With the temperatures and humidity in certain areas on the rise this month, I felt that it was very important to touch on keeping your pet pig(s) cool. I have seen a pig locally that belongs to some individuals down the street, that I am surprised has not keeled over in the past from such extreme heat exposure and lack of appropriate shade, water and means to cool itself. With seeing and trying to deal with assisting these people in the past, I wanted to touch on how important this issue really is in the summer months. It is literally a life or death situation for outdoor pet pigs. Although indoor pet pigs will not experience such struggles with extreme heat, keeping them comfortable and mentally stimulated in the summer is still of extreme importance.
Unlike humans and many species that use evaporative cooling (sweating) to cool the core body temperature, pigs have very minimal sweat glands that do not provide any relief in reducing heat stress. Sweat glands of pigs are only found on the snout, lips and carpal organs and provide no relief when cooling the pig. There are many ways to combat heat stress in our pet pigs despite non-functioning sweat glands.
The most popular method and the method we know your pet pig would choose, is a mud wallow. Since the beginning of time, pigs have naturally flocked to wallowing mud pools to cool their core body temperature. Mud dries slowly on the pigs skin which allows for longer moisture retention than if water alone were used to cool the pig. The mud will help the pig stay cool for a longer periods of time. Mud also provides the pig relief from harmful UV rays that can cause major sunburn and skin damage. Pesky insects such as mosquitoes and biting flies, also have a hard time penetrating the layer of mud and therefore can't bite the pig, the way that it could a clean pig. The mud can also act as a suffocating barrier to other forms of harmful parasites like lice and ticks, that kills those parasites immediately and wont allow for prime living conditions on the pig. Many years ago before pigs were brought in to the home or even brought inside to factory farms where large cooling systems were utilized to manage larger herds, many medical ailments of pigs were warded off by the act of wallowing in mud. We now are forced to treat many porcine ailments with more medicine to combat what natural mud use to easily take care of on its own. Wallowing is also a natural behavior of pigs and is a form of enrichment in and of itself. Pigs love to wallow. Even if you have an indoor pig that you would prefer to keep predominantly clean, we still suggest letting them wallow in a mud hole from time to time. It's pure pig bliss!
A small kiddie pool is also a wonderful form of man made evaporative cooling for your pet pig. It also provides a form of entertainment and play. The pool must be kept clean on a daily basis and in warmer temperatures, must me kept in a shaded area. I cannot stress enough how important keeping these kiddie pools clean is! If you leave them to sit, not only will the pig most likely poop in its pool, which in turn will cause a major vat of growing bacteria and cause skin issues but it will also attract mosquitoes and other bugs that can bring about disease. I recommend rinsing out your kiddie pool daily, bleaching it weekly and replacing the pool entirely every summer season.
Any outdoor animal should always have plenty of access to shade, no exception for pigs, even if they have a wallow or pool! You must have trees, natural sun blocking barriers or a structure provided to allow the pig to escape direct sunlight. Shade provides relief by blocking a significant proportion of the radiant heat load from the sun, especially if you use a reflective or insulated material for the roofing.
An adequate clean water source for drinking can never be overlooked! One of the biggest issues I see constantly, is that the poor pig flips its drinking water container religiously because it has no other means of cooling itself and then has no clean water for the entire rest of the day. Not only does it not have drinking water but with how small its drinking container was, the small wallow the pig was able to make in an attempt to cool itself... evaporates or soaks in to the ground in less than an hours time. Now the pig has no wallow nor drinking water. Make sure a wallow/pool AND adequate drinking water are always present in extreme heat. When it comes to drinking water, get creative when buying or making a drinking unit, find something that sits sturdy or place it in an area where the pig will be least likely to flip it over or play in it. In extreme heat make sure to check on or have someone come to the home and check on, the pigs water. Rinse/clean and refill at least 3 times a day if necessary. There is nothing more frustrating and upsetting to me than seeing a pet pig with no water for a full 24 hours or even longer because the pig parent didn't plan accordingly and think of the pigs natural tenancies to try and cool itself down.
Even indoor pet pigs need to have a cool home and plenty of water to stay comfortable in the summer. When parents leave for work, a lot of the time they turn down the AC in the home to keep costs down. Always make sure that your pet pig has access to a cool floor in which it can sprawl out on or a floor vent it can get close to when the AC does come on. Make sure your pig has enough clean water during the day if you are to leave for an extended period of time.
Did you know that in the heat of the summer, pigs will also reduce their food intake when their body temperatures are above ideal ranges? They will and it is not uncommon at all to see this in outdoor pigs! Doing this will reduce the amount of heat burned off in the digestion process. It is recommended to increase the amount of fat if the pig does slow it's intake, that way you are replacing what it is losing in smaller portions. Stay away from fibrous ingredients as they require more heat to digest. Another tactic to use is feeding your pig early in the morning and after sunset in the evenings so it is much cooler when digestion is taking place. This isn't an excuse to overfeed your pig. Just be on the look out in case your outdoor pig does stop or slow down it's food intake.
Some pigs will like to root in ice cubes too! This can be a fun game in the summer months. You must watch over them while they engage in this activity though.
I cannot stress how important making appropriate arrangements for your pet pigs is during the summer, especially outdoor pigs. Please remember their natural tenancies to root, cool themselves, and find creative ways to overcome a need that you may have not thought of. When it comes to summer heat, it really can be a life or death situation with a pet pig left outside with out proper care. Never feel embarrassed to ask for help from a neighbor or friend to come check a water dish/bowl or to make sure a pets pool is filled. Have a great summer and stay cool out there!
The Hog Blog...
Jodi will be keeping up the blog but we are more interested in guest bloggers! Please contact us via email if you may be interested! Check back to see who our guest blogger is and what topic we will be exploring.