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General Care
Spiral Colon Stricture & Bypass By Bruce Lawhorn, DVM, MS.
WHY VACCINATE YOUR POTBELLIED PIG? by: D. Bruce Lawhorn, DVM, MS, May, 2002

HOW TO KEEP YOUR POTBELLIED PIG HEALTHY by: Arlen M. Wilbers, DVM
MONITORING YOUR POTBELLIED PIG, WHY BOTHER? by: Chris Christensen  with the Veterinarian’s View by : Dr. Lisle George
TEETHING
HOT WEATHER PROBLEMS by: Dr. John Walton and Dr. Oliver Duran
Spiral Colon Stricture & Bypass By Bruce Lawhorn, DVM, MS.
The Duchess Fund received information about this potbellied pig that had surgery at Texas A&M University and felt it was necessary to make the following available to pet pig owners and their veterinarians. Our efforts continue to enlarge the amount and enhance the quality of data available to the individual practitioner relative to the care and needs of potbellied pet pigs as a long term companion animal. We also promote, encourage and support research that leads to an extended life as well as optimal quality of life of pet pigs.

We operate solely by donations and your continued donations are crucial for us to continue our work. You can now donate by credit card by going to the Make a Donation page or send to:

The Duchess Fund
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Email: lordsmom@tampabay.rr.com

“Duke” had been anorexic for about a month. He was defecating some and drinking a little water. He was evaluated at the Texas A&M University Veterinary Medical Center and our initial exam showed a normal looking geriatric potbellied pig with normal temperature, elevated respiratory rate (from car ride and handling) and possibly enlarged abdomen. The ultrasound was not fruitful due to layers of fat. Regular abdominal x ray (with “Duke” awake and standing) showed loops of intestines distended with gas and a completely full stomach (even though he had not eaten for a month except for a few bites of watermelon that morning). The owner had been getting some
dry feces out of rectum with a gloved hand and speculated he was just very
constipated.

I was able to get out some feces with a lubed, gloved hand on the day he arrived. Arrangements were made to xray the stomach the following day to see if it was emptying (supposed to empty in about 5 hours). The next day, the x ray was done and the stomach was still full of ingesta. Although it is impossible to radiographically visualize any non-radio opaque foreign body such as a sock or towel, gastric foreign body was still in our differential diagnoses. Based on these findings, exploratory surgery was scheduled as soon as possible because “Duke” was becoming more uncomfortable.

This was a grueling 4 hour surgery that didn’t begin until 5:00 PM. After the stricture of the spiral colon was identified, a typhlotomy (incising the end of cecum) was performed to get the gas and contents out of the spiral colon before the intestines could be manipulated. Then the spiral colon bypass was done using a side-to-side anastomosis technique. The third procedure (first two were typhlotomy and anastomosis) was a gastrotomy (cutting into the stomach) and removal of most of the stomach contents to
search for possible foreign objects (none found). Each of these procedures is a major surgery. To resolve his problem, it was necessary for “Duke” to undergo these three major surgeries at one time. “Duke” remained in the hospital for a number of days following the surgery at which time he ate, drank and urinated. On the 6th day he passed feces and was sent home with the owner and he completely recovered.

For a detailed description of a recent, almost identical surgery performed on another potbellied pig, see JAVMA, Vol. 222, No. 10, May 15, 2003, 1408 Scientific Reports: Clinical Report, “Spiral colon bypass in a geriatric Vietnamese potbellied pig” by Mark A. Gallardo, DVM,; D. Bruce Lawhorn, DVM, MS; Tex S. Taylor, DVM, DACVS; Michael A. Walker, DVM, DACVR.

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WHY VACCINATE YOUR POTBELLIED PIG? by: D. Bruce Lawhorn, DVM, MS
The subject of annual vaccinations in dogs and cats is currently being debated. Such a debate is not really pertinent to potbellied pigs (PBPs). For example, Texas State law requires an annual rabies vaccination in dogs and cats even though many rabies vaccines in these species are labeled for 3 years protection. In my particular area of Texas, the Texas Department of Health area veterinarian recently reported that we have 3 times more confirmed cases of rabies in wildlife (bats, skunks, raccoons) than the same time last year (and we had a lot last year!). The Texas Department of Health is currently holding a series of public meetings on 3 year versus 1 year rabies vaccinations. Many veterinarians express concern about the compliance by pet owners with 3 year rabies vaccinations versus one year, especially in very transient population areas where client compliance with routine vaccination is already low. A high percentage (at least 70 percent) of the cat and dog population in an area need to be properly vaccinated to effectively minimize the spillover of rabies from wild animals to pets and then to humans. Note that rabies is almost always fatal in people. This is the main issue.

