Summer brings sun and heat...there are things that we, as pig parents, can do to help our pigs in the miserable heat though. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are real ad they can kill pigs. Your pig should have plenty of opportunities to cool off or be in an area that is shaded or cooler for them. Remember, they can't sweat to cool their bodies off like people can. Sweat is designed to evaporate off the body which cools the core body temperature. The humid conditions don't help either. Please check up on your pig often or make sure your pig is safe from these dangerous heat waves that may be in your area.
Heat stroke/Heat exhaustion information. Other summertime concerns/solutions.
Every pig NEEDS outside time, mid-July isn't fun to be outside for people or animals though. Your pig should have a shade structure or a shaded spot in the yard. Ikea has cute circus tents for 20.00. A shaded wood structure is actually super easy to build and would cost less than 50.00. Sun shades are a great way to create a shaded spot, Ikea has those available as well for a reasonable price. Gazebos are another great way to give your pig an area where he/she can go to that's shaded. My gazebo has an outdoor ceiling fan, so it provides shade and also a constant flow of air. Obviously an outside enclosure is something we have always recommended.....but.....pigs will actually go inside an "outdoor pig house" and bake inside....so houses need to have excellent ventilation and having a heat/AC system would be even better. ALL pigs need a spot out of direct sunlight or extreme elements.
Access to water
Water deprivation is dangerous. Some people refer to this as "salt toxicity", but in reality, what happens is that a pig doesn't have access to fresh water for an extended amount of time and when water is finally available, they drink and drink and drink. Pigs can't process large amounts of water like that. (If your pig doesn't have access to water and seems extremely thirsty when you realize it, do NOT give massive amounts of water, hydration needs to be done slowly over 24-48 hours. I keep at least 4-6 water bowls scattered all over the yard to be sure there is always a bowl of fresh water available.
In the heat of the summer, it's tough to keep the water cool. (other tips to help with this below) Making sure the water bowls and pools are in a shaded area most definitely helps, but in the direct sunlight, the water can reach temperatures that can actually burn your pig! Metal bowls are the worse, but any color or type can get hot. I keep the water bowls either under the gazebo or under tress where there is no direct sunlight. Because of this, the bowls need to be scrubbed out daily though as they develop that slimy biofilm which poses its' own threat.
Kiddie pools are a great way to be sure there is always access to fresh water, but if the pool is kept in the sun, the water becomes hot and is pointless. Again, if it's kept in a shaded area, it can become contaminated with biofilm, so the water will need to be changed regularly, if not daily. This is especially helpful if you have a pig who tends to tip their water bowl over.
The amazing pool in the picture above is available by the food train. I have a similar pool made by Heartland, but its truly a great pool and I've had mine for 5 years and its not ripped, torn or even worn. That was well worth the money I paid for it and I highly recommend these types of pools for pig families. They're easy to clean, and more importantly, easy for pigs to get in and out of.
Dawn Camp made a fantastic suggestion:
Buy a hose timer and set it to go off every few hours. I bought one that has two hose stations. One is hooked to a sprinkler and the other to (ideally) run water into a pan. I feed at 6 AM and 6 PM and the timer is set to go off at 10 AM, 12:30 PM and 3:30 PM. So far it's working, though the pig who needs it moves his water pan/tire combo out from under it. My timer is an "Orbit" and came from Home Depot. The timer can be set to run anywhere from 1 minute to 360 minutes, up to 3 times a day. This could be lifesaving for pigs when there is no one home during the day to check waters. (You will need to be sure the water in the line doesn't become scalding hot)
Water misting systems & water hoses
I bought a system that connects to the water hose and attaches to a deck or other structure of your choice to provide periodic fine mist to keep your pig cool. However, I found that the water in the hose is sooooo hot, that it makes the whole system worthless and actually dangerous because the water that mists out is so hot. I have always tried to be proactive versus reactive in terms of keeping my pig happy, but this is one product that I wouldn't recommend unless you have the ability to keep the water in the hose cool.
In the same theory, I have come home and used the hose to spray my pig down on super hot days, and again, you must be aware of the temperature in the hose line because you can cause injury to your pig if the water inside the hose has been baking in the sun all day and you turn the water on and squirt your pig with scalding hot water. Always allow the water to run for a few minutes to be sure any hot spots have run through and won't burn your pig. (This is also true when filling up water bowls, be sure you're not giving your pig hot water to drink) You can keep your water hose in a box or shaded area to help keep the water inside cool. I simply haven't had much luck with mine based on the location and lack of shade where the water line is located outside.
As mentioned before, pigs are creatures of habit, so if they have an outside house and they use it, some will go into their house, and will stay inside regardless of how hot it gets. You need to check up on your pig often, this is even more important in extreme temperatures. Some pigs will just go into their outside structure and as the day warms up, they may not realize how hot it is and they just sit in there and bake. Adding a window, an open door or even a heat/air conditioning system is a great idea. Heat/AC systems can be rather expensive, but they're amazing and can regulate the temperature in your pigs outdoor enclosure.
Ways to keep water cool?
Admittedly, this is difficult to do, especially if you work outside of the home. I am gone most of the day, so I fill old 2-liters and water bottles with water and put them in the freezer overnight. Before I leave in the morning, I toss those frozen bottles into the pools to try and keep the water temperature down. I am thankful because I typically stop off at home 1/2 through the day and remove those bottles and replace them with ones fresh from the freezer. It isn't always 100% effective, but along with creating the shaded areas, it has worked so far this summer. I believe you should have at least 2 kiddie pools for every pig, (and this is more so for families with only a couple or a few pigs, not a rescue or larger pig family-that would be difficult to achieve under those circumstances.) 2 pigs? you should have 2-3 pools. 3 pigs? you should have 3-4 pools. Remember, they often use one to pee and poop in....
While this may not work for every family, it may work for some who are looking for solutions to their problems. Take that frozen 2 liter bottle and add a way for your pig to drink from it as it thaws! (Genius!)
Most pigs will not have any issue with eating a frozen treat. Ice cubes work great too, but you can freeze grapes which you can place in their pools to entice them to get in and cool off too. I found that using flavored water drops, which do not contain a ton of extra calories, or using fruits and vegetables (used sparingly, of course), you can freeze them in ice cube trays, silicone molds and even in some bowls to create a fantastic frozen treat.
Popsicles can also be used (OCCASIONALLY) as a frozen treat that your pig will likely love.
Hopefully you have found some information that will help you care for your pig in the extreme heat that is occurring everywhere. If you have additional tips, feel free to comment below!
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