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.
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!