The need for yearly vaccinations for distemper, parvovirus, etc. in dogs and feline distemper, rhinotracheitis, etc. in cats is also being debated within the veterinary profession (these are mainly vaccines against viral diseases). Vaccine-induced sarcomas in cats have actually been the catalyst to drive these debates. Logical alternatives to routine annual vaccinations against viral diseases are less frequent vaccination with vaccines known to last longer than a year (there are very few of these – mainly rabies vaccines) and/or blood testing to indicate if the pet still might have a presumed protective antibody titer from previous vaccinations (the presumed protective titer for distemper, parvovirus, etc. in dogs and distemper, rhinotracheitis, etc. in cats in published research is based on a minimum number of studies with very small sample sizes). The cost of blood testing for an antibody titer may actually be more expensive than routine vaccination which has been done for decades.

This debate does not really apply to PBPs because none of the routine vaccinations (mainly bacterial vaccines) such as erysipelas, leptospirosis (6 types) lasts for more than 6 months. There is no approved rabies vaccine for any type of swine and no company will go through the expensive vaccine approval process when there are no more than 0-3 reported confirmed cases in the U.S. every year (would be a very small market for an approved swine rabies vaccine!). Nevertheless, at the discretion of the attending veterinarian and with the owners consent, PBPs have been vaccinated with killed rabies vaccine. For example, in situations of a wildlife rabies epidemic within a state, veterinarians might be allowed by state veterinary authorities to vaccinate PBPs after the owners understand and sign a release that explains that there is no scientifically-proven evidence for efficacy and duration of protection from the use of this particular killed rabies vaccine in pigs. Also, the PBP owner must agree that if their rabies vaccinated PBP is truly exposed to a rabid animal (e.g. through a bite wound), for the protection of human health, the PBP would be immediately euthanatized and the brain submitted for rabies testing.

PBP owners and sanctuary operators need to understand the rationale for routine vaccination. PBPs, like other pigs, get disease-causing organisms from their dam (called sow-to-pig transmission), littermates or exposure from any other type of pig such as in sanctuary situations, flea markets or county shows. Organisms such as Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae, Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae (APP), Strep species, Mycoplasma species, Haemophilus species various viruses, E. coli species (in gut) and a multitude of others reside in the lymphatic system in areas such as the tonsils, lymph nodes and gastrointestinal tract. Staph and Strep species and many other bacteria populate the skin. External parasites such as sarcoptic mange mites reside in the skin. These organisms can cause disease right away (if there are enough of them) or just quietly wait it out until the PBP is stressed by some event (transportation, extremes of heat or cold, pregnancy, lactation, malnutrition, cancer or re-occurring infectious disease). So this is the scientific explanation for sickness from an infectious disease in a PBP that has not been around another pig in months or years!

Sarcoptic mange is an example of sow-to-pig transmission that is easy to understand. A young pig that is exposed to sarcoptic mange from his dam and/or littermates is populated on the skin with only a few mites. The PBP is then taken to a home at a young age and 3-4 months later is itching and scratching and has crusts above the hooves, around the head and ears and on other parts of the body (all the time the mites have been breeding, multiplying and spreading within tunnels in the skin until this condition is obvious). In about 50 percent of cases, the owner has itchy red spots on the arms and abdomen which are also sarcoptic mange lesions. The owner takes the itchy PBP to a veterinarian and a skin scraping taken from multiple sites reveals sarcoptic mange mites and mite eggs! Normal PBPs do not have sarcoptic mange mites on skin scrapings. So the diagnosis is made and an Ivomec (ivermectin give SC) or Dectomax (doramectin give IM) injection is given and repeated in 14 days (ivermectin) or 21 days (Dectomax). If this PBP is never again exposed to sarcoptic mange mites and the correct dose for the weight of the pig is given (presumed to be the same dose for PBPs and domestic swine – directions on the label), the pig should look much better in 2 weeks and be cured with no further treatments. Although people to pig transmission of mites has never been proven, the owners should get treated to avoid any possibility of giving mange mites back to their pigs (Of course, owners also need treatment to get relief from their itching!).

