The following information is needed by the veterinarian when presented with an ill potbellied pig: 1) Signalment: Sex, intact/neutered, age, color, weight 2) History: Diet, appetite, thirst, and availability of water. Elimination – regularity and consistency of stools and urine appearance Vomiting Changes in routine that may have been stressful (pbp’s are creatures of habit) Housing (including any access to toxic plants) Vaccinations & worming (dates and names of products used).
The next step is physical examination, which has two parts: Part one which is observing the pig at a distance when walking around and with as little stress as possible (unless the pig is recumbent or comatose) and, Part two, the hands-on-exam for rectal temperature, respiratory rate, and clinical appearance (gum color, injuries, hydration, etc. Note: eyes sunk in means severe dehydration).
The difficulty with potbellied pigs is they are often totally unmanageable by any physical restraint and have to be tranquilized for the ands-on-exam. After sedation, physical exam is possible but parameters such as temperature and respiration are altered and may not be useful for helping make the diagnosis. The advantage of tranquilization is that blood samples, fecal samples, and urine samples for various laboratory tests are easier to collect and these may be very helpful in arriving at a diagnosis. Bringing a mid-stream urine sample in a clean or sterile container and a fecal sample in a sealed baggy (refrigerate if either sample is kept overnight) to the veterinarian is desirable and may allow initial testing and diagnostic information before the veterinarian collects samples.
The aforementioned diagnostic process is much easier for the owner, pig and veterinarian if the following tasks have been accomplished: (1) The potbellied pig is used to or even enjoys being transported (pigs may vomit from motion sickness which may have nothing to do with illness – best for pig to travel on empty stomach) (2) The pig has already been examined by a veterinarian and a good veterinary-client-patient relationship has been established so subsequent physical examination is more tolerable (3) Pig records are in the custody of the client’s veterinarian plus the owner has kept their own record of what has been done previously (4) The pig has been trained (leash training in harness, etc.) And handled often (brushed, groomed, held) so handling by others is less stressful.
As a swine consultant to veterinarians who are seeing potbellied pigs and their clients, it is more time- efficient for all involved if every procedure outlined above has been accomplished and all pertinent information about signalment, history, presenting clinical signs, physical exam, results of laboratory tests and any response to preliminary treatment initiated is provided. It is most time-efficient if all of this information is sent by fax (979-862-3795) or E-mail: at the same time a request for consultation is received.
Bruce Lawhorn, DVM, MS Associate Professor & Extension Swine Veterinarian College of Veterinary Medicine Room #2 Texas A&M University College Station, Texas 77843-2487