Hot Water Bath

Dudley Pig with Foot Infection

This is Dudley Pig, named after the late great actor and comedian Dudley Moore. Ben found Dudley out in the field with a cut on the back of her right front foot that had become infected and swelled up as shown in the photo. In reality it looked quite a bit worse than the photo shows.

Antibiotics are the first line of attack at the factory farms, in fact they have traditionally run them at low levels through the feed and water all the time although that may be changing with the new rules by the FDA. We don’t do that. You know why so I won’t elaborate here since that isn’t the point of this post.

Dr. Ben assisted by Nurse Remus with Patient Dudley doing a foot hot bath.

So, what is one to do with a infection? What did people do before antibiotics. Well, I mean do besides die? Hot water and poultices are a traditional cure and they do work in many cases. We’re always getting cuts on the farm so what we typically do for ourselves is soak it in hot water. Our bodies naturally do this by getting a fever – the hot water soak aids the bacterial killing effects of inflammation and fever. Heat kills infections. As long as you don’t get too hot or for too long it just kills the bacteria and not the animal. Using this little fact we can generally stop an infection dead in its tracks.

The key is early intervention. The sooner I catch the infection the better. In Dudley’s case Ben gave her hot water baths (110°F) for five minutes a couple of times a day to killed the bacteria and allowed her to heal. This is more labor than a factory farm might be willing to spend on an individual animal but it can save their lives without having to resort to antibiotics.

Dudley’s Foot Much Improved

Note that too hot a bath for too long can also kill the animal. It speeds up their chemical reactions in their cells effectively burning them out. What I’m trying to do is burn out the bacteria without burning out the animals. This is why our bodies use fevers to fight infection. Thus whole body baths are more dangerous than just a finger or foot bath although in some cases the are warranted and very effective. I just don’t want to cook the patient.

For a small pig like Dudley we can easily bring her in from the field to our kitchen or hospital pen by the cottage. For a big pig we take out a bucket of hot water and rags to apply the heat topically. Multiple sessions a day are better than trying to do it all in one shot.

Adding iodine, or if I don’t have that salt or even vinegar, can also help with the healing process and bacterial-cide.

Today Dudley went back out to the field, fully recovered after a month in the hospital. She didn’t need to be in the hospital paddock that long but she was good company for FDR. While she has recovered from what ever happened to her, FDR isn’t likely to ever return to the herds as her back legs, although moving a little, still don’t work right. FDR has grown by about a factor of three which is very impressive for a ‘wheelchair’ pig.

Quite randomly, at the same time as Dudley had his foot infection there was a chicken who got stepped on by a pig and had a similar issue. Ben named the chicken ‘Moore’ to complete the set. At this time Moore is also cured, through daily foot baths, and back out in the field. Interestingly, for about two weeks during Moores recuperation she stopped laying eggs, not surprising due to the stress, and then she started up gain as she felt better. A bellweather of her health.

Sugar Mountain Farm, where the pigs and chickens hot tub together…

Outdoors: 70°F/54°F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 66°F/63°F

Daily Spark: They say that you are what you eat. So… To be a vegetarian, Eat vegetarians…

I’m not a vet, or a doctor, so I’m not giving you medical advice. This is just what we find works. If you have an infection in yourself or children that you’re concerned with going too far, of course, seek qualified medical attention from your doctor.

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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17 Responses to Hot Water Bath

  1. Ed Allison says:

    Walter, you said, ” This is why our bodies use infections to fight fevers.”
    I’m pretty sure you meant it the other way around.
    It great that you and your family take the time to care for individuals like Dudley. Thanks for the update on FDR as well!

  2. Dawn Carroll says:

    I use Turmeric cooking spice on cuts & wounds. The stuff fights infections and heals the wounds almost right before your very eyes.
    I use it for scratches on the horses, sunburns, I use it for fly control on the newborn piglets. I take quite a bit of the stuff myself for anything from heartburn to ………. aches and pains…

    • Thanks for the tip. Wikiing Turmeric I found this fascinating quote:

      In 1995, a U.S. patent on turmeric was awarded to the University of Mississippi Medical Center, specifically for the “use of turmeric in wound healing.” This patent also granted them the exclusive right to sell and distribute turmeric. Two years later, an Indian government organisation, The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, filed a complaint on the grounds of piracy. They argued that this usage has been documented and been in practice for thousands of years in India. The patent was subsequently removed as it was proven to be anti-competitive.