Likewise, in a PBP, the bacteria and viruses that originated from their dam or other pigs can be unapparently carried, and disease can then occur after stress (sometimes the stress event is not easy to pinpoint!), even in the total absence of any other pigs!

These are reasons for vaccination of the PBP, even if it is the only pig in the household.

Other reasons to vaccinate PBPs relate to human health and legal issues. When PBPs were first presented as possible licensed pets in cities, lawyers from municipalities wanted to know which vaccinations should be required. Since there are no approved rabies vaccines for any type of pig, these could not be legally required for registration. So, erysipelas, a very common disease of pigs that could be transmitted to people, (called a zoonotic disease) was selected as one disease to vaccinate against as an annual requirement for PBP licensing. (30-50 percent of domestic swine carry erysipelas organisms and show no disease.)

Also, leptospirosis (lepto) is a common disease (usually subclinical – not apparent) of domestic swine. Domestic swine get lepto from urine of other infected swine, other livestock and rodents. Lepto is also a zoonotic disease and was chosen as another required vaccination for PBPs for municipal pet licensing (should vaccinate against 6 types of lepto to include all common pig types!). Note that leptospirosis in people is usually a flu-like disease. It used to be called "swine herder’s disease" since it was very common in pig herdsman. So the idea behind vaccination of PBPs for lepto-6 is to prevent lepto infection, or to decrease the PBP urine shedding of lepto in the case of subclinical or "silent infection" in the pet. In either case, the human risk of catching lepto from the vaccinated PBP would be minimized.

So these are the reasons for initial and at least yearly vaccination of the PBP. Usually, APP (3 types – fatal pneumonia disease in pigs) are included with the erysipelas – a combination vaccine (one shot) and lepto-6 is another vaccination (one shot). Give both injections once then repeat in 3-4 weeks followed by at least annual boosters. Vaccinations are more imperative when large numbers of PBPs are congregated in one area, but it has been explained how even an isolated, household PBP can have a clinical disease such as erysipelas.

Note that vaccine reactions can occur in any species of animals. These occur more commonly on the second vaccination of initial series or on boosters. Veterinarians use an epinephrine injection IM as an initial therapy for a vaccine reaction. Additional therapy may be necessary. Those PBPs showing adverse reaction to a vaccine should not be revaccinated with the offending vaccine.

Another topic that has not been discussed much is tetanus. It definitely can occur in PBPs! Soil contamination of wounds, typically after castration when the incision site is left open, is how it typically starts. PBPs that stay outside in a lot are at the most risk. For prevention, initially administer tetanus toxoid once (0.5 cc IM, Tetanus Toxoid, Ft. Dodge) then 4 weeks later followed by an annual booster (it is not known how long immunity lasts in pigs but may be longer than 1 year). So tetanus toxoid vaccine can be given at the exact same time erysipelas-APP combination vaccine (Pneu-Pac-ER, 2cc IM, Schering) and lepto vaccine (2cc IM, Brativac-6, Pfizer) are given. Alternatively, these vaccinations can be staggered and given on separate days.

Remember that any wound on a pig that could be contaminated with dirt could be a way that a pig gets tetanus (prompt initial cleaning and daily cleaning of wounds prevents infection!). Tetanus antitoxin (500-1000 units IM depending on size) should be administered by veterinarians (or dispensed by veterinarians to trained personnel to be administered to PBPs) to any PBP undergoing a routine foot trim, tusk trimming, etc. If a PBP has received adequate vaccinations (two initial doses) with tetanus toxoid 2 weeks or more before the foot trim, tusk cutting or other procedure that creates a wound, tetanus antitoxin administration is then unnecessary.

Based on the above information, it is important that PBPs not be exposed unnecessarily to commercial swine due to possible transmission of infectious disease organisms that have not been diagnosed in PBPs (eg. exposure at local, county, state fairs and exhibitions). Significant sickness and mortality in PBPs could occur as a result of such exposure.

