Elmer has issues – or does he?

Posted in Medical, Sanctuary Spotlight at 12:09 am by ACR&S

Elmer is one of  our earliest rescues. He came into the rescue in early 2003 – his owner had bought him for her son for Christmas 2002, but her son was horribly disappointed that he wasn’t “cuddly enough” and so they decided to get  a kitten instead. She reported that she got Elmer from a family friend who had purchased him as a Christmas present in 2001, but this year got a puppy and decided to dump the pig. Twice rejected; what a start to his life!

elmer-cuddleElmer turned out to be an absolute darling, with cuddliness in excess, but we could never get anyone to adopt him, even after we bonded him with the lovely young Strawberry. After two years he came off the adoptable roster and became a Sanctuary resident.  Strawberry crossed the Rainbow Bridge in May of 2008, and in August we found a new young lady for Elmer – a timid little satin from WI-GPR who eventually gained the name of Amber. It’s a true May-December love affair; Amber is probably less than 18 months old, but Elmer is easily pushing 8 to 9 years.  He’s also showing his age – he’s become slower, quieter, and thinner as the years have passed.

Two weeks ago,  it looked like Elmer’s time was up. He declined his dinner on Saturday, and by Sunday evening had lost 100 grams (an 8th of his weight!). We stabilized him with subcu fluids and critical care (not much, he fought it tooth and nail), and we got him to the vet Monday morning. They ruled out tooth problems and bladder/kidney stones, the two most obvious culprits. An X-ray did reveal that his kidneys seemed slightly small, so bloodwork had to be done. Unfortunately, with the possibility of kidney problems on the table, we couldn’t give him any pain medication for the three days it took for the bloodwork results to come back. We kept him going with more fluids and feedings, and after a day or two he did start show some interest in lettuce, but we were pretty certain that he was terminal.

The bloodwork came back this past Thursday, and it was mostly unremarkable. There were some elevated liver values, but those are consistent with an animal who hasn’t been eating or drinking. By this past weekend, Elmer has been eating and behaving much more normally, and has put on nearly half of the weight he lost. We’ve had to mark this issue as resolved and he’s moved out of the hospital cage back into his old house with Amber. They seemed very happy to see one another!

So what was wrong with Elmer? My vet has no idea, neither do I. It could have been a simple case of stasis, but percipitated by what? He had no changes in diet or anything in the days leading up to this.  His case should stand as a warning that severe, life-threatening illness can arise quickly and for no apparent reason. If I had left Elmer alone for a weekend vacation, as so many owners do, I would not have noticed his decline in health and he would probably have been dead when I got back. Only daily observation and constant vigilance can ensure the health of our fragile little friends.  While it’s frustrating to have no diagnosis and no explanation to an illness that initially looked fatal, but I suppose it’s a good endorsement of my care that I can have a piggy get this ill and not lose him!


  1. Celia said,

    April 3, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    Does Elmer nibble fleece? I see him in a cuddle cup and perhaps he nibbles that?

    I have had several pigs
    and several incidents of not eating, loosing weight; then after all the the xrays and blood work (and worry), and no explainationn, had them – just as suddenly- be well and looking at me with the ‘what’s up with you’ face. I have always suspected that fleece shreds were the cause. The evidence of fleece chewing is present but no one will ever confess.

    Could it be?

  2. SAGP said,

    April 7, 2009 at 11:58 am

    What an adorable pig! I’m glad he’s feeling better. What a great testament to your care. I love his mop top.

  3. Jenn said,

    April 14, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    I tend to agree with you that sometimes “just not right” is a valid diagnosis. Over the years Hobo has had at least 4 bouts of unexplained stasis, leading me to threaten him with no medical care the next time. He is a Jax, though, so for all I know he’s got a quantum butterfly living in his stomach.

  4. Celia said,

    April 15, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    Is there a Jax connection? Ben & Jerry (rip little boy) were the two who have had this problem and they were Jax brothers! So maybe fleece was not the cause… but Elmer comes from a different blood line, so the mystery continues.

    (I kinda feel bad for Hobo’s butterfly- cocooned forever.)

  5. Jenn said,

    May 19, 2009 at 11:30 am

    The Jax guys overall have had a lot of strange problems, Celia. An abnormally high amount have suffered from bladder stones (Hobo produced grit himself). We’ve also had numerous torsion-ed organs (I want to say at least one intestinal and one kidney?) and various other strange problems popping up among these guys.