Pet Care Pointers

Itchy pig could have mange

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Have you ever had such a severe case of poison oak that you couldn't stop itching?

Welcome to Hammie's life.

Hammie is a 3-year-old pot-bellied pig living indoors and outdoors with Paul and Angela, his owners. He also has a few friends: Bob the dog and Tess the cat.

Until recently, everything seemed wonderful in Hammie's life. That was until he started itching. At first, Angela and Paul hardly noticed the itching.

Early on, Hammie would somewhat infrequently roll over on his back on the carpet or outside on the patio or in the dirt and move back and forth. He actually seemed to enjoy this.

The behavior became more and more frequent. Soon, Hammie began to rub his face, ears and the sides of his body against the outside walls of the house. He learned to drag his belly on the patio and carpet.

It has gotten to the point where that's all Hammie does. Angela thinks Hammie may even be losing weight; he doesn't spend as much time eating.

Angela has been unable to get Hammie to a veterinarian. Apparently, there are not many veterinarians willing or perhaps able to see a pig. Also, even though Hammie is supposed to be a pot-bellied pig, he is more the size of a regular pig, weighing 250 to 300 pounds. This makes it tough for Angela and Paul to get Hammie into their car.

Yes, Hammie needs to be seen by a veterinarian, and one who is comfortable working with "pot-bellied" pigs. They are few and far between but, with effort, they can be found. The reasons for this relative scarcity revolve around the fact that pot-bellied pigs in general present unique challenges when it comes to medical care, as they are cut from a different mold than your average dog or cat. Of course, then there is the noise. Have you ever heard the phrase, "squeal like a stuck pig?" Never a truer image has existed, because these creatures, though supposedly reduced in stature from your "normal" domestic pig, can squeal with the best of porcines.

The other dilemma, the fact that Hammie probably is not a pot-bellied pig, will have to be dealt with using some more diligent effort. With creativity and drive, a way can be found to transport Hammie to the hospital.

Once there, Hammie will receive a physical examination, complete with ear plugs for his veterinarian and assistants. I suspect Hammie needs only a skin scrape to diagnose what is causing his intense pruritis.

Hammie's skin will have to be somewhat vigorously scraped using a fairly sharp blade. The material is then examined under a microscope, which should show the presence of an eight-legged creature called a sarcoptic mange mite.

The treatment for sarcoptic mange is simple and effective, and Hammie will be thrilled not to be scratching all the time.

(Dr. Jeff Kahler is a veterinarian in Modesto, Calif. Questions can be submitted to Your Pet in care of LifeStyles, The Modesto Bee, P.O. Box 5256, Modesto CA 95352.) © 2008, The Modesto Bee (Modesto, Calif.).
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