weight loss in older piggy

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Post   » Tue Oct 02, 2007 10:53 am

Hello. I'm looking to hear anyone's experiences with older pigs losing weight, in particular, whether folks have been able to slow down their pet's decline.

My Inca is coming up on 5 years old, which I know is "average" and not necessarily "geriatric." She's been gradually losing weight all year (from, I believe, 1150g to 750-800 now), despite eating the same as always and eating more the past few months because I'm supplementing. Her X-rays, teeth, bloodwork, urine, feces, and activity level are all fine. No maloccusion, thyroid probs, stones, intestinal parasites. Sometimes abnnormal protein levels in blood and urine, but my vet says she's "concentrating her urine well" so likely no kidney failure. She was also spayed years ago, so ovarian cysts not a possibility. I've held off on an ultrasound because she's had several in her life (mostly for gas/distension issues) and they never reveal anything abnormal. She's not lethargic and hasn't slowed down; if anything she's more energetic and moves more now that she's all slim and fast.

I realize 800g is not a bad weight for female piggies, yet I'm sad to have watched Inca get smaller and smaller while her sisters (approx. same age) remain at steady weights. Any thoughts or similar experiences? Do I just concede it's an aging thing? Or does cancer present like this maybe?

And what foods tend to be successful to fatten up piggies? In addition to giving larger veggie portions than her cagemates and their usual amount of pellets, I've been giving Critical Care mixed with baby food (different veggie flavors) and have tried giving alfalfa hay rather than Timothy (she's not a huge fan). And I don't want to give too much sugar or carbs because this piggy has a history of gas and bloating.

Thanks for any brainstorming you can offer!

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Post   » Tue Oct 02, 2007 11:16 am

I have an older male here with a similar weightloss pattern. Xrays, blood, and teeth all show he's ok.

I don't think it's necessarily 'normal' that older pigs lose this much weight - but when you've ruled out all the things you can treat I'm not sure there's much else to do.

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Post   » Tue Oct 02, 2007 12:36 pm

Does she seem boney? Only other thing I can think of is alfalfa pellets if there are no calcium issues (they have extra calcium).

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Post   » Tue Oct 02, 2007 3:16 pm

Yes, I do feel her bones more, though she's certainly not emaciated. It's hard to know her normal body, though, since she's had gas/bloat issues for years (distended abdomen). Part of me thinks this new size/shape may be how she's "supposed to be." And yet she keeps losing, which is not normal.

I haven't tried alfalfa pellets -- just alfalfa hay and a few crunchy alfalfa-based treats. It's hard to feed just one of three separately (for pellets), but I suppose we can try that approach. Inca does not have calcium issues, so that's good.

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Post   » Tue Oct 02, 2007 5:57 pm

Some fattening-up suggestions

We've had at least two (that I can recall distinctly offhand, probably more if I check my weight charts) that have lost weight as they age, with no other problems.

One little girl does have other problems, but has also seemed to enjoy becoming slim, trim and fast.

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Post   » Tue Oct 02, 2007 9:50 pm

Thanks for that link, Talishan!

I forgot to mention that I have also tried organic, shelled sunflower seeds for Inca but she wasn't interested. And she tried a few pieces of oats, but also not a hit. Maybe I can grind a few into powder to mix with her Critical Care, which she loves and devours. But I do need to be careful because she's had terrible bloat in the past (with her nearest-death experience possibly related to a baby food containing oatmeal). And the thought of corn makes me nervous for the same reason.

Are there certain veggies that are higher calorie yet not starchy/sugary?

Please keep those tips coming!

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Post   » Tue Oct 02, 2007 10:30 pm

If she doesn't have calcium processing issues (you know that for sure, right?), alfalfa hay and pellets may be the way to go for her.

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Post   » Wed May 07, 2008 2:47 pm

I haven't posted for a while, but Inca's weight loss has been ongoing. She's down around 650-700 grams these days, despite my efforts to help her maintain or gain weight. I feel her bones more, especially her shoulders and what I think is her "tail bone" (base of spine? near rump).

In addition to their usual Oxbow pellets, timothy hay, and twice-daily veggies, I've supplemented Inca with Critical Care (not always daily but several times per week), veggie baby food (squash, green beans, carrot, peas, apple), an occasional pinch of oat flakes, alfalfa treats, and canned pumpkin mini-balls rolled in Critical Care powder. It's seeming like a losing battle, so I'm again fishing for more ideas from GL members.

