A Goodbye to Thor; and A Medical Mystery

Posted in Medical, Memorials at 1:20 am by ACR&S

ThorWe’ve had a busy couple of weeks at the Sanctuary, so we’re not yet ready to show you the pictures I’ve been promising.

About two weeks ago, we lost Thor, our oldest Sanctuary pig. Thor was one of the first four pigs ever rescued by ACR&S. In Summer 2001, the Orange County APS had seized 13 pigs which were being sold out of a trash can at a flea market. Some had broken legs, others had bite injuries or skin infections, and most were ill. They were rescued, neutered, and placed up for adoption through APS.

After about half of the thirteen were adopted, APS contacted ACR&S and asked if we could take the remaining six or seven. At the time we did not have a foster setup to allow for such a large surrender, but we promised that we’d make arrangements, and if any were left at APS after one month, we would take them. Four pigs were left, and we named them Freya, Odin, Loki, and Thor.

Time took its natural course with Freya, Odin, and Loki; and for the last two years Thor has lived alone with another elderly boar, Brownie. Thor was found dead in his cage on the morning of February 17, 2008. He had shown no signs of acute illness and was his normal elderly self on the previous evening. We estimate he was about 7 and a half years old. Goodbye, little fighter – I miss you.

There are two more health crises ongoing in the Sanctuary. The first is our poor boy Pudge.

History and Symptoms
Pudge is a 7 or 8 year old neutered boar who came to us from a divorcing foster parent in 2005. We had known him since 2003 and he was probably 2-3 years old at that time.PudgeIn the first two weeks of February, Pudge developed some weakness in his hind legs. He was also barbering the fur on his knees, a sign he was uncomfortable. We put him on Metacam for pain, and a vet visit and X-ray confirmed fairly severe arthritis in both hips. PudgeBetween February 21 and February 24, he continued barbering and scratching himself to the point that parts of his sides are totally denuded. The skin is irritated and swollen; compare the picture above to this one:

However, his appetite and fecal output are both normal and he is maintaining weight.

Differential Diagnosis and Treatments
Typically, displacement activity like barbering and scratching is seen in animals who are in severe pain. Sows with ovarian cysts and pigs with bladder stones or arthritis often barber their legs and sides, trying to attack a pain they cannot reach. The vet re-reviewed the X-rays and confirmed that there were no stones or obvious masses or spinal injury that could be causing a more severe pain than predicted from the arthritis diagnosis. So we have to treat the pain directly until we know what’s causing it: Pudge was already on Metacam, but we increased the dose to .75mL twice per day. He seems somewhat more comfortable.

However, the extent of scratching and skin irritation Pudge displays is usually a sign of severe mite infection. The Sanctuary residents get regular preventative mite treatment (Revolution), the last treatment was only about 2 months ago, and we haven’t had any un-treated animals come in. It’s possible that one of the human caretakers was a vector but this is fairly unlikely. Regardless, we repeated Pudge’s Revolution treatment on 2/26 just in case. We have also changed his bedding (from wood shavings to Carefresh), and put him on an antihistamines, just in case this is some sort of allergic reaction (and to make him more comfortable). He’s definitely not scratching as much but we don’t yet know which treatment is helping more.

Joint pain, and hair loss/skin sensitivity, are two of the symptoms of scurvy. We feed a diet rich in Vitamin C, but it is possible that at his advanced age, Pudge is losing his ability to process nutrients effectively, and has not been getting enough. This is an unlikely diagnosis, because he shows no anorexia or diarrhea, which typically accompany scurvy. However, extra Vitamin C can also strengthen the system of a pig in any illness situation, so we are giving liquid C by subcue injection once per day. We are also increasing his dietary C to over 100mg per day via extra oranges and green peppers. He is going through the extra veggies like a buzzsaw; appetite is certainly not a problem!

Pudge’s vets are mystified but he’s a little trooper and I’m hopeful that we can pull him through this. At the very least, we know that we have done everything possible to make him comfortable. Right now, he’s snoozing in his cuddle cup with no obvious signs of distress. I’ll post an update when we see a change one way or the other.

Next Tuesday, I’ll discuss our second medical crisis: Lymphosarcoma in guinea pigs. And Friday, at long last, pictures of the Sanctuary and of the Plush Pet Adoption Kits!

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