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Salt (Water Deprivation)

(600) Salt poisoning or water deprivation is the most common poisoning to be seen in swine. It arises where there is a shortage or complete lack of water and the normal salt in the diet then becomes toxic. The normal levels of salt in the ration vary between 0.4 and 0.6% and even at these levels water deprivation can result in toxicity after 48 hours. The higher the level of salt in the diet the shorter is the period of water deprivation before signs are seen. However in the presence of ad lib water the pig can tolerate up to 2% or more of salt in the diet. The first signs are inappetence and whenever this occurs in a pen of apparently healthy pigs or an individual always check the water supply first.

Clinical signs

These appear within 24 to 36 hours of water deprivation. Pigs become inappetent, wander aimlessly, are blind and stand with their heads pushed into the wall of the pen. Recurrent fits are common. These start with a characteristic twitching of the nose, the head then goes back and the pigs fall over. They eventually lie on their side with convulsive leg movements, froth at the mouth and become comatosed and die.


This is based on clinical signs and a history of water deprivation. Diagnosis can be confirmed by histological examination of the brain in which the lesions are diagnostic.


  • The response to treatment is poor particularly if pigs have developed fits. Rehydration of the pig is important and this can be achieved by dripping water through a flutter valve (see chapter 15) into the rectum or allowing water to drip onto the tongue from a hose pipe. An alternate technique is to inject sterile water at body temperature into the abdominal cavity. This technique requires veterinary advice and direction.

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