I don't know nuthin' 'bout birthin' babies


Post   » Mon Dec 09, 2002 2:36 am

Does anyone have some references for care of pregnant sows?

I've read all the GL and CavySpirit information and, aside from being a little depressed by the stories, I still am not sure about the nutritional requirements of pregnant sows.

Somewhere I remember reading that Calcium intake must be increased, I assume Alfalfa and hi-calcium veggies will do this.

Is there a good resource for more information on this topic? I am expecting 7 sows on Dec. 18, one pregnant for sure, the others possible to likely. 4 are quite young.

Thanks for any references to help me prepare.


P.S. I will be housing some of them together...should they all be separated when birthing time comes or can they be in pairs?

Knee Deep

Post   » Mon Dec 09, 2002 2:41 am

they can stay in pairs, most sows will help out with babies, even if they aren't their own.

Here's seagull's page, I think this is the page that helped me out when I was looking for info.



Post   » Mon Dec 09, 2002 2:48 am

Thanks, Erin. I didn't think of looking on Seagull's page.

However, he says this about housing together:
If you have multiple, pregnant sows housed together, then it is extremely important that they be separated during their gestation. The birth of one sow's litter can actually induce labor in the other sow, which can lead to a premature birth even if they were impregnated at roughly the same time.
This could be a problem, as I don't have the facilities to have 7 separate cages. Anyone?

Knee Deep

Post   » Mon Dec 09, 2002 2:50 am

Ah, forgot about that.

From my understanding of threads between the different forums, it doesn't hold true.

Although I've only have one pregnant pig at a time.


Post   » Mon Dec 09, 2002 2:54 am

Yes I realize there's a lot of conflicting information out there. PigPal didn't seem to think that housing them together would be a problem. I was just wondering if they had to be separated after having the babies.

Still wondering about more specific diet requirements.....

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Post   » Mon Dec 09, 2002 7:37 am

I think you have it right. A good standard diet with perhaps extra alfalfa and calcium rich vegs.

I did run across someone who had a very strange method of feeding her pigs -- alternating basic foods on different days. But it looked to me more like someone who had lost many sows, tried something, hopefully lost fewer, and then believed her diet had something to do with it -- when, I'm guessing, it was just coincidence.

Use high quality pellets, fresh water daily -- all the things you would think of -- and I'm betting that is the best you can do.

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Post   » Mon Dec 09, 2002 10:19 am

If you're feeding the Oxbow pellets, switch her to the Cavy Performance instead of the Cavy Cuisine....or go with another good brand of alfalfa-based pellets.

I GAVE, dammit!

Post   » Mon Dec 09, 2002 11:39 am

I supplemented with calcium lactate. The babies take so much out of the Mom's.
I got the TWinlab 100 mg capsules, split them apart, and added about half of the powder to a mortar and pestle. Then I crushed 100 mg chewable Vitamin C tablet, added half of that to the calcium lactate powder.

I would then mix that with about 2 cc of water and syringe it down the Moms daily.

One more thing I did is add a teaspoon of Karo syrup to the water. Supposedly, it helps fight off toxemia by providing the sow with extra calories, instead of burning ketones from her body.

I did it with evey pregnant sow except the last litters, and I lost Lacey and almost lost Jackie.

And, keep them moving! More than anything else, I think it is imperative that you keep pregnant sows walking. At the end, all my pregnant went ito the trough. Water in the middle, food at one end. Exercise is also supposed to ward off toxemia.

My two sows that went toxic on me, both stopped moving. Then they stopped eaing their hay.

Read up on GL about what a normal labor should be.


Post   » Mon Dec 09, 2002 2:06 pm

Excellent advice, Kleenmama. I had read about preventing toxemia by giving lots of fruit, but I will give them Karo as well. I also didn't know about keeping them exercised. I will definitely do my best on that. That's a great tip on the calcium--I have some already.

Mel, thanks for the advice about CP. I keep both pellets around so I'll put them on it immediately when they get here, along with alfalfa hay mixed with Timmy and lots of veggies.

Does anyone worry that all the calcium might lead to UTIs?

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Post   » Mon Dec 09, 2002 2:10 pm

The calcium sounds good and the exercise is a must. But the Karo syrup is controversial -- although I know this info is generally passed around, I am pretty sure Josephine does not think much of it at all.


Post   » Mon Dec 09, 2002 2:13 pm

Ok, so just the fruit then. Last thing I need is to do something controversial with 7 pregnant piggies, 4 of them babies and two of them over 1 year old. Yikes. If there are no complications, I'd be stunned.

