Dippity Pig

Dippity Pig

Tuesdays with Tony

    Did you know that in addition to horses, Dr. Vurgason is our resident pet pig expert? There aren’t many of those in the country, and pig owners come from far and wide to seek her advice. This week I heard her talking to an owner about his pig’s condition- a syndrome known as Dippity Pig. Yep, that’s right: Dippity Pig! With a name like that, I had to learn more about this disease. 


What is Dippity Pig? 

      Dippity Pig is the name for a newly recognized syndrome in pigs, characterized by painful, bleeding sores down the back, hind-end weakness, and fever. No, it’s not a hair cream for girls with curly hair. It is thought to be a virus, although the exact organism has not been isolated yet. The disease is mostly seen in pet pigs, but that may be because most commercial hogs don’t live beyond 6 months of age. (If you don’t know why, go ask your mother.)

Dippity Pig is very similar to Erythema Multiforme, a viral skin disease that has long been recognized in commercial pigs. In fact, some scientists believe they are one in the same. Without further research into the cause of Dippity Pig, there is a lot we still don’t know yet. But I’m here to tell you what we do know (which I, in turn, learned from Dr. V)!


How is Dippity Pig recognized?

     The onset of Dippity Pig can be very rapid. Your pig may be fine one day and squealing in pain unable to stand the next. One of the tell-tale signs is a “dipping” of the hind end when attempting to walk. Affected pigs will often hunch their back and tuck in their tail. This may progress to a splay-legged stance in the hindlimbs, with the pigs crawling around, pulling themselves with their forelimbs.

    The other characteristic sign of Dippity Pig is bleeding sores along the back, especially in the lower back and hip region. The skin along the back becomes extremely painful and sensitive. Some pigs even appear as if they have been scratched by something. These sores usually run across the back side-to-side as opposed to ear-to-tail. The rest of the skin along the topline may be reddened, crusted, or otherwise irritated.

     It is unclear whether pigs drop their hind end due to the severe pain of the skin along their backs, or whether the virus also affects the spinal cord and pigs lose control of the nerves that go to the hind limbs. These pigs are obviously very sensitive to touch and will even vocalize in pain if their backs are palpated. However, some affected pigs certainly appear as if they are physically unable to stand in the hind end. 

     Pigs affected by this disease also often have a fever and all the signs that go along with it. This includes acting lethargic, going “off feed,” and just generally being puny. Fevers are a common sign of a virus. Your pig’s fever may spike and then drop, so don’t rule out Dippity Pig because your pig’s temperature is normal. Remember, if your pig ever spikes a fever over 103.0 degrees, you should always call your vet. 

 Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Is Dippity Pig treatable?

     The good news about Dippity Pig is that it is usually a self-limiting virus, and only lasts about 7-10 days on average. In the meantime, the signs of Dippity Pig can be managed with anti-inflammatory medication and supportive care. However, since it is a virus, there is currently no cure or definitive treatment for the disease. Like the common cold, it just has to run its course. 

     There are some anti-inflammatory medications that are known to be safe for use in pigs, and others that are not. Those that are approved for use in pigs include Flunixin Meglumine (generic Banamine), and Meloxicam (generic Mobic, or Metacam). Medications that are NOT approved for use in pigs include the Aspirin you found in your bathroom medicine cabinet! Since pigs are considered food animals (that’s not my opinion, it’s just a fact), the FDA drug approval process has a lot to do with determining how long these drugs last in the meat of these animals. In addition to meat withdrawal times, FDA approved drugs also have to be shown to be safe for use in the species they are labeled for. 

    I guess what I’m saying here is, if your pig has a fever, have it treated by a vet. Use medications your vet prescribes, at the prescribed doses; don’t use whatever human medications you happen to have on hand at the time. Not only is it the law, but it is also for the safety of your pig. 


How can I prevent Dippity Pig?

     There is currently no vaccine available to protect against Dippity Pig. Again, more research will lead to more knowledge in this area and hopefully eventually to a successful vaccine against this disease. What we do know is that Dippity Pig usually happens secondary to stress. “But my pet pig has a totally stress-free life!” you may say. Well, what is stressful to you may not be the same as what is stressful to a pig.

Common stress-inducing events in pigs include transportation (even short distances, even in an air-conditioned car), change in environment, change in routine, change in feed, farrowing (giving birth), introduction of new pigs, and heat stress (a big deal in Florida this time of year). The more you can do to prevent these types of stress in your pig, the better your chances of preventing Dippity Pig. 


  What should I do if I think I have a Dippity Pig?