How is cancer diagnosed? Do tumors show up on X-rays or ultrasound?

A recent X-ray didn't show anything irregular, so I'm now considering an ultrasound because she's no longer gassy/distended (as she was for years when ultrasounds couldn't image her well)...plus I don't want to put her under anesthesia anymore unless absolutely necessary.

Her last blood work was OK except for high protein, I believe, yet vet thought her kidneys are OK. Thyroid test negative. Teeth are okay (molars checked under anesthesia when we did Xrays and drew blood).

Inca is resting more, though I certainly wouldn't call it lethargy. And she may be getting slightly stiffer in her back legs. I attribute both to her age (approaching 5.5 years). Her coat, eyes, and even personality are bright. And she doesn't seem uncomfortable or in pain. She's just shrinking.

Does anyone have ideas for us?


Post   » Wed May 07, 2008 3:20 pm

Does she like it when you feed her Critical Care? Can you do it more often? I've managed to keep Doodle's weight up but only with LOTS of handfeeding (sometimes as much 75-80ml a day).

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Post   » Wed May 07, 2008 4:30 pm

Hi, Tracy! I think your instincts are correct that she is just getting on in years. Still, you may want to get the ultrasound and a consultation, for peace of mind if nothing else.

You are such a great pig caretaker and pig chef! You made some great suggestions for me when Creamy and Scooby were losing weight. I agree with EllieMom -- more Critical Care. I assume you've been simply providing the extra goodies for her. Whether or not she has anything else going on, because her energy level is lower, I think you need to hand-feed her now. Hold her on your lap and keep offering her a syringe-load every couple of minutes. You may need to push the issue a bit by putting the syringe right in her mouth. You will be able to tell when she is getting truly fed up (sorry) rather than just moderately annoyed.

We're looking forward to seeing you at the Pignic. (Do you think Inca may hold the record for Pignic attendance?)

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Post   » Wed May 07, 2008 4:35 pm

EllieMom, I just read Doodle's thread -- were you able to get an ultrasound? Hope you can figure out what's going on with her; it sounds hormonal to me. And, for what it's worth, one of my gals had a Lupron shot when she couldn't be spayed (I saw you had asked about that). It's expensive but buys some time. Essentially "pulls the plug" on their endocrine system; in our case, for a month.

Meanwhile, back to Inca -- yes, she loves Critical Care. I will try to increase our slurpy sessions and get more into her. I tend to cut her off around 30ccs, but maybe I should give that at least twice a day, rather than some of the other treats I've been trying.

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Post   » Thu May 08, 2008 11:20 am

Thanks, mmeadow.

Inca LOVES critical care, so there's no force feeding necessary. I gave more than usual yesterday (so she had about 60-70ccs for the day, plus other stuff), and then of course got nervous because I heard GI gurgles and didn't see her poop all night. I wonder if her body needs all the food so there's no waste -- can that be?

Anyway, I was nervous and gave half a dose of Reglan because Inca has had slow motility and gas/bloat issues in the past. I can't imagine critical care causing problems, but I'm just nervous about supplementing enough yet not too much. I swear that pig would probably slurp 100ccs in one session if I let her!

My plan is to supplement with critical care more than I have been and probably reduce some of the other stuff I've tried (snacks, oats) that are generally no-no's for good pig care. Hoping I can hit the right formula for her.

Yes, hoping we will attend the Boston Pignic in a few weeks; we'll see how Inca's holding up.

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Post   » Thu May 08, 2008 6:44 pm

"How is cancer diagnosed? Do tumors show up on X-rays or ultrasound?"

As I understand it, not generally. Abnormal parameters in bloodwork will most commonly give a place to start, in the absence of a palpable lump. As I understand it.

Has her heart been checked?

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Post   » Sat May 17, 2008 11:56 am

Posting an update...

I've increased the Critcal Care supplements this past week. I can't give Inca too much at once; somehow she gets "backed up" (no stool for hours) and needs Reglan to keep things moving. But smaller amounts seem okay: maybe 20cc every few hours, with 4-5 "sessions" per day (in addition to regular hay/pellets/veggies). She loves Critical Care, yet seems hungry all the time no matter what I do.

