California Potbellied Pig Association, Inc
by Chris Christensen
If you feed your pig dry food in a bowl ADD WATER. If you read nothing more of this article, I hope you read that. It’s really simple. Start out with an equal amount of water and food. 1/3 cup food add 1/3 cup water. Let it sit and soak for a minute or two, then feed your piggy. Once your pig pal gets used to that, try adding some more water. We use a minimum of 1 cup of water to 1/3 cup of food and up to 2 cups of water, depending on how sloppy an eater the particular pig is. If this seems messy, try placing the pigs feed dish in a puppy litter pan to catch any overflow. (Purina "Second Nature" puppy litter pan available at "PetSmart" and other pet strores) They’ll clean up the overflow. It’s just better than having it on your floor or rug.
Why is this important? All of us need water to move food through our bodies. As pigs (and also as we) get older they need more water to speed the process. Many pigs are not big water drinkers and most of us don’t really know how much water each pig drinks. Outside many of us have waterers that automatically refill so we have no idea how much water our pigs drink.
We’re starting to hear of more and more cases of potbellied pigs with food impacted in everywhere from the esophagus to the intestines. If you sprinkle the feed on the ground, obviously you can’t add water, and eating one piece at a time won’t cause the dry feed to create an immediate blockage, but there is still a need for water to get it through the system. In that case, however, I would recommend flavoring the water in the pig’s water bowl with fruit juice to encourage water consumption. Even if you think your pig drinks enough water, I don’t believe that more water could hurt.
Think about it. You’ve seen a pig eat. Imagine gulping down mouthfuls of dry cereal without milk (think of the “Got Milk” commercials). Some pigs will grab a mouthful of food and then run to their water dish to wash it down. Others tend to regurgitate it and then re-eat it. Think they might be trying to tell us something? Ever tried to eat an overcooked turkey breast at Thanksgiving without lots of liquid.
A couple of years ago one of the better potbellied pig vets on the East coast put out an article about never feeding your pig without adding at least an equal amount of water to the feed. We had always added water to any feed that we fed to our pigs in a bowl, so I didn’t pay a lot of attention to it. Then a couple of months ago I read an article in a SCAMPP newsletter about a pig in N.Y. that had actually had the dry food form a golf ball sized clump which then wedged in the esophagus. The esophagus was ripped when the food was coughed up. What we have seen more of is impacted bowels. We have had many pigs with bowel obstructions some fatal, all costly, but until recently we haven’t really had it put together that the dry feed and the lack of water could be the cause of these impactions.
One of our members pigs, who was not a big water drinker and who was fed his pig chow dry, just came back from U C Davis Veterinary Hospital after a weeks stay with an impacted bowel. This was an older pig, and fortunately they managed to clear the obstruction with enemas and manual manipulation and without the surgeries that we have seen so often. The instructions that this pig came home with were to drink 2 ½ liters of a 50/50 water prune juice mix per day.
We know our own pigs get at least 2 to 3 cups of water a day with their food. I hope they drink a lot more. With multiple pigs and self-filling waterers, it’s hard to know how much additional water they actually drink.
It’s easy and doesn’t cost anything to just add water to their food and make sure they get some hydration. It’s a lot harder to have to deal with the medical problems and bills that can result from them not getting enough water. It’s also a lot easier than losing your precious little porker, because you didn’t. So, “Got Water...”
”We can only love what we know,
and we can never know completely what we do not love"