    I think you already know what I’m going to say here: call your vet! I happen to know a great one when it comes to pet pigs. Don’t have a pig? Well, maybe you should think about getting one! They make excellent pets, and there are always plenty of pigs available through adoption organizations looking for their forever homes. Know anybody that has a pig? Please spread the word that Dr. Vurgason is not only willing but eager to treat pet pigs! As a lifetime pig owner and lover, she has studied everything there is to know about pet pig medicine. Heck, she will probably write a book on it herself someday. Do you think she’ll ask me to write the Foreword? I can’t think of a better choice. 

   Happy Tuesday, fellow pig lovers!


Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

[jetpack_subscription_form title="Subscribe to Whinny's Wisdoms"]

I Like Pig Butts and I Cannot Lie

I Like Pig Butts and I Cannot Lie

Tuesdays with Tony

You cats definitely don’t want to miss my next See Tony event- it’s the 3rd Annual Piggie Ice Cream Social! It will be going down right here at the clinic this Saturday, July 14th, 2018 from 10:00 am till noon. Once I realized these kinda loud, stinky, round little patients were here to stay, I decided to embrace and even celebrate them. And how better to celebrate in July than with frozen yogurt, kiddie pools, and watermelons?!? If you have a pig, please bring him or her (on a leash) to join in the fun! Even if you don’t have a pig, you’re going to want to come check this out. Dr. Vurgason’s own pigs will be performing some tricks, Frozen Berry will be supplying fro-yo for the humans, and it is pretty amusing to see a pig neck-deep eating a watermelon. There will even be adoptable piglets available, in case this event changes your mind about piggy ownership!

In case I succeed in convincing you that potbellied pigs make the second best pets (after cats, of course), here are the answers to the top 3 questions Dr. Vurgason gets asked by piggy parents:


What should I feed my PBP?

Vietnamese potbellied pigs, which are the breed of almost all pet pigs in this country, were essentially bred for lard. Yes, prior to the great influx of potbellies to the new world in the ‘80s (1980’s that is) these pigs were raised and bred in Vietnam as a fat source for cooking. What this means for today’s pet pig owners is that potbellied pigs can become overweight, and even morbidly obese, very easily. Obese pigs can even develop overhanging facial fat to the point that they can’t see, also called “fat blindness.” Often diet alone is not enough to treat these pigs, and surgery is required to remove the excess skin and fat hanging over their eyes.

We are never going to let our pet pigs get to that point though, right team? Instead, let’s stick to a diet that consists of a feed specifically designed for Mini pigs, with fruits and vegetables used (sparingly) as snacks. There are two commercially available, easily accessible brands of Mini Pig food that we commonly recommend. One is Country Feeds Mini Pig Feed; the other is Mazuri Mini Pig Feed. It is perfectly acceptable to give fruits and vegetables as snacks or treats, but one of these pig feeds should always make up the majority of your pig’s diet.

Pig vet Gainesville FL


How much should I feed my PBP?

Very young piglets can be fed pellets free-choice. However, by the time your piglet is 12-16 weeks old, you will need to start limiting his diet. If left to their own devices, pigs would probably eat themselves to death! The amount your pig will need is highly dependent on his weight and body condition score. In general, think small. On average, you should feed approximately one cup twice a day for a 100 lb pig. This means that if you have a 25 lb pig, they only need 1/4 cup twice a day. It is best to feed at least 2 meals a day, although you can split their daily allowance of pellets into more smaller feedings if your schedule allows. Be sure to ask Dr. Vurgason to Body Condition Score your pig at his annual Wellness visit!

In this practice, overweight pigs are much more common that underweight pigs, although Dr. Vurgason has seen a few that were malnourished due to their owner’s attempts to keep them small. Once a pig becomes too fat, it is a major challenge to get them to lose weight. How do you exercise a pig? I don’t know…get back to me if you find out!

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic pet pigs

How do I combat boredom in my pig?

You may have heard this before, but pigs are highly intelligent creatures. I’m not saying they’re as smart as cats, but I’m also not saying I’m willing to put it to the test. Pigs can be house-trained for sure, but the most common reason that the majority of our piggy patients get kicked out to the barn is that they are causing damage inside while exhibiting their natural behaviors.

Pigs love rooting, and if they don’t have grass and dirt to root under, your carpet will do just fine. They also love scratching on just about everything. It makes no difference to a pig whether their scratching post is a tree or your sofa. Pigs also love to eat, and they basically use their nose and mouth to explore the world around them. If there is something you don’t want your pig to eat, you probably shouldn’t leave it any lower than 2 feet off the ground. This goes for shoes, furniture, kids’ toys, your toes, and any other objects your pig might find interesting.

So, your sweet little piglet is now an outdoor pet. What can you do to occupy his busy little mind all day? First, get him a friend. Pigs are very social animals, and they do get lonely when they are cut off from contact with everyone else. The best friend for a pig is another pig, although they can befriend other species such as dogs or goats as well. Just be careful when introducing new animals to your potbellied pig; bite wounds are a common injury we see here at the clinic.