In summary, the scientifically-based, valid reasons for routine vaccinations in PBPs have been discussed.

Bruce Lawhorn, DVM, MS
Professor/Extension Swine Veterinarian
Texas Cooperative Extension Service/Dept Large
Animal Medicine & Surgery
College of Veterinary Medicine
The Texas A&M University System
College Station, Texas 77843-2487
979-845-4353 (p)
979-862-3795 (fax)    
E-mail: BLawhorn@cvm.tamu.edu 

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HOW TO KEEP YOUR POTBELLIED PIG HEALTHY by: Arlen M. Wilbers, DVM

The mini pig has become an increasingly popular companion animal, largely because of its relative intelligence, strong human bonding characteristics, and trainability. Pig ownership has led to many problems, including legal battles, human-pig conflicts and the general lack of health care knowledge among owners and veterinarians alike.

GOOD HEALTH

Feeding: Many factors affect the physical health of your mini pig; however, one of the most important common mistakes is overfeeding, thus over conditioning of mini pigs. This is probably due to the concept we have entertained since childhood of a fat, rounded pig who will eat anything. But remember the fate of that pig? Healthy body condition does not include a pendulous belly and fluctuant jowls. Ribs should not be visible, but should be easily felt. Jowls should not obscure the jaw and fat rolls on the face should be absent.

Obesity predisposes your pig to tendon deformities in the legs, poor foot wear, and entropion that may progress to mechanical blindness. Obesity also puts your pet into a bad surgical risk category should emergency surgery be necessary, not to mention long term heart problems and other organ failures.

How much to feed depends on your pigs condition and activity level and must be adjusted as needed. There is no easy formula. Diet should consist of a commercial balanced and formulated mini pig food, grazing time, and small vegetable treats. Dog and cat foods are too rich in protein and calories and are not balanced for pigs. Fruits have sugar in them and these tend to increase weight gain. Many owners supplement vitamins. This is usually unnecessary if the pigs are on a commercial diet but rarely causes a serious problem. Consult your veterinarian concerning your pig’s condition and diet.

Environment: Proper environment is also important in maintaining health. Another common problem is irregular foot wear and lack of exercise leading to dropped pasterns. As was said earlier, weight is a contributor to this problem. Foot trimming has become necessary in companion pigs due to the surface they live on. Carpets, hardwood floors, grass and linoleum do not wear feet enough to keep up with nail growth. Allowing the nail to become long shifts weight back onto the padded heel and stretches the flexor tendons over time, which in turn causes less exercise and an acceleration of this condition. This can be avoided by keeping weight off your pet and exercising on a granular surface such as concrete. If this is not possible, frequent trimming will be necessary.

Many other factors contribute to good health such as consistent feeding, water consumption, and avoidance of toxic substances or plants. Emotional factors such as corrective discipline, affection, bonding, pecking order, and boredom are also extremely important and would require entire articles to do justice to them.

SELECTING A VETERINARIAN

One of the most important decisions you will make in the health of your pig is which veterinarian you will use. Most veterinarians are either farm animal or companion animal oriented. Companion animal veterinarians in general are unfamiliar with pig diseases, medicines, and physiology and are uncomfortable handing pigs that can be quite vocal and disrupt their practice environment. Farm animal veterinarians are more familiar with pigs but not in a companion form and may find it difficult to incorporate pet animal mentality into their thinking. Also farm vets are no longer available in many areas, so choosing a vet becomes a serious dilemma.

Here are some recommendations that may help. First, make sure the practitioner is willing to learn, has a personable manner, and is willing to say "I don’t know." Ask about their experience with mini pigs. Talk with other pig owners who use that veterinarian and listen to their opinions and experiences. Find out about vaccinations used and routine care practiced by the veterinarian. Here are some guidelines.

Vaccinations: Vaccinations should include Erysipelas, Bordatella, and Pasturella on a yearly basis after an initial double dose at 6-10 weeks and 12-14 weeks. Tetanus should be given on a yearly basis. Leptospirosis 5-way and Parvovirus are recommended for breeding females. Be careful – reactions to lepto vaccinations are common. Rabies is not approved for pigs. Pigs are resistant to rabies and are very unlikely to contract this disease. Cat and dog vaccinations are unacceptable. Lymes vaccine is not approved in pigs. Remember, vaccinations are expensive and if they are doubtful in value, should be avoided, especially since occasional reactions do occur.