:) Thanks for the advice.


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Post   » Mon Dec 09, 2002 3:46 pm

My girl Ginger is about to give birth too. I'm worried about her since she is only about three months old. She is active though and eating. Also, when I feed her fresh food I can see the pups kicking and moving along her sides. Ginger is "bonded" with her friend Maya. I can't seperate them. They just cry too much for each other. I'm hoping to leave them together for the birth...



Post   » Mon Dec 09, 2002 4:14 pm

I don't think that I will separate these. It doesn't sound like it is necessary. I am, however, going to do something creative with the 3 X 4 I'm building them...some lofts and ramps so that they can get out of each others' hair.

I GAVE, dammit!

Post   » Mon Dec 09, 2002 4:43 pm

Yeah, I knew the Karo would get a rise out of someone.
I do it because I had disastrous results when I didn't, so perhaps I'm just superstitious. It does not HARM the pigs so I figure, what the heck.

For the two weeks before birth and one week after, I don't worry about the extra sugar.

Little Jo Wheek

Post   » Mon Dec 09, 2002 10:54 pm

Well, on the contrary, that is why I do not recommend Ca or karo supplementation. The extra CAN contribute to developmental problems (esp. excess Ca causing hypocalcemia) or the very things (toxemia, ketosis, etc.) that they are fabled to prevent. I actually had more problems with the supplemented sows than those I just made sure had proper nutrition and fresh feeds.

There is no scientific literature to back up the supplementation. I have not seen any studies on the comparisions of those with certain supplementation and those without. Arguably, pregnancy does increase the need for nutrient-dense food. I just argue that glucose does not help. Even dextrose is given to ketotic animals. Unfortunately not enough studies have been done on toxic sows to pinpoint the exact triggers for the condition. Perhaps they go through things similar to humans, perhaps not.


Post   » Mon Dec 09, 2002 11:26 pm


Thank you for posting. I assume that you would still increase the vegetable diet, and feed both alfalfa and timothy, and also give high-calcium veggies?

Or would you just continue a normal diet with extra veggies?

Thanks much!

I GAVE, dammit!

Post   » Tue Dec 10, 2002 3:05 am

>>Well, on the contrary, that is why I do not recommend Ca or karo supplementation. The extra CAN contribute to developmental problems (esp. excess Ca causing hypocalcemia) or the very things (toxemia, ketosis, etc.) that they are fabled to prevent. <<

So, you are saying that providing 50 mg extra calcium to pregnant sows during a 3 week period can cause hypocalcemia? Also, that 1 teaspoon of Karo syrup in a 32 ounce water bottle, changed daily, causes toxemia?

Could you do me a huge favor and let me read the literature on this? Just direct me in the right area. I have been able to find very little info on this, all I have to go on is my own very limited (60) pregnancy experiences.

Alot of my info comes from people with waaay more experience than me. Although some of the info comes from breeders, I have to say that some of these people have forgotten more about guinea pigs than I will ever know.

>>I actually had more problems with the supplemented sows than those I just made sure had proper nutrition and fresh feeds.<<

What kind of supplementation, and what kind of problems did you experience? I've never had a sow with hypocalcemia, except once with a sow from a breeder who was feeding crap food. As soon as I started feeding quality feed, fresh veggies, and supplementation, she recovered. Since I did all three things, I have no idea if all or just a portion of my care helped.

As I said above, I'm sure some of my experiences helped cement the "fables". The only sow I lost to toxemia, and Jackie whom I almost lost, I didn't supplement.

Thanks Josephine, I appreciate the education!

Little Jo Wheek

Post   » Tue Dec 10, 2002 9:41 pm

I used to go with the scientific based literature: High quality and a variety of feeds, especially fresh feeds. This includes alfalfa and timothy hays and pellets and pretty much all cavy-safe veggies.

KM: "Supplementation" meant Ca and HFCS (Karo). I had problems with toxemia and suspect hypocalcemia (no bloodwork done) and metritis (and other dystocia problems). Little did I know then about nutrition. Now I know better. In general, adding artificial mineral supplementation is not a great idea since it too easily upsets the balance. Ca is a tricky thing. It is the imbalance (high or low amounts) that causes problems in relationships to other minerals. Ca definitely has a relationship to P and Mg. Vitamins D and K are in there somewhere, too. With supplementation, the ratios are unbalanced. Excess or lack of minerals cause deficiences. It's the same with Vitamin C supplementation--very high (or low) doses cause scurvy.

