Salt poisoning, also called salt toxicity, is a serious condition that can affect your potbellied pig. Here are three things potbellied pig owners need to know about salt poisoning.
Why does salt poisoning occur?
Other types of animals can eliminate salt from their bodies by sweating, but since pigs aren't able to sweat, it's easy for them to accumulate salt. This can happen if you feed your pig salty snacks like pretzels or chips. Potbellied pigs love these unhealthy snacks, so it's tempting to keep feeding them, but the high levels of salt are dangerous. Salty treats should only be fed on rare occasions.
Salt poisoning can also occur if your pig hasn't had any water for a long time (defined as more than 36 hours) and then suddenly starts drinking water. Being dehydrated means that salt is highly concentrated in your pig's tissues, and when they start drinking water again, water is drawn to the salt. The sudden presence of water makes the cells swell, leading to damage. To prevent this, make sure your pig's water bowl is always full, and if they don't feel like drinking due to illness, add some juice to their water to make it tastier and more appealing.
What are the signs of salt poisoning?
If your potbellied pig has salt poisoning, you may notice the following signs:
Sitting in an abnormal position
Walking with a strange gait
Walking aimlessly around your house
Head pressing, meaning that your pig presses their head against your wall while in a sitting position
These symptoms occur as a result of swelling within the brain. The swelling compresses your pig's brain against the inside of their skull, which can lead to neurological symptoms and eventually, brain damage. The swelling in the brain can also be fatal.
How is salt poisoning treated?
Your vet at a place like East Valley Animal Clinic will give your potbellied pig medicine to reduce the swelling within their brain. If your pet's brain has already been damaged by swelling, reducing the swelling won't reverse the damage, so it's important to seek treatment quickly, before permanent damage can be done.
In addition to medication, your vet will slowly rehydrate your pig. It's important that rehydration isn't done too quickly as there is the risk of the additional water being drawn to the brain as well.
If your pig has been eating a lot of salty snacks or not drinking much water and is now behaving strangely, they may have salt poisoning and should be seen by a vet immediately.