Anesthesia: Anesthesia – technique, use and type are extremely important and could greatly affect the health of your pig. Inhalant anesthesia, using Isofluorane and no pre anesthesia such as atropine or physopyrilate, is probably the safest, easiest and best. Quick recovery and few side effects are expected. Halothane should be safe as well since the malignant hyperthermia gene is not present in mini pigs. Injectable anesthesia is seldom a viable alternative.

Injection sites in pigs are difficult to reliably know if the dose was administered to fat, muscle, or blood, which in each case can have a widely different effect on level of anesthesia and recovery time. Violent recoveries are the norm. If IV catheters are present, injectable anesthetics are much cheaper and more effective.

Anesthesia should be used for castration, spaying, entropion surgery or any major surgery. Anesthesia is not necessary for hoof trimming, vaccinations or trimming of small tusks. As tusks increase in size, anesthesia may become necessary. In general, less anesthesia, less risk.

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MONITORING YOUR POTBELLIED PIG, WHY BOTHER? by: Chris Christensen  with The Veterinarian’s View by : Dr. Lisle George

Why go to the vet for yearly exams?

General Exam: Just like us, pigs need a general check of their heart and lungs, and general condition.

Vaccinations: With younger pigs, it is probably a good idea to give them annual vaccinations. There are pig diseases out there that could kill or harm your animal and could be spread to other pigs. Older pigs (after 5 or 6 years) probably have their immunities built up. If you have a problem with mange or worms, you can give injectable Ivomec orally on a cracker every 3 months with probable success. It has worked in all cases I"m familiar with.

Rabies vaccinations are another problem. There are no rabies vaccines approved for pigs, so many vets won’t give them. Yet we have cases on record of pigs, who have bitten someone, being confiscated by authorities and killed so that their brains can be checked for rabies. Some vets give a rabies vaccine, but I don’t know if that would be recognized as sufficient by authorities.

Hoof Trimming: Very important. Pigs whose hooves are allowed to grow too long can develop serious leg problems. One of the pigs greatest problems is getting those spindly little legs to support that pot belly. Long hooves shift the weight back and break down the hoof and ankle structure. If the pig is overweight, it will, of course, increase the severity of this problem. This is a situation that many pig owners take care of without the help of a vet. You can try sprinkling food on concrete surfaces daily to help your pig wear down his hooves. Beware if the pig is only used to soft surfaces. This may be uncomfortable on the pigs legs and could possibly cause hoof cracking. Introduce this process slowly. You can also hold the pig and trim the hooves yourself with a cutter, file or even an electric dremmel tool. This will be stressful to both you and the pig. You may be able to slowly train your pig to let you trim his hooves when he’s laying down to get belly rubs or when he is eating. Just a little at a time and don’t force it.

Tusk Trimming: Some people just let the tusks grow. (You can tell by the scars on their legs.) Problems this can cause are the obvious ones of inadvertent or advertent injury to you or others (including other pets) from these built in weapons. They also may get caught in fencing, furniture, garden equipment, etc. causing injury or damage. The other problem is that tusks can curve back into the mouth or cheek area puncturing the skin. Blunting the tip of a tusk is not much of a problem but may involve you having to restrain the pig. Trimming the tusk down to the gum line is more involved. It should be done with an OB cutting wire and if the pig is awake, care must be taken to keep the tusk from being drawn into the lungs of the screaming animal.

Eye and Ear Cleaning: These cleaning tasks can usually be accomplished when the pig is at rest. Use of liquid ear cleaners has created problems with temporary (up to a month) loss of hearing resulting in some cases.

Teeth Cleaning: Preventing decay is desirable, but probably not essential.

OTHER CONCERNS:

Beware if you have multiple animals and one has been sedated. Keep the sedated animal away from the rest of the "herd" until it has fully recovered, plus an hour or so. Reintroducing a not fully recovered animal to the herd can cause a readjustment of the herd order (i.e. fighting). Always observe the herd after any animal is reintroduced and be prepared for possibly serious altercations. We have seen cases of serious injuries after animals have been reintroduced.

