What can potbellied pig owner’s do to make their vet’s job easier when it comes to treating their pets?
1. Be observant. While Jenny’s point that owners may misinterpret their pig’s problem is occasionally true, we veterinarians also depend greatly on an owner’s description of a problem to get us headed in the right direction. You might think of the veterinarian’s examination of a pig as a detailed “snapshot” of the pig’s condition at a single point in time. The owner’s observations are more like a “movie” taken over a longer period of time. Both perspectives are important to get a complete picture of a pig’s condition. Try to be as objective as possible when responding to the vet. Saying “My pig normally eats 2 cups of feed X each day, however, for the past 2 days, she has only eaten half a cup” conveys more useful information than “I’m worried that my pig is not eating as much as she should.” Pay attention to your pig’s normal eating, drinking, elimination, and play habits so that you can detect a departure from normal.
2. Be prompt. Fortunately, most departures from normal are minor and self-correcting. Animals have been designed with a great capacity for responding, adapting, and healing themselves when problems arise. However, when a problem arises that needs medical intervention, earlier is almost always better than later. A good example would be a case of pneumonia which usually responds well and completely to antibiotic treatment early in the disease but may respond poorly and result in permanent lung damage if treatment is delayed. As a veterinarian, I would rather be “bothered” by a minor problem that does not need treatment than to be presented with an animal that I cannot help because it is too late. Granted, your vet is probably busy and has more animals to care for than just yours, but open communication with your vet should help you develop a sense of when to call for help.
3. Be confident. I especially appreciate Jenny’s suggestion that you develop a working relationship with a vet before a crisis arises. You may need to “shop around” and find the vet that is interested and knowledgeable, and (most importantly) that you can relate to in a positive way. A medical crisis is stressful to both pig and owner and it is helpful for both owner and vet to have a relationship built on trust and confidence. Veterinarians are human and as such are imperfect, but, almost without exception, we desire the best for an owner and his/her animals. If we sense that an owner does not believe that of us, it makes our job much more stressful and difficult. While we vets cannot guarantee that all medical problems will have the desired outcome, it is much more satisfying when we all know that we have partnered together to do the best we can for the pigs.