      Glad to see good sense prevailed!

    • Amy says:

      Love this idea. Do you make it into a paste? Mix it with anything? Just sprinkle it on?

      • Sabrina says:

        Turmeric mixed with honey (as much as will blend into a tbsp) tastes sort of terrifying, but it will stop coughing in its tracks. Honey is antibacterial anyway, so I suspect the mix would make an effective minor wound treatment.

  3. Belseth says:

    Tea tree oil is amazing for infections including fungal infections. It’s potent stuff so even a few drops can have a dramatic effect. My guess is one or two drops per ounce of water so put the hot water in a cup or pan so you don’t need as much. It’s cheapest to buy in quantity. For personal use I’ve had a 2 ounce bottle for years. An 8 or 16 ounce bottle would last a lot of years even on a farm. Even 2 or 4 ounce bottle is good to try it out. It’s easy to find on line or I get it at a local shop that deals in herbal medicines.

  4. Luise says:

    Great to hear you resort to natural methods to help the body heal itself!

    I agree with Dawn, tumeric is great stuff, we use it lot here too. Especially on cuts that bleed a lot, it does wonders to stop the blood flow.

    We have two more family favourites for first aid: Plantain (Plantago maior and P. lanceolata) and yarrow (Achillea millefolium). Both grow basically everywhere.
    Plantain we chew/crush until the sap comes out to make a poultice for insect stings, cuts or wounds that need infection (my husband cured himself of blood poisoning with it). It stops the bleeding fairly quickly (not as quickly as the tumeric) and really helps with the healing. Sometimes I leave the poultice on under a bandaid until it dries out, then take both off and let the body do the rest.
    Yarrow can also be used to heal wounds, but since it heals them sometimes too quickly for our taste (deep wounds will close so quickly that while healed on top, it’s still open inside, creating an anaerobic environment, not good…), so we use it mostly for being “sick on the inside”, like when someone in the family has a flue. Then we use the flowers (if available) or leaves fresh or dried in tea. We have also made tincture from yarrow which we use on wounds or internally for infections.

    Health to everyone!

  5. Patrick says:

    On the flip side, I have gone too far avoiding the drugs. I killed a pig.

    Last year I had three younger pigs in a pen, and they started to get a “little sick”. A day later, they were “more sick”. Seemed respiratory, but I was new to pigs (still am) and not a vet. By that second day, one was listless and laying when he was once the most active. Found a vet who handled livestock and she got back to me by phone within two hours. As I described the symptoms she said, “respiratory something, you have very little time”, and told me to hit them with antibiotics. She knew I was trying to avoid drugs, and generally supports the trend. That said, she made clear in that way only medically trained people do that I needed to, “Inject. Them. Now.”

    It was too late for the one. He was dead before the phone call was over. The other two were in better shape and made immediate recoveries (24-48 hours) after some basic drugs. It’s the animal version of the stuff I gave my kids when they got sick.

    And that’s where I am today. My kids are not antibiotic free, and neither am I. So now we treat the animals like we do ourselves – meaning we avoid the drugs until we cannot. But sometimes you just gotta hit the juice.

    My opinion is the big corp farms have ruined sane practices by placing drugs at constant sub-therapeutic levels, just to increase feed uptake and to push livestock densities. That increases the possibility of detectable drugs in our food, disease resistance and xeno-biotic crossover. That realization caused my family to raise animals for ourselves and friends, but it also creates a consumer who swears if a pig/duck/goat/unicorn ever had any drugs, they won’t go near it. Cue the discussion about treating the livestock like their kids…then they get it. Kinda.

    I’ve learned a lot about this over the last year. First, by the time you notice that a pig has “something respiratory” you measure lifespan in hours, not weeks. Second, there is a place for drugs with our food chain if it’s responsible and measured. I don’t want to kill another animal. We personally double all withdrawal periods and accept the fact that if anything is left after that, it’s probably less than we get from municipal water visiting family in the city. Sometimes that means we treat an animal and it avoids slaughter (hello, little meat bird that survived the raccoon attack).