We also are starting to see a problem with older pigs (5 years or more) being given health checks. Extreme care must be taken if these pigs are sedated to keep the sedation as light as possible and for as little time as possible. Also restraining older pigs has led to stress related deaths. Those of you who have been paying attention are now asking, "If I can’t restrain them and I can’t sedate them, how do I treat them?" No easy answer. We plan to try and keep the hooves down on our animals by feeding on concrete and hoof trimming when they’ll allow it. We’re letting the tusks grow until they become a problem.

Vaccinations on our older pigs shouldn’t be needed unless rabies starts being required. Eyes and ears can be handled on a stress free basis. If tusk trimming or other needs make anesthetic the only choice, it will be Isoflurane at the lowest settings and for as short a time period as possible.

Isoflurane: Pigs are very sensitive to anesthetics and I have observed changes in the way Isoflurane gas is used over the past nine years that are significant. In the past settings of 5% to put the pig to sleep and 2.5% to 3% to keep it there were rather commonly used, and I suspect still are. When the pig is first put under with the gas the vaporizer should be set at no more than 3% and a full face mask is used until the pig goes to sleep. During this procedure the pig is usually on the floor in the lower half of his crate with the owner holding or restraining him. The pig is then placed on a table and the full face mask is replaced by the proper sized "cat mask" (looks like a sink plunger with the edges rolled in) which fits over the snout allowing access to the mouth area. At this time the Isoflurane setting should be reduced to 2.5% and then 1.5% to 2%. In this final range the pig may be slightly conscious. The goal is to try and keep the pig in the range right at the edge of being conscious. When procedures are over, the pig is returned to the crate. The Isoflurane is turned off, and oxygen is administered as the pig wakes up. There may be some slight reaction as the pig becomes fully conscious but nothing like what occurs when a pig comes up from injectable anesthetic.

Again anesthetics are not good for or entirely safe for any living thing, but high levels of stress (terror) aren’t either. Until we reach the point of communications with these animals that they truly trust everything we do to them, some form of stress or anesthetic will be required for just the simple procedures to keep them in good health.

I hope some of you find this information helpful or enlightening. This is a rather compressed version. It would take a small book to cover it in detail. If you need further information on some of the details or on where to get some of these supplies please contact me. If you have any corrections or additional information, please let me know. If you would let us know some information about the veterinarian you use, we will pass it on to others or publish it in the newsletter for our members. We are constantly hearing from members who need a veterinarian in their area, but we seldom have much information to share. We’re still learning about these precious creatures. We’ve had very little time to find out how to share our lives with a potbellied pig. I only hope we are doing what is best for them. They certainly do a lot for us. Chris Christensen

Dr. Lisle George of U.C. Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, one of the nations top experts on potbellied pigs, was kind enough to read my article and respond to it with some suggestion. We as a club have been very fortunate to have Dr. George’s professional support for both our personal animals and the hundreds of rescue animals that have passed through our foster pens. Without his support this club would have been out of business as a rescue organization years ago and without his dedication and knowledge our potbellied pigs would not have the level and quality of medical care that he and his graduates have provided. Dr. George is presently in the process of finishing a much needed veterinarian medical guide on potbellied pigs.

The Veterinarian’s View by: Dr. Lisle George

The article is excellent – thanks for writing it, Chris. I only disagree on one point, and it is only based upon a judgment that I’ve made by anesthetizing a lot of pigs using different techniques. My personal preference is to use 1 mg/kg of Telazol as a preanesthetic unless the pig is very tractable and is harness trained. In my opinion, the problems with Telazol stem for injection of the drug into the fat instead of the muscle. I insist that the pigs be given the drug with a 3.5 inch spinal needle inserted into the semimembranosus/semitendinosus muscles (hams). The needle must be inserted at least 2/3 of the length before the drug is injected. Standard 1.5 inch long needles deposit the drug into the fat, and that leads to recovery problems.

