By Jenny Blaney
You, the owner, know your potbellied pig better than anyone. You, the owner, are in a unique position to observe your pig on a daily basis. It follows that maintaining your pig in a healthy state is going to be up to you. Consistent management practices will help you to quickly pick up on any deviation from your pig’s normal affect and behavior. Your ability to notice changes will ultimately be proportionate to the depth of your relationship with your pet. This ability in turn will help ensure that your pig lives as long and happy a life as possible. There are some guidelines to be aware of, as well as tools available to you to help accomplish this goal.
Your veterinarian can tell much about the overall health of your piggy by examining a sample or urine. This is a relatively inexpensive diagnostic tool that can be used to monitor health over the life of your pig. Among other things your veterinarian can check the urine for: pH level, triple phosphate crystals, calcium phosphate crystals, protein, blood, pus and sugar. Bi-annual urine examinations over the life of your pig will provide valuable information on overall condition, nutrition, assimilation, metabolic capabilities and aging. Your veterinarian will be better able to head off a potential problem before it become a serious medical condition. Collecting a urine sample from your pig is not as difficult as it may sound. As with any new activity you try with your pig, it takes some preparation for forethought. You know your pig’s voiding routine better than any one. There are sterile packaged kits (for people) you can obtain from your local pharmacy that are appropriate and convenient. Follow the directions included in the package to avoid contamination of the sample. (Any other container used for collection should be clean and dry and preferably sterile.)
Collection needs to be done at the same time of day and in the same manner each time in order to provide consistent results. The best time for collection is probably first thing in the morning with a “mid-stream” catch, avoiding the very beginning of the urine stream. Discuss the “art” of collection with your veterinarian before you start, as to method, amount and delivery to his/her office. Generally, if the sample sits after collection for more than one hour, it needs to be refrigerated. The fresher the sample is when it reaches the veterinarian the better. Always collect and deliver in a consistent manner. Label, date and enter time of day on the sample.
To aid in the consistency of findings of each urine sample submitted, avoid any major diet changes for a few weeks prior to collection. If you make a diet change, wait for thirty days after the change before you collect. This applies to any medications given along the way as well. Always follow your veterinarians guidelines concerning the above.
Water consumption as well as diet affect your pig’s voiding routine. The first urine sample you submit to your veterinarian should be based on what your pig is eating and drinking at present with no new changes introduced. This will provide a base for information gathered. Not all pigs are good water drinkers. If you make any changes to diet or fluid consumption, such as adding juices to drinking water to encourage fluid intake, check with your veterinarian to see how long you should wait before taking another sample.
Any changes in diet and fluid intake should be made one change at a time, with a period of time in between changes to allow for the body’s adaptation to that change. Again, follow your veterinarian’s guidelines.
Collecting urine for examination twice yearly will make you more aware of your pig’s voiding routine. You will begin to notice your pig’s normal behavior before, during and after voiding. You will be better prepared to spot changes in behavior associated with voiding. Pay attention to the duration of the voiding process, whether it is a steady stream with some force behind it or just a trickle. Watch for straining or discomfort associated with voiding.
If the results of the first urine sample submitted are found to be within normal ranges, this is still valuable information. Those results will provide a basis for comparing subsequent samples taken every six months.
This continued monitoring of urine will provide important diagnostic information on the overall condition of your pig as the aging process progresses. Again, consistency in collecting and submitting the sample is vital to obtaining accurate results.
There is one simple exercise that you the owner can do between urine collections. Periodically, while your pig is voiding, lay a section of white paper towel down to fully absorb the urine as it is voided. (Place the paper towel on the ground, in the litter box, wherever the pig is urinating.) Then take that piece of paper towel and lay it on any non-porous surface to dry naturally. After is has dried thoroughly, check that surface to see if the dried urine has left any cloudy, shinny, or white residue. Also examine the paper towel itself for any discoloration of the urine. If anything unusual is noted, collect a urine sample as previously described and submit to your veterinarian for examination.
You, the owner, can play a vital role in monitoring and maintaining the health of your potbellied pig. Three of the most important things you can do to make your potbellied pig experience a success are:
— Develop and cultivate an in-depth relationship with your pig.
— Keep your management practices as consistent as possible.
— Develop and cultivate a mutually satisfying working relationship with your veterinarian.
If you have any questions please call Jenny Blaney 518-747-3494