Age at onset: 3 years
Signs: A suspicion of heart issues before surgery, by seeing an almost undetectable bobbing motion when sitting still, slow recovery after surgery, slow weight loss per day, less active, almost undetectable necrosis of the ear rim, a loss of interest in Timothy hay, but eager to eat oat hay.
The onset of a few signs rang an alarm bell, especially as I had pigs with heart issues before.
I had pigs with heart issues before, which were caught too late, due to the fact that vets in Belgium are usually not well educated about piggies at all. Despite that I had my suspicions about each and every pig, had the pig's heart examined, the vets didn't bother and the pigs died from the consequences, meaning one pig developed pneumonia, one from dental issues, one suddenly developed bladder grit at an older age and didn't recover after anesthesia for rinsing her bladder, one had an averse reaction to pain meds and caused heart failure. Plus, until 2011, no heart meds were prescribed for pigs in Belgium.
All those pigs had one thing in common: an almost undetectable bobbing motion when they sat still. My current vet said that small heart issues are just not detectable with any current means of veterinary detection tools anyway. Plucky had this bobbing motion too, so I warned the vet before her surgery.
Plucky had surgery to remove her ovarian cysts at the age of 3. Her recovery took weeks and that worried me. She had also lost interest in Timothy hay, but was eager to eat oat hay. They get that daily here, as a healthy treat, as it's low calcium too. Now, oat hay is a lot less fibrous as Timothy, so it's easier to chew. As I already lost a pig due to dental issues, caused by heart issues, I was getting more and more convinced of heart issues. We decided to offer her oat hay then, untill matters were investigated further.
She also slowly kept losing weight, was less active. I picked her up, did a more detailed exam than I usually do weekly, and noticed small necrotic ear rim on both ears. Being nearsighted, I was able to see it better than normal sighted people, as I can see up close better. I made an appointment with the vet instantly the same day.
Normally, in Belgium, heart medication is not allowed to be given to pets unless there is physical proof with tests. She was scheduled for a heart scan by the only vet in Belgium who was capable of doing so. Yet, she was on vacation for 3 weeks more, so my vet decided to draw blood instead. Unfortunately, drawing blood is hard to do in pigs, so he just could not get enough out to do tests.
As the vet knew that I was knowledgeable enough to believe my suspicions, he put Plucky on Prilactone daily. It worked within 15 minutes. She was active again, popcorned, started gaining weight again, ate Timothy, was up to her old tricks, her ear rims healed completely.
In order to make the Prilactone work as best as it should, I now get up daily at the same time to medicate her. In case her heart would work less in future, other heart medication can be given, as it’s a mild heart medication to start with.