Seizures in pastured swine

Asked February 13, 2016, 2:41 PM EST

I am having problems with pigs developing seizures, and dying. Water tox has been ruled out, there is clean water available at all times. They are on dike-land pasture (reed canary grass) with a daily treat of barley and bagged pig feed. Confined pigs (sows w/piglets) get Purina Sow & Pig Complete. Right now I have a young gilt that is having issues. Any noise startles her, and causes a seizure. She is inside, in a crate, in a quiet place now. There have been no food changes. I am suspecting a possible genetic/breed issue, an issue from flood waters being directed onto our property to drain in our field, or... I don't know. I have about 50 pigs ranging on the pasture, 4 sows with piglets confined right now. This current gilt was fine yesterday, today she isn't. I'm at a loss. Do you know if there are any seizure problems in the KuneKune breed? I'll be contacting the vet school on Monday, and taking her there, dead or alive. I need an answer. I'm trying to make a living farming pastured pigs, I choose the KuneKune as a good grazing pig. They are wonderful, but now I'm wondering...

Columbia County Oregon

3 Responses

The OSU College of Veterinary Medicine clinicians are probably the best choice to find a reason for the seizures. I am not familiar with aspects of this breed. Seizures are rare in traditional breeds of swine. There is one condition called congenital tremors which occurs in pigs and is genetic in origin. It looks like a seizure, the pig shakes and stumbles. It is not common in pigs over 2-3 months of age. It is observed mostly in pigs from birth two weeks. But, I don't know much about the breed so there may be something that manifests this issue in older pigs.

There was a case years ago where high sodium levels caused some tremors in pigs but in what you describe for conditions, there doesn't appear to be any way high sodium could be in their feed or environment.

Thank you. She is at OSU now for a Necropsy. Her sister is displaying similar symptoms, but not quite as severe. She is in the house in a crate, being hand-fed. I am wondering if highway runoff is playing a part in the issues I'm seeing in my herd. De-icers, other highway chemicals, car fluids, etc. All of that is being directed into my pasture when it rains. It's been pouring rain and we've had several instances of high-water/flooding. I am suspecting that may be playing a part, and am having the dead gilt tested for that. The gilts are/were 6 months old. Their mother died when they were 2 weeks of age, from seizures. I don't think the de-icers ODOT uses has sodium... but I'm going to be calling them to find out the exact thing to test for.

It is good that you have the animal at the Diagnostic lab but don't be disappointed if they cannot "test" for the cause. Many times the lab has to go on physical symptoms seen in organs and tissue and then look for possible solutions. Toxic issues are often difficult. It is not like TV CSI programs although I get calls from people who think that is the way it can be done.

The de-icer is a good clue but I do not know what compounds are in it.

If you have more questions, feel free to call me at 503-931-5163. That is my cell number.

Gene J, Pirelli
OSU Extension Swine Specialist
Extension Forage/Livestock Specialist