In addition to a friend, you can stimulate your pig’s brain with training. Pigs can learn to do all sorts of tricks: everything from waving to dancing to painting a picture. The best part? Pigs will do almost anything for a cheerio or a peanut! Food-motivated animals are the easiest to train. Dr. Vurgason trained her pigs to perform a circus act in just a few months. We highly recommend, at the very least, training your pig to a harness and leash at an early age. It is a lot easier to get pigs in and out of a harness while they are still small! There are also several food puzzles available at your local pet store (in the dog toy section). These puzzles will keep your pig entertained and interested for potentially a few hours as opposed to a few minutes around feeding time. Don’t hesitate to get creative! Pigs love toys, and they are always exploring their environment to find new treasures.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic pet pigs

To have these and all of your other pet pig questions answered, come out to my Piggy Ice Cream Social this weekend! And remember that all of this advice and more is included with our annual Pig Wellness Packages. We’ll chat about this more over some delicious Dole Whip fro-yo this weekend, but right now it’s time for my cat nap.


Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Office Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

[jetpack_subscription_form title="Subscribe to Whinny's Wisdoms"]

Tuesdays with Tony – Pet Pigs

Tuesdays with Tony – Pet Pigs

Pet Pigs!


 I typically tend to grace you, my loyal readers, with seemingly endless knowledge of the equine species. Well, for a twist, today I am going to enlighten you with my wisdom regarding animals of the porcine variety. Who knew pet pig care was another one of my many areas of expertise?

Umm, I just got a pet pig- now what?!

So, you have found yourself the new owner of a pet pig. Now what do you do? Does it need vaccines? Should it be spayed or neutered? What do you feed it? For your convenience, I have designed a complete annual Pig Wellness Package which includes all of your pig’s healthcare needs for the year in one easy visit! I don’t actually perform the services- I have Dr. Vurgason for that. Cats don’t much care for squealing.

Dr. Vurgason’s mild pig obsession 

Arguably the best part of my brilliant Pig Wellness Package is the opportunity to pick Dr. V’s brain about pig nutrition, pig behavior, and all things swine. As a life-long pig owner herself, Dr. V lives for the chance to talk pig with other fans of the best pet money can buy (cats should be adopted, so we’re in a different category).

Remember to spay or neuter your pet (pig)!

Now that you have a Pig Wellness Package for all of his or her annual care like vaccines, physical exam, deworming, hoof trim, and tusk trim, what else does your pig need? Well, just like cats and dogs, pet pigs should be spayed or neutered before 1 year of age if they are not intended as breeding animals. Conveniently, Springhill Equine (and Porcine?) now offers these services as well!
If you have any questions about your pet pig that I haven’t expertly answered (doubtful), don’t miss my 2nd Annual Piggy Ice Cream Social this Saturday at 2 pm! It was hands-down the most entertaining event of last year. No pet pig required to attend! You horse people will get a kick out of this, I promise. There will be kiddie pools and watermelon for the pigs, frozen treats for the humans, and Dr. V, who will be happy to tell you everything you ever wanted to know about those cute little oinkers! See you there, fans.
Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic, it’s staff, and mascot Tony, are not responsible for the overwhelming urge to get a pet pig after attending this event. If you already have a pet pig, be alert for any of the following symptoms: excessive Google searches for pigs that need homes, researching costume ideas for pigs, moving people out of your house to make room for more pigs, planning social events around pig-friendly places, the ratio of pictures of your kids to pictures of your pigs on your phone becomes greater than 3:1, you call your kids by the pig’s name on accident more than twice daily, your pig has more than 2 social media accounts, you spend in excess of 2 hours a day thinking about clever pig names, or if you have stopped associating with people who mention that perhaps you might have a pig obsession. If you experience any of these or other similar symptoms, please contact your local Pig Owners Super Support Endeavor (POSSE). If you don’t have a posse, start one!
Tuesdays with Tony – Recap of this hectic week

Tuesdays with Tony – Recap of this hectic week

First of all, don’t forget to get out there and VOTE today! I would, but they have this weird policy against cats voting…

Boy did I have a busy week here at the clinic! First, I had to share my favorite cat bed with a pig named Tank, who was boarding here for the week. Then, early Sunday morning I had to supervise the foaling of a mare with Dr. Lacher, and later help teach her colt to nurse for the first time. He’s lucky he’s cute, because usually I sleep until at least 11 hours on Sundays. Thank goodness we got an “extra hour” with the time change this past weekend, or my delicate sleep schedule would be all out of whack!

The doctors were running all over the area this past week, from Lake City to Ocala. Dr. Lacher stopped by Lynn Palm’s Open House on Saturday to demonstrate our awesome FES machine. If you haven’t tried it on your horse yet, you really have to! At $65 per treatment, it’s way less expensive than a chiropractor, masseuse, joint injections, or other treatments for performance horses. FES has helped dozens of our patients to run faster, jump higher, and move more comfortably than ever before. I have even used it on myself, and let me tell you, it feels awesome.

