Dear Doctor, I am a mixed live-stock farmer; I rear pigs, goats, sheep, cows and birds. I lost one pig recently in myste-rious circumstances; my wife says it gained access into the kitchen and ate all table salt. I am not sure if this was the cause of its death but is there such thing as salt poisoning in pigs?
Thanks, Makatiani for that question. I may not authoritatively say what caused the death of the pig but I can almost guess this was most likely a case of salt poisoning from the scanty info-rmation provided. Salt poiso-ning is actually the most common poisoning in pigs. Thr condition is also called water deprivation or sodium ion toxicosis.
What causes salt poisoning in pigs?
Salt poisoning in pigs is caused by low water intake which makes normal salt in the diet toxic and affecting the brain tissue and hence the functioning. Salt poiso-ningis caused by excess intake of salt; the higher the salt intake, the faster the development of toxicity; normally the condition develops between 24 to 48 hours after exposure to salt of water deprivation.
Salt poisoning occurs in housed pigs whose source of water runs dry without the farmer noticing. This can be caused by leakages, accidental pouring of the water by the pigs.
As for Makatiani’s case it happened when he wasn’t around probably the drinking troughs run dry and there was nobody to check. The condition can also be caused by sudden introdiction of water to pigs that have been thirsty for a while.
Salt poisoning should be suspected when there is a history of lack of water or excess intake of salt. The other way of dignosis is through postmortem examination of the brain by a veterinary doctor for lesions or laboratoryvtest for sodium levels of body fluids.
Clinical signs of salt signs
Clinical signs of salt poisoning occurs within 24 to 48 hours after water deprivation, it can be shorter if the pig ingested excess amounts of water. Salt poisoning affects the central nervous system and therefore the pig will develop fits, may lose sight, head pressing on surface is a charecteristic sign of salt poiso-ning and so is nose twitching and death can occur after a very short time. In salt poisoning, no fever is experienced and this is another characteristic of the dis-ease.
Prevention and treatment
Salt poisoning can be prevented by regular checking of the wate-ring trough to ensure there is fresh drinking water at all times.
Once pigs develop nervous signs, response to treatment is poor. However, a timely intervention through rehydration by a vet can assist.
The pig should be sprayed with water, infusions maybe done into the abdominal cavity by a vet. Immediately replace the suspected feeds and control the water intake.
Salt poisoning in most instances is associated with poor animal husbandry characterised by long periods of absence of the farmer. When the watering system fails or water is spilled by the pigs they are left for long hours without water predisposing them to salt poisoning.