Does the video above seem all too familiar? Have you experienced Dippity Pig or have you made your way here to find some information and hope for relief? Rest assured, you are not alone and "Dippity" is a very common ailment in pot belly pigs!
I want to start with addressing that the etiology (cause) of Dippity Pig is unknown. This disease has simply not been studied or tested enough to make a scientific conclusion about it's origins in those individuals that are affected; and not every pig is affected. However, there are a few things I would like to point out before advancing. One, Dippity Pig Syndrome has only been confirmed in the Pot Belly Pig or mixed breeds that include pot bellies in them; which is a large number of the smaller pig varieties these days! Even most Juliana's have some strain of pot belly in them. We have not seen this exact disease in commercial swine yet. We have seen skin lesions in commercial breeds but most of the time this is due to feed sensitivities or sunburn. In my personal opinion, I believe this disease goes back to continuous inbreeding and early breeding practices of the pot belly breed. I feel that if enough research was done, we would ultimately find this a genetic defect within certain family lines. Two, Although vets tend also use the term "Erythema Multiforme" interchangeably with Dippty, I do not agree with that decision and neither do some other veterinarians I have had personal conversations with. Erythema multiforme is originally a human skin disease characterized by lesions and is a specific hypersensitivity reaction to other diseases. This term can be used JUST for the skin lesions on the pig but if we are to describe the disease as a whole, which encompasses both the integumentary and nervous system, it needs to be referred to the correct term in swine, which is Dippity Pig Syndrome. Last, the disease seems to present much like the herpes virus/shingles in humans: it is only present in certain individuals and lies dormant until triggered by external stimuli or perceived stress.
What triggers the sudden onset of the disease? There are many different things that can trigger the classic symptoms of Dippity Pig. It has not officially been noted as to what the exact triggers are but as a community, we have a pretty good general idea. Stress is the main trigger. Stress can take on many different forms and meanings to each individual; its purely subjective. Sunburns, moving to a new home or location, introduction of new pets, loud noises, diet changes and even thunderstorms have all been acknowledged in triggering the acute attacks. Dippity Pig is primarily seen in pigs under the age of 2 years and even more so in pigs under a year. It is extremely rare to see it in an older pig. Usually we only see a pig get the disease once and it never returns. There are however instances where the pig may come down with Dippity several times on separate occasions, if it is still under the age of 2 years.
What are the symptoms of Dippity Pig? Some pigs will display only the bleeding/oozing lesions on the back, which can also be commonly referred to as "Bleeding Back Syndrome." Furthermore, some will only display the extreme behavior of the disease. However, it is typically expressed as both the classic sores on the back AND the behavior: dipping of the back, refusal to be touched at all, screaming very loudly (like being attacked), acting like they are in extreme pain and even what appears to be paralysis or dragging of the hind legs.
Rest assured though, the symptoms of Dippity Pig do not last long and the disease is self limiting. The pig should heal, display normal behavior and make a full recovery in 24-72 hours or less. There is no treatment that will cure it, so all we can do is treat the symptoms and try to make the pig as comfortable as possible during the episodes.
What can we do to comfort the pig? The first thing and most important thing to do is remove your pig from the perceived stress and in to a small dimly lit or dark room. Keep them away from people and try to leave them alone to simply be. Give them a soft bed and make sure they are calm and resting as much as possible. To relax the pig and help it rest, you can administer Benadryl (diphenhydramine), 1mg per pound, every 8 hours. For pain you can give them buffered aspirin, 5mg per pound, every 12 hours OR Tylenol 5mg per pound, every 8 hours. You can also use Children's Liquid Tylenol at 1cc per 6 pounds. With all these options, only use them up to 3 days and you MUST feed them with food otherwise your pig may get an upset stomach. In extreme cases, you can go to your vet and they may administer cortisone shots as an anti-inflammatory and Tramadol or Buprenex for pain. If there is not an improvement in symptoms within 4 days or your pig starts to run a fever over 103 degrees, take them to the veterinarian immediately!
Dippity pig syndrome can be a very intense period for both you and your pig. Many owners get frantic and reiterate how scary experiencing this can be. We get a lot of questions about it emailed to us on a weekly basis. Our best advise is to keep a calm and level head for both you and your pigs sanity. If you take a deep breathe and realize that this too shall pass, you will be better equipped to help and assist your pig through this difficult disease.
Please visit our website page on Pig Diseases, for further reading on Dippity Pig Syndrome. To be directed there, click on these highlighted sentences.
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