In addition to lameness exams, foal watch, and routine appointments, Dr. Vurgason and Dr. Lacher treated a nasty, infected corneal ulcer in a horse’s eye. It’s amazing what a difference the right medications, administered effectively, can do for a horse!

I invited almost-Dr. Chloe here for an externship last week, and she was great. She let me in the front door whenever I asked, even if I had just asked to go out 30 seconds prior. She hasn’t decided if she wants to be a horse-vet or a cat-vet yet. Personally, I don’t understand why everybody doesn’t want to be a cat vet…we are all so cute and soft and cuddly! Amongst other things, Chloe helped Dr. Vurgason extract 2 teeth from an aged gelding with a painful condition called Equine Odontoclastic Tooth Resorption and Hypercementosis (EOTRH). Say that 5 times fast! We don’t know why this happens to certain horses, but we know it causes the body to attack its own teeth, dissolving bone in some spots, and thickening the tooth in others. Unlike infections of the molars in the back of the mouth, EOTRH affects the incisors, and often causes horses to go off their feed due to pain. The gelding, Fortune, is able to eat much more comfortably now.

In addition to Tank who was as healthy as, well…a pig, Dr. Vurgason treated 3 sick piglets this week. I like the pig patients, because they usually come to the clinic to see me. Although I must say, they can be pretty loud! There is nothing pigs hate more than being restrained. This makes things like taking a temperature, listening to heart and lung sounds, and giving any medication quite a challenge. With pigs, veterinarians rely heavily on observation and asking their owners questions to determine the correct diagnosis.

Between horses, pigs, and the docs, my managerial duties have been in full force! I think I need a nap. And anyway, with the time  change and the days getting shorter, 5:00 feels more like 8:00, which is my bedtime. I’ll catch you cats next week!




Tuesdays with Tony – See Tony Event

Tuesdays with Tony – See Tony Event

Tuesdays with Tony – When Pigs Fly

Tuesdays with Tony – When Pigs Fly

When Pigs Fly

I thought I had seen just about everything in my 9 lives. While I didn’t actually spot any pigs flying on Saturday, I did see several swimming in Kiddie Pools, walking on leashes, and eating watermelon during our first annual Piggy Ice Cream Social! It was quite the spectacle. I chose to park myself at a safe distance in front of the fans and speakers that the humans set up for me, and I waited for everyone to come give me attention. It worked.

 In case you humans needed yet another reason to come and adore me at the clinic, this month we are offering $35 off in-house dentals! I didn’t quite understand why horses require so much dental care, so I asked the docs about it after Saturday’s social, and this is what I learned:
Unlike the superior feline species, horse teeth continue to grow throughout their lives. The fancy doctor word for this is hypsodont dentition. As the teeth erupt from the gum line, they are gradually ground down by forage in the horse’s diet. Humans have done a few things to fowl up this natural process of wear and tear, including feeding horses large grain meals to replace grazing on the prairie, and breeding horses to have extra long or short heads, which often means their teeth no longer line up.

In an ideal situation, the top rows of cheek teeth line up with the bottom rows of cheek teeth, and when the horse grinds it’s food in a circular motion, all of the teeth wear down evenly. (We are talking about molars and premolars now, not the incisors, which you see when you lift up the lips.) In reality, it is common for the top rows of teeth to stick out farther in the front, and the bottom rows of teeth to stick out farther in the back. This causes sharp hooks and ramps, respectively,  to form. 

  In addition, the horse’s upper jaw is wider than the lower jaw. Over time this causes sharp enamel points to form on the cheek side of the upper teeth, and the tongue side of the lower teeth. Sharp points lead to ulcerations, which lead to pain, which lead to difficulty eating, which leads to weight loss…
   Moral of the story: bring your horse in for a dental float, and the docs will be able to identify and quickly correct any and all of these issues. A healthy horse with an average mouth should have his teeth filed down, or “floated” at least once a year. If your horse has dental problems, such as missing or broken teeth, a wave mouth, a step mouth, or a long history of inadequate dental care, he may need more frequent dental exams.
   The only way to thoroughly and safely examine all of a horse’s teeth is with sed
ation, a good light source, and a speculum (that’s the contraption that holds the horse’s mouth open and prevents the doc’s arm from being crushed). Honestly I still wouldn’t be caught dead sticking my paw inside the mouth of a 1000 lb animal with 42 teeth, but then again I’m not a vet!
   Now, thanks to my cat wisdom, you are an expert on horse teeth. Feel free to go out and impress your friends with your new knowledge. I won’t even ask for credit, just give me a scratch behind the ears when you bring your horse in for his discounted dental this month!
Tony in front of fan