Her weight is around 680 right now, slightly up from her low of 650. What's somewhat alarming is that if I don't feed her every few hours, she becomes so small and slim. Is there any condition where the body just can't absorb the food it's given? It's almost like it just moves right through her (though her poop is quite normal). And she eats almost every poop that comes out, I guess needing the nutrition. I'm still at a loss with this.

Talishan, every time Inca has had an Xray I've asked the vet whether her heart looks enlarged, and it never has. I also don't think Inca shows signs of heart trouble, like respiratory problems. And I don't think my vet would prescribe heart meds as a trial; she'd want to do an echocardiogram first, which my animal hospital can provide.

What's the verdict about avocadoes? I didn't find many threads on GL. Most say they're a no-no based on fat content, but also sounds like they may be toxic? A quick search online shows avocado is toxic for horses and birds, and perhaps dogs. I don't think I'd risk it with Inca, but figured I'd ask whether anyone has fed avocado to piggies without problems.

Any other ideas for us???

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Post   » Sat May 17, 2008 12:27 pm

20ccs at a time is enough for a small pig. And, yes, you need to try and feed her every few hours, as you've been doing.

I've never given avocado to a pig. It's almost impossible to fatten a pig up in this condition - all you can really do is hope to maintain.

I was convinced Llewelyn had cancer. He started gradually losing weight over a 2-year period and everything checked out fine - blood, teeth, xrays. My only indication that it might not be cancer that he never showed signs of pain. It wasn't until the end it became apparent he was in heart failure - and necropsy showed a severely damaged heart that wasn't visible on xray. He was on lotensin at the time (he did have a heart murmur), but he needed large amounts of lasix at the end.

If your pig is this thin I would suggest to your vet that you have little to lose by trying heart meds.

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Post   » Sat May 17, 2008 6:21 pm

"Is there any condition where the body just can't absorb the food it's given?"

Yes. Our old vet looked into this for one of ours who had a host of problems, otherwise unexplained weight loss being one of them.

It's fairly uncommon, but does exist.

Bonita turned out to be a heart pig. She was our first and (so far) most dramatic. She was, quite literally, a different pig within hours of her first dose of benazepril.

I would second Mum's suggestion. I think statistically heart disorders will be far more common than nutrient uptake disorders.

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Post   » Sat May 17, 2008 7:07 pm

Thanks, Talishan and Mum.

There was a time I thought MAYBE Inca had a heart problem, because she was gassy and distended for years without explanation from the vet (we did lots of tests) nor successful treatment from me (diet changes). I read that gas can be a sign of heart problems (inhaling lots of air due to breathing problems), yet Inca has never had respiratory problems. Then somehow Inca's gas resolved (after a near-death bloat incident), and she was normal size/shape for a while before this downward trend of weight loss began.

I will discuss a trial of heart meds with my vet, and if she's hesitant (despite our being out of ideas), I suppose we can go for an echo instead of the ultrasound I was considering.

In the meantime, please keep the ideas coming!


Post   » Sat May 17, 2008 8:17 pm

Has she had a urine glucose and/or blood glucose tests? Doodle's urine glucose was very high, but her blood glucose was not elevated at all. There was some suggestion that this could be related to adrenal issues or to hyperthyroidism, which could also explain the weight loss. I specifically asked about Cushings, but the doctor said that they would see an elevated blood glucose.

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Post   » Sat May 17, 2008 8:30 pm

Inca's had both her blood and urine checked, and only finding was slightly elevated protein, I believe. Now, if we were to re-test, her glucose might be high because I've been feeding her differently to try to plump her (including baby food, fruit, oatmeal, treats). We also did a thyroid test, which came back "within range," though we're talking about repeating that because my vet says it sounds like "textbook hyperthyroidism."

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Post   » Sat May 17, 2008 9:32 pm

The last T4 I had done I was given the same "within range" answer. Then our vet point-blank said there aren't very many norms out there and if I wanted to be sure, to bring two or three other pigs to them that I knew were healthy, have blood taken and the test run, and make our own norms.

Might the vet consider a very careful trial of Tapazole (methimazole)? We did that with one of ours, who turned out not to be hyperthyroid, but it did not seem to harm her.

What does her coat look like? Hyperthyroid pigs often have gorgeous, full, thick coats.

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