Elderly Pig Special Needs
For each pet-owner (or I should say “servant for our babies”) one of the hardest things to deal with when our babies become infirm. One of the most important things we can do for our human and pig children is to manage their weight. Many of the pigs I have taken in have been kept in former homes in very tight quarters without the opportunity for exercise. On top of this they are often fed cheap dog food that is the equivalent of humans eating hay to meet our nutritional requirements. When I see them for the first time they may have scars on their abdomens as their bellies are so huge they drag on the ground. These babies are most at risk of having to be put down not because of their hearts or other internal problems but because they develop arthritis so quickly in their short legs. I have had several pigs come in who were quite young but had to roll to get around as their knees would not support their weight. What makes things more difficult is that pot belly pigs are very sedentary by nature. It can take over 6 months of very careful feeding (NOT dieting, just extremely careful food measurements) for any change. In addition I place small amounts of food as far apart as possible in the pasture for the obese pig (while other pigs kept inside) in order to encourage exercise.
Invariably all pigs are going to develop arthritis of their knees and will move more stiffly and slowly than in the past. With the first signs of joint problems I start Glucosamine-Chondroitin-MSM powder or pellets available for horses and just guesstimate a dose based on weight (no harm in getting extra.) I will then also talk to my vet and start my pig on an anti-inflammatory Meloxicam daily, similar to Ibuprofen but easier on the stomach and just once a day dosing.
If my pigs develop an infection, an easily treatable medical or surgical problem I will do whatever is necessary to get them better. However, should they develop a cancer that requires chemotherapy, there is need for dialysis or diet restrictions that would make my pigs unhappy I see no point to allow further suffering.
When my pigs are no longer able to get up to come for communal eating or have trouble getting outside to do their duty it is their time to pass over. I recognize that it is our natural selfishness at not wanting to lose a loved one that often delays the decision to call the Vet for compassionate euthanasia. Over the years I have become much better at allowing my children peace when it is time. We must remember that animals are instinctively going to cover up any sign of weakness (as then they would be the most likely taken by a predator) and so by the time we SEE changes, our piggies have likely been suffering for some time.
I find it comforting to have the ashes of all my animal children mixed together in a large trunk knowing that eventually I will join them.