California Potbellied Pig Association, Inc
Constipation and Diarrhea in Potbellied Pigs
By Chris Christensen
Just the subjects I’ve always wanted to write about, but from the number of emails CPPA receives about these two problems, we felt it would be best to share what information we have on these two health concerns. Understand, we are not veterinarians. If a veterinarian’s advice is available to you, use it. We have over 25 years experience with potbellied pigs, but mostly we have input from hundreds of potbellied pig owners across the country and the world.
Now if your pig has diarrhea you are probably quite aware that there is a problem. Constipation is not nearly as obvious, especially if you have more than one pig.
Learn your pigs’ habits. Usually the location or look of each pigs stool will be unique to that animal. A lack of or change in appearance of a particular pig’s stool is a good sign that a problem may be developing.
In infant pigs diarrhea is usually bought on by weening or nursing problems and needs to be addressed by a vet or experienced breeder.
In adult pigs it is usually caused by an illness (contact a veterinarian) or a reaction to some ingested material. If an ingestion cause is known (a plant, a new drug, a new food, etc.) and it is not potentially fatal, isolating the animal from the source and some Pepto-Bismol or Imodium will usually suffice to solve the problem in a few hours or so. If in doubt about the source or if the source is potentially lethal, a vet should be contacted immediately. Also, if the problem does not abate within a day, dehydration can become a problem and a veterinarian should be consulted. If the pig is not drinking water, try a fortified drink like “Propel” to add electrolytes and hydration to the animal.
While harder to be aware of, it is easier to deal with if caught early on. I am quite aware of the contradiction here. If you’re not aware of the problem, how do you catch it early on?
While it may seem at first to be a good thing, less pig poop to pick up on your daily rounds may be a signal of a serious problem developing. Now there may be seasonal changes that you will become aware of. If your trees are dropping leaves or fruit, you will probably experience a huge increase in your collections as compared to less productive seasons of the year. Learn the patterns, it will save you a good deal of grief.
In all cases water (possibly flavored with fruit juice) is essential daily with every meal at all times.
DO NOT FEED PIG FOOD DRY
( More information at “Got Water…” )
Prunes and prune juice are great for regular maintenance, but are a waste of time if an actual blockage has formed.
If your pig is constipated, the first approach and easiest is some form of stool softener. If you have caught it early this should help.
Docusate Sodium Stool Softener softgels are the least expensive route to go at this point, but there is a problem with them. A pig may take one of these softgels, but most likely a pig will never take another. We swallow these whole. Pigs chew them. This stuff must taste really bad. One of our board members, Dona, found a watered down liquid form. It is “Docusate Sodium Syrup USP, 20mg/5ml. Stool Softener Laxative. Compares to the active ingredient in Colace syrup”. It is available at most major pharmacies by special order only. Ask the pharmacists, and they can order it for you. You can just mix it in their meals (3 tablespoons per day for adult pigs). They eat it right down. We now keep a couple of bottles on hand to be prepared.
Also, the University near us that teaches veterinarians suggested that we try "Lactulose Solution USP". It is a liquid that can be mixed in their food, and is actually good tasting. You give 10 to 15 mL, 2 to 3 times daily. This has proved to be the best laxative, but may require a veterinarian prescription. If this laxative fails to work in a day or so, the blockage is more established. The softener is still important but the blockage will need to be loosened from the other end as well. This is a real test of how much you love your animal and how much your animal trusts you. We used to try to use the prepackaged “Fleet” enemas, and they worked with limited success. We would sprinkle feed, cereal, etc. on the ground outside (this is not an inside the house activity), and while the pig was “pigging out” we slowly and gently approached from the rear. Usually a good bit of the “Fleet” enema would end up almost immediately coming back out, but enough stayed that it was somewhat effective.
Now, Dona once again had a better solution. (I must explain that Dona has had a lot of serious medical problems with her pigs and has had to deal with a lot of constipation with them.) She had tired of chasing her pigs around with the “Fleet” enemas and discovered that a large sized syringe, MINUS THE NEEDLE, would work better. Fill it with WARM water and use it like the “Fleet”. The shorter tip on it seems to be more to the pigs liking. The greater ability to control the flow is easier on you, and they seem to hold it longer. With the syringe, which doesn’t go in nearly as far as the long tip of the “Fleet”, the water seems to stay in, and it seems to be very effective. We use a 35ml syringe and use 3 syringes full about 5 minute apart, which just about equals the amount of liquid in one “Fleet” enema. We just SLOWLY press the plunger, and wait. It usually works rather quickly, but may need to be repeated. (Syringes are available at most feed stores or on-line.) Again if this fails to break up the blockage or your pig appears to be in great discomfort, contact a veterinarian.
A few additional ideas:
As our pig Riff got older (19 years old) his constipation had become a major problem. When he would strain, he would hurt his deformed back (spinabifida), and he would collapse to the ground crying.
I remembered that when the leaves fell in the fall of the year he would develop much more and much softer poops. So I started cutting branches off our mulberry trees and letting him eat the leaves. The exercise strengthened his back and his constipation went away. Of course, fall came and the leaves were gone. In fact I fear I might have damaged the trees by removing the leaves too soon. Friends from Belly Dragger Ranch bought me bags of leaves from their trees.
That winter, I started buying Romaine lettuce and spreading out the lettuce for him. It helped a little, but not always enough. We then started trying the "Lactulose Solution USP”, and the above things combined got him back to being healthy, again. The leaves or lettuce have given him some roughage and a reason to be active, and the Lactulose Solution is a gentle laxative that is much more acceptable to their taste buds than biting into a stool softener, and it appears to work better than the Docusate Sodium Syrup.
PS: Riff was a rescue pig (at least 2 years old according to his vets) but exact age is a guess. He made it through another winter before his back finally failed him, and we had to let him pass, but he ruled our herd and our hearts for his final 18 years.
Pigs are extremely sociable, enjoying good company,
even if it belongs to another species.