Our boar, Alexander Hamilton, got really sick this fall. I went out to the paddock we set up under the ancient gravenstein to feed AH one evening and found him napping. At that time the tree was still raining down sweet snacks. There were a couple strewn about.
Odd. But, maybe he didn’t hear the thud landings?
I had cut some grass with the scythe earlier that morning and piled it in the paddock, a bed of fresh greens for his dinner of soaked grain. I dumped the bucket out on top slapping the bottom for emphasis
No movement. Not good.
I grabbed one of the apples and waved it under his nose. No response other than labored breathing and an excess of drainage from his nose. When a hog doesn’t want to eat, you know it is bad. I informed Gwen of the situation when she got home and she immediately rang the vet. The Vet said it was probably pneumonia and that she could come out and give him some antibiotics and pain relievers. In the meantime, we realized our folly. We had let AH’s bedding hay get too thin and the poor pig must have gotten cold. What bad, bad farmers we felt like!
That evening one of the few large animal vets made an emergency after-hours visit to the farm. Meds administered. Phew, crisis averted. Or, so we thought. AH got up to eat the following day (good), but stumbled once or twice (not good). He recovered, but then all 300 lbs of him fell completely over (very bad). So, it was back to talking with the vet, who mentioned that an infection could be affecting AH’s nervous system and causing him to lose motor control. So, another different round of antibiotics and pain meds were given by the vet, as well as instructions for how to give another dose in a couple days.
Only problem was Gwen was headed out of town, so the task of injecting this big tusked daddy twice fell squarely on my shoulders. AH, had stopped stumbling and falling thankfully, but now could barely put weight on his hind legs and was mostly sitting or just lying around. It was sunny when the day came to give him the meds and I was able to catch him napping in the warmth. With a syringe in each hand I decided to give the double dose with one motion and managed to get a full shot behind one ear and a half behind the other. Then, was able to finish the half after he got up to check out the feed I had brought. Phew!!!
Although AH did continue to eat, his mobility worsened. He stopped getting up to relieve himself, and he was dragging his bulk around on his front knees. It took him minutes to heave himself from his side to a half-sitting position. The situation looked bad. On one weepy Thursday evening, Gwen called a friend to come put him down the following Saturday. It was a dark night of the soul as we examined our mistakes as pig farmers: not paying attention to his bedding when it got cold; keeping him separate from the sounder; not moving him to the winter paddock sooner.
In the morning, Gwen decided to call the vet a third time as a Hail Mary. He administered a third ka-POW of an antibiotic and a steroid, and the let us know that we were at the end of the road for treatment options. Give it three weeks–whatever shape he’s in at that time will be his new normal. At that time both the infection and antibiotics will be out of his system, so if he’s not recovered, we could at least process him on the farm and eat the meat.
After two weeks, he was a little improved and could get up with some effort, and walk a bit with a lot of effort. The heavy rains were upon us and we really needed to move him to the winter paddock where it was drier and there were other piggos to pile up with for warmth. So, one day even though he wasn’t walking too well, we were able to fold up a hogwire panel into a teardrop shape and lead/cajole/push him 300 yards to his winter home.
Whatever infection he had seemed to have cleared, but it appeared to have left him with infectious arthritis, a complication from a bad infection whereby the bacteria gets into the joint fluid and attacks the cartilage and bone. It’s essentially osteoarthritis, but it comes on in a matter of days and it’s irreversible.
It wasn’t looking good for AH and by extension, any future piglet litters, since a boar needs those hind legs to mount. So, we massaged him and walked him and piled up the hay in his hut to keep him warm. He got lots of pumpkins and apples and even a few doses of CBD marijuana capsules dissolved in cottage cheese.
Now several weeks later he is incredibly doing much better. We really thought he was a goner. I mean if you’ve ever seen a pig fall over, it is a very sad and scary sight indeed! And now Alexander is the first to the fence at feeding time and politely, but thoroughly will throw the smaller pigs aside to get his fare share. And he’s sleeping soundly with his sounder once again.