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Salt Poisoning - (Water Deprivation)

(288) Salt poisoning is common in all ages of pigs and almost without exception is related to water shortage either caused by inadequate supplies or complete loss. The normal levels of salt in the diet (0.4-0.5%) become toxic in the absence of water.

Signs develop within 24 to 48 hours.

Clinical signs

The very early stages of disease are always preceded by inappetence and whenever a sow or groups of pigs are not eating always check the water supply first. The first signs are often pigs trying to drink from nipple drinkers unsuccessfully. Nervous changes are the major signs and in more advanced cases involve fits, with animals wandering around apparently blind. Often the pig walks up to a wall, stands and presses its head against it in a characteristic position. One symptom strongly suggestive of salt poisoning is nose twitching just before a convulsion starts.


This is based upon the clinical signs and lack of water. Examination of the brain histologically at post-mortem confirms the disease.

Similar diseases

Aujeszky's disease, swine fever, streptococcal meningitis and glässers disease all produce nervous signs. The condition might also be confused with middle ear infection but this only affects one individual rather than a group of pigs.


  • The response to treatment is poor but involves rehydrating the animal. At a practical level this can be achieved by dripping water into the mouth of the pig through a hose pipe or alternatively via a flutter valve into the rectum where it is absorbed. (See chapter 15 Flutter valve).
  • Discuss the possibility of administering sterile water into the abdomen with your veterinarian.
  • Corticosteroids may also help.
Management control and prevention
  • It must be a daily routine to check that all sources of water are adequate free flowing and available.

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