Bushka was bought from a ‘wild life sanctuary’ January 1996 and she was believed to be 6 months old at the time. On her second day with us she gave birth to 8 piglets. Four of them survived, two of whom we visit and do hoof trims etc. They are in good health and growing well. Essentially an indoor pig, Bushka had the run of a small garden but also enjoyed going out to the local park for walks. She was spayed later in 1996 once we could find a vet that was willing to do the operation and once he had obtained the equipment to be able to administer Isoflurane gas.
She enjoyed a healthy life and was fed two cups of Allen & Page potbellied pig feed daily (which has a protein level of 13%) as well as a little fruit and vegetables. This diet was supplemented with a cod liver oil capsule every two days.
She was a healthy pig except for a problem with a cracked tooth which required extraction. This was done under a general anesthetic by Clent Veterinary Group in 1999.
In late August 2000 we observed the first noticeable changes in her. She started vomiting and went off her food for a day or so only to start eating again so our concern was lessened. She developed some strange habits which involved going outside when it was dark and cold which she had never done before. We noticed that she would choose strange places, like next to the freezer, to rest where she had not previously. She appeared to be more lethargic than normal but would get up and walk about when encouraged to do so by us. At this point in time we were not overly worried and put this down to the summer heat. As time went on she gradually ate with less enthusiasm and she went off her pig feed totally. It was noticeable that when we tried to give her any of the feed by mushing it with water or milk that she would vomit after eating it so we stopped trying to feed her normal feed. At first we thought that it may have been a bad batch of feed so a new bag was purchased but she failed to eat any of the new feed too. Bushka developed a cough which we were convinced was just a form of flu and waited for the symptoms to subside whilst keeping her warm and cozy. Sometimes the coughing was accompanied by vomiting but she bought up very little in terms of stomach content and it had the appearance of mucous only.
A few days prior to our vacation in the USA she stopped eating and the day before we left my concern for her health was such that I rushed her to the vets. Blood samples were taken and blood tests were done at the vet’s surgery. I was under the impression that the other blood samples taken were to be sent to the lab for more intrusive tests. The vet diagnosed an ulcer which we were told was quite common in pigs. My internet searches backed up what the vet had said so I accepted the fact that she could have an ulcer and we treated her with the medication supplied (Tagamet) as best we could. Giving any tablets to pigs is not generally easy unless the pig is happy to consume them in a jelly or peanut butter sandwich. Sadly for us she detected the tablets early on and was suspicious of everything we tried to feed her after that.
We left Bushka in the care of a close relative so we could still go on vacation, which is what we did. Our family kept in contact with us while we were in the US. Upon our return it was obvious that she was getting no better and she was getting more lethargic. I decided to book a session with the vet where we could investigate her symptoms with greater accuracy. This was booked for the Sunday, 26th November, 2000. During the preceding week she stopped eating altogether and my concern was such that by the Friday I phoned the vet and booked an emergency appointment. Upon arrival we took Bushka into the surgery and an examination was made under general anesthetic (Isoflourane gas). I was present during the examination and assisted during the ultrascan. Nothing unusual was discovered other than a suspected enlarged liver but because the vet had not performed a scan on a pot bellied pig previously he was not sure about what he could see. At this point the vet decided to perform an endoscopy while Bushka was still under the anesthetic. The endoscopy showed no ulcers in the stomach but did show a large quantity of liquid in the stomach which he drained with a rubber hose. This made the examination easier and the view inside the stomach much clearer but still nothing was detected.
Because of Bushka’s general condition and the fact that nothing could be found by Ultrascan and endoscopy methods I decided that it would be much better for Bushka to be euthanised. If anything had been learned from diagnostic tests, we would have had something to work on but since nothing was found by way of ulcers, growths, etc whatever Bushka was suffering from was still a mystery. It would be wrong to drag her suffering out any further.
At 2:30pm, 24th November, Bushka was euthanised and an immediate post mortem was ordered. I was contacted by the vet on the 27th and told of a large growth that was found inside the intestinal cavity. This growth was 6cm in size and was attached to the intestinal wall. Samples of various tissues were sent for analysis. The results are included in the lab report and a copy can be ordered under Case #000236 on The Duchess Fund Medical Database.
The report indicated that Bushka had been suffering from Myeloblastic Leukemia and there was nothing we could have done for her. I feel that if the original blood tests had been sent to the lab (as I thought had happened) for further examination, we would have discovered the leukemia much earlier. As it happened I feel she suffered for only a short time and that was in the latter part of her illness. She was not in pain at her passing and she is still deeply missed by everyone who knew her. For myself I feel I have lost a very close and trusted friend and family member and she will live with me in my heart for the rest of my life.
By: Grenville Owen, England