    We currently got ten Berkshire that are healthy as can be with zero medical inputs. If we need drugs, we have to go out and get them, and then we dump the remnants into the local Sheriff’s “old drug” bin when we’re done with them. We never use the whole bottle.

    Walter, I think I’ve seen you mention using the drugs once or twice. If so, at what point do you relent? And do you have any magic tips for treating respiratory issues?

    • We’ve been fortunate to not run into much in the way of respiratory problems despite thousands of pigs and many thousands of chickens and other poultry. I think this has a lot to do with having the animals outdoors in the fresh air rather than in buildings. In the winter sheds we have available to them they are all open so that there is super good ventilation. This is good for the animals and good for the farmers.

      As to when to use antibiotics, we’ve done it twice years ago for a breast infection and a foot infection due to injuries when the infection was clearly beyond the realm of heat packs. I will not make animals suffer for politically correct objectives. Like wise there is a time when we do antibiotics to our dogs who are farm workers and to our children and ourselves. In fact, our dogs are the biggest users of antibiotics around here because they’re frequently in battles with predators – they win but I give them care. I doubt the predator they battled gets the emergency care which is a good reason not to pick a fight to begin with. Antibiotics aren’t evil, they’re merely over used in some sectors. It isn’t just in factory farms. Hospitals, doctors and the public are abusing antibiotics. Responsibly used they’re a powerful tool, like nuclear.

      There was an article I read that said that most of the antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria are caused by not factory farms but rather by inappropriate use in hospitals, urban areas and particularly what is being flushed down the toilets interestingly.

      • Patrick says:

        Thanks for the input.

        These were pigs grown outdoors in an Oak/Beech forest; they had an open shed for protection. The vet said she sees it sometimes with younger animals in our area. We get so much humidity in the summer. Sometimes it creates molds and fungus in the woods that bother even my normally non-allergic self.

        This year’s bunch is doing great. I also used a different breeder who raises all her Berkshires outside on pasture. The previous bunch came from a breeder who does a lot of work in barns, and pretty much only has the boars and the sows out in managed lots, from time to time. The piglets are 100% indoor animals through weaning.

        It’s a nice place (as far as a barn goes, it’s top notch), but I cannot help but think the fact this year’s piglets were born and weaned outdoors helped. I guess that’s another lesson learned.

  6. David Lloyd Sutton says:

    Glad to hear about turmeric and plantain and yarrow as wound treatments. I had already heard of yarrow for treating stings, used to use it when I kept bees and raised yarrow. Never knew it was a healing agent as well. I have a vastly experienced Indian medical doctor friend who recommends turmeric as a general conditioning herb. Does me no good because my tummy rejects it, but he says it’s a fallback in modern Indian medicine, not just Ayurvedic.

    My experience with using herbs for healing has primarily been with comfrey and angelica. Comfrey is also called bonebreak, and has been used as poultices for centuries for bruising and broken bones. The active ingredient is alantoin, a cellular proliferant. I’ve seen vastly speeded wound healing with the stuff, on myself and my son. Just never use it on horses, because they grow proud flesh faster than they grow skin. I had to pay a vet to trim proud flesh once, when I poulticed a mare’s hock with comfrey. It’s a fine addition to rabbit food too, helps lactation because it contains casein as well. We used to drink tisanes of it, until I read that it speeds the proliferation of existent cancer cells like any other cells. Stopped as a general precaution.

    Angelica juice eases pain, helps healing, is fun to eat (think celery stalks with peanut butter), and cures flatulence. Unlike comfrey, a bit fussy to cultivate. Both of these herbs want damp, rich soil, partial shade. No idea if you Vermonters can grow them outside a hothouse.

  7. CarolG. says:

    I will note that honey has been used for poultices for centuries. Some doctors are currently using it for wound healing.

  8. Good News Updates:

    Dudley has heal up completely and rejoined the shoat herd around the lower pig pond paddocks.

    FDR never healed her back legs although she would wiggle them and wiggle her tail but she scooched around she did grow to 50 lbs which was about five times as large as she was when I found her broken out in the field and very impressive.

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