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Dan C., DVM
Dan C., DVM, Veterinarian
Category: Large Animal Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 1180
Experience:  Equine Practitioner. Owner of Mobile Equine/Large Animal Practice for 16 years.
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I have a 3 yr old pot belly pig she has been shaking her

Customer Question

Hi I have a 3 yr old pot belly pig she has been shaking her head for quite awhile she has had 2 different rounds of ampicillion 500mg with no improvement what can it be as we no longer have a pig vet in our area our only one has moved. Please help it is really annoying her and I feel bad she has also been having seizures only when she is sleeping though Atleast that's what it looks like.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Large Animal Veterinary
Expert:  Dan C., DVM replied 1 year ago.

Greetings, and thanks for the question.

Sorry to hear about your girl's condition. Based on what you have described, it's highly likely that she is suffering from an inner ear infection. This is normally caused by a foreign body (grass awn, foxtail, etc.) entering the ear and irritating the inner ear lining which is then infected by bacteria. It's also extremely uncomfortable for the animal, which is why you see the head-shaking, etc. After time, the foreign body and the infection can penetrate the eardrum, which is why you are seeing the seizure-type activity that you described. When the eardrum is punctured, it exposes several nerves that have to do with balance, coordination and even head position and manner of walking.

There is a good possibility that the foreign body may still be within the ear canal, and it must be removed, or the problem may worsen dramatically. This is also probably why the antibiotics that you have given are not having an effect, as the foreign body is still resistant to the antibiotics and/or another type of antibiotics may be needed.

Can your pig be handled well enough to at least let you get a look into the ear? It's unfortunate that you can't get a Vet out to see her, as this is something that really needs to be done with proper equipment and training. Is there any possibility that you could take her to a Vet's facility? Perhaps you my be able to find either a horse or small animal Vet that would be willing to help you. It's very important for her to have the ear canal and the eardrum evaluated.

Where are you located? Are you anywhere near a University Veterinary Teaching hospital? This would be your next best choice if it's not possible for her to be examined at your home or other facility.

Please let me know of your situation, and perhaps we can get something figured out for her.

I'll be looking for your reply!

Many thanks,

-Dan C.

Expert:  Dan C., DVM replied 1 year ago.

Just wanted to let you know that I'll be signing off for the evening. I'll be checking for your reply first thing in the AM.

-Dan C.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thank you for your reply that is probably what it is. I live in ocean county nj I have called over 40 vets not even exaggerated I really have plus no farm vet. She is to large to transport 250 plus I love her so much she is only friendly with me though but when I go by her ears she snaps at me. The only way would to have someone hold her down why I looked but I don't know how much I could see into it or what is normal or not. She does have large buildup of wax have gotten some out with my finger, she is mostly a house pig only goes out to use the potty really and on her own wants to come right back in so can't think what would be in there. She is also depressed as she is blind and I didnt realize you should only have 2 pigs she is now 3 so that is out of the question so the least I can do is try to make her feel better I don't want this 2 become worse is there a different antibiotic I should try. Thank you.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Plus I did find one small animal vet but he knows nothing of pigs and wants to knock her out and I won't allow that she has had bad reactions to that and as he knows nothing of pigs it's even scarier as she could die and he refuses to not knock her out and I have read bad reviews already for him with dogs and that's what he does so that's a no go.
Expert:  Dan C., DVM replied 1 year ago.

This certainly is a tough spot that you're in. How frustrating it must be for you!
I can totally understand your concern with not wanting to anesthetize your pig. Pigs aren't particularly easy to work with, and there are other factors concerning anesthesia in pigs that can also make things tougher. They're not like anesthetizing a dog...
As far as trying a different antibiotic, as I had explained previously, if there is still a foreign body within the ear an antibiotic will do no good whatsoever, unfortunately. Yet the problem is, there is no sure way to tell if there is something in there, or the condition of the eardrum without being able to view all the way into the canal.
So................one way to calm down a pig, and perhaps to the point where you may be able to get a look and perhaps get some of the ear canal minorly cleaned, is to literally break out the beer. I often use beer often as a mild sedative, and I haven't yet met a pig that doesn't love it (for some reason they seem to prefer Pabst Blue Ribbon...). If she weighs 250#, she could safely have 3-4 12 oz. beers. Just pour them into a bowl and let her drink. Wait about ten minutes and give it a try. Do NOT use anything like Q-tips, as they could cause things to become compacted. Instill a small amount of sterile saline or ear flush (that does not contain medication) into the canal, and massage gently at the base of the ear. Use some cotton to remove any debris. This can be repeated several times until things look cleaner. It will still be a stroke of luck if you're able to see very far in, but it won't hurt to try. If you're fortunate enough to see something that shouldn't be there......gently try to remove it with some tweezers.

As far as trying a different antibiotic, LA 200 (Oxytetracycline) is available over the counter without a prescription. An effective dose for her would be 4cc (800 milligrams) given in the muscle once daily for 5-7 days, and could be effective if there aren't the other circumstances present that we've covered. I'd also recommend using an 18 gauge, 1" needle for injection. Always use a new needle after you have drawn the medication into the syringe. A new needle is less painful, and also more sterile. There is no need to clean the area where you will be giving the injection. If there is no improvement within 3-4 days, then you will know if the problem is more than just an infection. Be sure to not miss any doses, and also give for at least 5 days in a row.

So again, without getting her seen by someone who knows pigs, this is the best that I can offer you. If she does get sedate enough from the beer, do you think it would be possible to (with some help) get her into a truck/crate and get her to a facility?

So please let me know what you think, and hopefully we can get some progress going! And also, please let me know if you have any further questions.

Best of luck!

-Dan C.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thank you 4 the advice I will try this tomorrow and let you know how all goes. I talked to our old vet he said to use ear flush for 3 days let her shake it out he said antibiotics don't really reach the ear she needs a medicine that actually goes in the ear but won't call anything in for her as he does not work in nj anymore he said she needs a Dr 4 the meds but again there is my situation I don't have one nor can I find one so let's keep fingers crossed that your suggestions work as I feel helpless and so bad for her it's making her extra grumpy as is understandable poor thing. Will let you know how things pan out thanks sorry for the run on sentences typing fast.
Expert:  Dan C., DVM replied 1 year ago.

Thanks for getting back to me!

Yes, I would agree with your former Vet. My only concern is that if she does have an inner ear infection, she may still need some systemic antibiotics. Is she still having any type of seizure activity? If so, that can mean that there is an infection beyond the eardrum. Most ear flushes are safe even if the eardrum is damaged, and the shaking always helps to clear out any excess debris.

I'll be looking forward to hearing how things work out, and hoping for the best!

-Dan C.