuary.

Also, please remember that we are saying that the Isoflurane gas is the BEST but, if you can't get the pig there or the pig is one that has not been handled this is the next best bet. This may enable pigs to get vet care that otherwise may not get the care needed and this is the only reason we included it.

Rough Formula:
For Larger Pets (50+ pounds)
1cc for every 50 pounds of body weight of Telazol
1cc for every 100 pounds of body weight of Rompun

Put both drugs in the same syringe and give in the neck muscle. Wait five minutes, pig will go down and be asleep.

GIVE NO OTHER DRUGS OR TRANQUILIZERS AND DO NOT GIVE ANY MORE THEN THE DOSAGE PER BODY WEIGHT. (By no other drugs we do not mean antibiotics. Antibiotics can be safely given following the procedure.)

More Detailed Formula:
For Smaller Pets (40-50 pounds)
2 mg for every pound of body weight of Telazol
1 mg for every pound of body weight of Rompun

Put both drugs in the same syringe and give in the neck muscle. Wait five minutes, pig will go down and be asleep.

GIVE NO OTHER DRUGS OR TRANQUILIZERS AND DO NOT GIVE ANY MORE THEN THE DOSAGE PER BODY WEIGHT. (By no other drugs we do not mean antibiotics. Antibiotics can be safely given following the procedure.)

After Care: Put sleeping pig in a quiet place. We use a carrier for this part with blankets and leave them alone other than checking quietly on them for the next 12 hours. No food or water until the pig can walk out of the carrier on his own, and no food or water for 8 hours PRIOR to giving the injection.

The Last Hoorah: For that time that we never want to think about but is as much a part of life as anything else. What is the most humane way of putting a pig down? The less stress the better for all concerned. When this time comes (and only you can decide this very personal issue) the thing we all want most for our porcine friends is to have them go peacefully to the Rainbow Bridge.

We use the above formula and after the pig is asleep we use the Jugular, the same place most of you use for blood testing, and administer the pheno barb solution. The pig is already asleep and this can be done easily. Needless to say that you need not be as careful with the dosage of the first injection of Telazol and Rompun when it is used for this purpose.

I only bring this unwanted subject up because there are people I here from all the time telling horror stories of what has happened. There have been many cases of giving the pig the injection directly into the heart without the pig being asleep first. While this method is fast, I have trouble going along with it if there is a way to do it that I feel is more humane. This is something that you need to discuss with your vet before the time comes when you may not be thinking as clearly

One last note here would be to ask if it's okay for you to stay with your friend until it is over. A hard thing to do for us, but a good thing for the pet that has given so much to us. In twenty years there has never been an animal here that went to the final sleep without the touch of many hands on their heads and the sound of my voice in their ear. A hard thing for us to do but so little compared to what they have given in the short time we are allowed to have them with us.

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