California Potbellied Pig Association, Inc
ARE YOU PREPARED FOR AN EMERGENCY?
by Marcie Christensen
Are you prepared for an emergency or worse… the end of your pig’s life?
If you can answer “yes” to these questions then you are one of the few. Even in writing this article I honestly can’t say 100% "yes" to both of those questions.
What is prompting this article is a series of very sad phone calls that some of CPPA and SCAMPP volunteers had to deal with recently from a man named Al. His pig was sick with viral pneumonia. It had been sick for several weeks. His treating vet would not listen to outside advice from potbellied pig people who have dealt with pneumonia in pigs before, nor was Al able to give the pig injections that were needed to save the pig's life. He wasn’t prepared to deal with his sick pig. Don’t let this happen to you and your beloved pet!
At 10PM on a Saturday night, Al called one of our volunteers, Cheryl, in a panic. His pig was gasping for breath. It was panicking, jumping up and down, trying to breath and get comfortable. Cheryl and another volunteer worked together to try and find a 24 hour clinic that would help ease his pig’s suffering. After several hours of tears, many phone calls and more tears, his pig, Preslee, died in Al’s arms with Cheryl on the other line listening. It was awful for all involved.
What was sad about this entire event was Preslee might have been able to be saved if Al had done some research when he got Preslee instead of waiting until it was too late.
Again I ask you, are you ready if your pig gets sick, has to be put down or dies at home? If you are, then please stop reading. If not, then please keep reading and hopefully Preslee’s death will not have been in vain and might even help you when your pig needs it.
Chris and I are very lucky. First, we live within an hour of U. C. Davis. They have 24 hour veterinary care, so in an emergency we can take our pigs there at any hour. (Do you know where vet care is available in your area? Will they work on potbellied pigs?) Second, we have a truck with a camper on it that is high enough for a "Giant" ("700") animal crate. If our truck is not running we have a friend who will let us borrow her vehicle at any hour. She also has pigs. There are also always the two of us to load a pig to take it to the vet. Transportation is the first thing you need to think about. Do you have a vehicle big enough to carry your pig? Do you have the ability to load the pig into this vehicle on your own?
We purchased a hydraulic table from Harbor Freight (www.harborfreight.com, search Hydraulic Table) which helps us to load our pigs into our truck. We have several of the largest dog crates on the market. If you have a crate just make sure BEFORE an emergency that your pig will fit in it and that the crate will fit in your vehicle. These can be purchased at any pet/feed store and most on line animal stores. We purchased plastic sorting boards (flat 2' by 3' boards with handles used to guide and direct pigs) from QC Supply (www.qcsupply.com, #50019 called Sow Mate Sorting Panels) to help us move the pigs and get them into the crates easier. We also have several animal exercise pens. We use these to circle a pig when the sorting boards don’t work. Then we can move the pig to where we want the pig to go while the exercise pen is around them. We will place a crate at the opening and slowly fold up the exercise pen so the pig has nowhere to go but into the crate. You can find exercise pens at most pet/feed stores too. But to see what I am referring to go to www.jefferspets.com, Search Exercise Pens. (See also Transporting Your Pig on this web site.)
Once when our truck wasn’t working, we had to go rent a van. This was also before we had a hydraulic table so we asked other friends to come help us unload the pig since the weight of the pig and crate together was about 200lbs. It was around 11PM when we got home that night, but we still asked for help. This same pig was unable to walk for 5 months due to his bones decalcifying. We built him a 4’x8’ box out of 2”x4”s and plywood, filled 3 feet deep with straw in our family room, where he “floated” in this straw 24 hours a day for 5 months. During this time he got pneumonia due to lack of movement. We had to give him 27 injections of antibiotics in five days. We had to get the drugs from our local hospital as it was after hours on the weekend and our pig would have died without them. These were thick drugs that burned. It was awful, but if we hadn’t done any of this, our pig would have died.
Do you have the equipment you'll need? The ability to borrow it? The ability to get your pig to a vet? Do you have a 24 hour clinic in your area that will treat a pig? What will you do when/if your pig gets sick like this? Figure it out now, don’t wait. Find out who you can borrow a crate from, a truck, call any/all of the vets in your area that might provide you 24 hour emergency care, even if just antibiotics. Can or will you give injections to your pig? Al is kicking himself for not saving his pig, so please learn from him. Make sure you don’t put yourself in this same situation. Figure out now what you may need to do to save your pigs life.
Now what will you do if your pig is so old it can no longer walk, if it is suffering and needs to be euthanized? Do you have a mobile vet who will come to your house to euthanize your pig? Will they take the body for you? Do you want your pig cremated and ashes returned to you? Have you found a crematorium that will even cremate a pig, many will not. I have received calls from three different families in the last two months all having to make this decision at the last minute, and they had no idea what to do. Don’t be in this same situation. (See Goodbye on this web site.)
We do not have any mobile vets in our area that will treat potbellied pigs; however, I recently found a vet who does humane home euthanasia. He has agreed to euthanize pigs for us and has made an agreement for cremation and return of the ashes. I am so glad about this because when the time comes for us to send one of our boys over the Rainbow Bridge I would like them to be comfortable and at home if at all possible, and burial in our backyard is not possible or legal.
Also are you prepared for natural disasters. Do you have a plan for your pets if your home is destroyed or damaged? Can you transport your pets to safety? We have a small camper trailer in our side yard full of emergencies supplies, including pet food. We have the capacity to live in it or haul it full of our pets to safety if needed. Realize that any steps you take to be better prepared for emergencies with your pets and even your family, make it much easier when emergencies occur.
Take two pigs and call me in the morning.