As I stated before, the studies are not prevalent. The Biology of the Guinea Pig and the more recent Ferrets, Rabbits, and Rodents both cite stress, obesity, and malnutrition as the most common causes of metabolic pregnancy problems. I have many other sources that state the same. It is a matter of digging them out of storage, though. It is the metabolic changes and metabolism that needs to be rectified. Glucose and Ca do not prevent that. Rather the glucose may contribute to obesity, a cause of pregnancy toxemia. This relationship has not been widely researched or published. Ca supplementation has been long-time linked in other species in bone formation problems and may contribute to the same problems in cavies. Not enough owners are doing a lot of diagnostic work-ups on cavies to know which problems. We do see metastic calcification with some regularity in older animals. Studies in other animals have shown the poor side-effects on feti with Ca, P, Mg imbalances. Stone formation is starting to be widely studied in rabbits and cavies as far as the Ca, P, and Mg relationships.

I, too, have seen the stories published by breeders. You and I both know what kind of medicine is often practiced--home variety. Try something you think will work (without doing medical tests to figure out the exact problems) and write about it in cavy breeder journals when only a small number have complications. When we're talking about hundreds of animals, you can basically statistically make up your own "home remedies" that "work" in most of the animals. I don't believe in perpetuating those myths any more since I have disproven most of what other breeders "taught" me through using veterinary medicine. I'd rather go on the literature and scientific theory rather than "I gave all my sows 2 tsp of sand daily and they never had diarrhea." (Please DO NOT try at home!)

I GAVE, dammit!

Post   » Wed Dec 11, 2002 1:06 am

>>As I stated before, the studies are not prevalent. The Biology of the Guinea Pig and the more recent Ferrets, Rabbits, and Rodents both cite stress, obesity, and malnutrition as the most common causes of metabolic pregnancy problems. I have many other sources that state the same.<<
See, the problem I have with this is that my pigs got great nutrition, were not overweight. As for stress, I couldn't tell, really. The pigs were as happy as ever. Sydney popcorned, tunneled through her hay, and ate her carrot 7 hours before I found her, dead.

I know Ca can cause problems, especially if not balanced with potassium. I would not advocate supplementing ALL pigs with anything other than C.

I don't think we may ever figure out what causes toxemia. I have never successfully pulled a pig out of it, either, except Jackie, and I still have no proof she was going toxic.

Well, I will continue to try and find information that either proves or disproves that these small supplementations for a short period of time harms the sow.

I wonder if the difference in calcium between alfalfa and say, timothy or orchard grass, would make up the difference in calcium needs for the pregnant sows.

So, would you then say that pregnant and lactating sows need nothing additional that any other well fed cavy needs?

>>I don't believe in perpetuating those myths any more since I have disproven most of what other breeders "taught" me through using veterinary medicine.<<

That is another one of my huge problems. The only pigs I didn't supplement, I lost to toxemia. So, my extremely coincidental experience has left me wondering.

Thank you, Josephine for your input.
I never had a breeder tell me about the sand thing.

In fact, it was not a breeder that told me about calcium or Karo, either. Most breeders I knew wouldn't bother to supplement...

Little Jo Wheek

Post   » Wed Dec 11, 2002 12:57 pm

I have tons of articles written by breeders and ACBA members about the Ca and Karo stuff. I don't think there is any doubt that the ideas are rampant there.

The sand thing was something I made up myself. Thank GOD no one has told me that! It was an example of breeders spreading home concoctions that were not based in science and not backed up with studies. It is rather difficult to show tone when writing on a message board.

I have an RVT friend who pulled a sow out from more than 12 hours of seizures from proported toxemia. No proof except she was heavily pregnant and I believe delivered normally later? Of course, that sow had expedient vet care and IV/IO catheter and fluid therapy.

Great nutrition is definitely a key, I think, but stress and obesity are probably the main causative factors. We know sows catabolize their own tissues when toxic. Stress can cause the inappetance which leads to this. Obesity can add to stress or overall metabolic health. I DO recommend extra supplemental feeding in pre- and post-partum sows or in ill pigs. The whole point is that naturally occurring "neutraceutical" use in whole foods is a whole lot safer and metabolically used than artificial supplementation. Bioavailability is a huge concept. I normally recommend a mixture of alfalfa and grass hays (same as in winter horse feeding) and plenty of high quality greens.

I don't know if your coincidence bears any more weight than mine. The only sows I had problems with were the ones I supplemented with Karo and Ca. I could say the same exact thing you are saying, except the reverse. That's why I look for studies and veterinary medicine journals for the answers. We don't have them all yet, but hopefully more people will do dx on their sows and we will find out more.

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