Choosing and Keeping Pigs (Firefly Books Inc., 2009), by Linda McDonald-Brown is an expert guide for anyone interested in keeping pigs. The book details everything readers need to know about caring for and keeping a pig, covering topics ranging from housing to health and habitat management. The following excerpt is from Chapter 3, “Pests and Diseases.”
Pigs will eat anything, so take this into consideration when putting them in an enclosure for the first time, although most plants that are poisonous to them have an unpalatable taste and are usually left alone. Some plants will bring death in a matter of hours when ingested; others will simply make the pig very ill, but it will recover. Some common causes of poisoning are given below.
Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum) Pigs have been kept in woods with bracken for centuries; indeed, they are often used to destroy it. But bracken fronds contain a toxin that induces a vitamin B deficiency and can prove fatal. However, it is generally thought that as long as the pigs have access to fresh water and are fed their regular pig food, they should suffer no ill effects from being among bracken.
Acorns The high tannin content in acorn shells (the fruit of the Quercus family) can cause abdominal pain, diarrhoea and abortion in sows. Pigs should not be kept in areas where there are large quantities of acorns, especially those pigs that are not used to them.
Ragwort (Senecio var.) This is a highly poisonous plant, which should be pulled up, removed from the enclosure and burned.
Rhododendron (Rhododendron spp.) Both the leaves and flowers of this plant are toxic to pigs; the roots are non-toxic.
Laburnum (Laburnum x watereri) Pigs that have eaten laburnum will suffer convulsions and death will soon follow.
Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) This has an unpalatable taste and is therefore rarely eaten by pigs. If it is ingested, the pig will slip into a coma and death will follow.
Deadly nightshade (Atropina belladonna) Initial signs of poisoning are trembling followed by convulsions and then death.
Elder (Sambucus nigra) Although elder poisoning is rare, there have been reports that pigs have died from eating the leaves.
Excerpted from Choosing and Keeping Pigs, by Linda McDonald-Brown. Used with permission from Firefly Press, Inc., © 2009.