I feel that a single injection of Telazol is preferable to making an excited pig breathe into a mask containing a stinky gas. I get fewer scars on my stomach too because I have to hold the pigs while the gas is being delivered, and they are pretty good at filleting my hide with their back hooves. Gas administration takes 1 to 2 minutes, and I have had pigs stress out during that time. Much better, in my opinion, to give a quick shot and wait for the pig to go to sleep, than to allow the pig to struggle while inhaling gas.

I agree wholeheartedly that obese or old pigs should not be anesthetized if possible, although, in competent hands (our anesthesia service), we have had 100% survival rate in obese, sick and elderly pigs using Telazol followed by intubation and Isoflurane delivery. For foot trims and other procedures where we don’t want to anesthetize the pigs, we restrain them on our pig tilt table. The pigs are tilted onto their sides while being restrained in a squeeze chute. They can’t move, and don’t seem to struggle too much. I have restrained at least 2 dozen pigs that way, without mortality.

An Isoflurane setting of 5 on the vaporizer indicates that 5% of the inspired gasses are Isoflurane. In my opinion, a vaporizer setting >3% is too high, and represents an unnecessary risk factor. Pigs die from these high settings, and I have seen and been told of pigs that died of over doses of Isoflurane. I would never put the machine up that high. That doesn’t mean that all pigs die after inhaling gasses containing 5% Isoflurane, but the risk of apnea and cardiac fibrillation is much greater than if the vaporizer is set at 3%.

Reprinted With permission from California Potbellied Pig Association Pleasant Hill, CA 94523

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TEETHING

From the age of two weeks, Boris, my eldest potbelly resided in our house. Keeping a pig indoors isn’t the easiest thing to do, but I have to say apart from a minor problem where he ripped our kitchen carpet, he was perfectly well behaved.

What I did notice though, and quite a few people who, like myself, have pigs that live indoors have also commented on, around the age of 9 months he became a bit miserable at times and wanted to chew his toys. He had a strong piece of rubber pipe that he used to stand with chomping away for ages. Around this time I was stumped as to why he was behaving in this way. He didn’t have a temperature, he wasn’t off his food and he certainly seemed to be fit and healthy. Then I noticed that these episodes, although they never lasted long, coincided with him losing his first teeth and his new ones cutting through. After finding out when the first teeth are shed and the permanent ones are growing, it all fell into place. My poor little chap was teething like a human baby. Other people have also noted their pigs behaving like this when teething. Yes I did go off to the chemist and purchased some teething gel. I’m not really sure whether it did help but he seemed to like the taste and enjoyed having his gums rubbed.

Pigs usually start losing first teeth and growing permanent ones from the age of 5 months but this may vary slightly from pig to pig. The following is to show you when this may occur, but bear in mind all pigs may differ slightly.

Birth: The little pig has two pairs of sharp pointed teeth in each jaw, top and bottom, placed so there is a distinct space between each pair. These are the two temporary tusks and the two temporary corner incisors. These are the only teeth present at this time, although some of the temporary molars can be felt through the gums.

1 Month: The two central incisors, which are broader than the tusks are cut also three molars come through the gums.
2 Months: Temporary central incisors are fully through and there are signs of the eruption of the laterals.
3 Months: The lateral temporary incisors are well through, and the temporary molars are well in wear.
5 Months: There are signs of the cutting of the premolars and the fifth molar (a permanent) is seen behind the temporaries.
6 Months: The premolars are cut, and the fifth permanent molar is in wear.
7-8 Months: There are signs of the cutting of the corner permanent incisors. The permanent tusks may also be cutting at this time.
9 Months: Corner permanent incisors are well through as are the permanent tusks. In many cases one or two temporary tusks may still be in position at this time. The tusks will be more developed in the male sometimes reaching a length of 3-4 inches on the upper jaw and as much as 8 inches on the lower jaw of an aged boar. The tusks of females do not develop to this size.
1 Year: Generally the central permanent incisors are cut, a large number of pigs do not cut these teeth until they are around 13 months old. The 6th permanent molar is cut. Just after 1 year the three temporary molars fall out and their places are taken by the permanents. They are in line with the other molar teeth three months later.

17-18 Months: When the final changes occur, the 7th molar, the last permanent molar tooth and the lateral permanent incisors are cut. Now your pig will have all his permanent teeth, 44 in all. It has been found that there is a great variation in the hardness or the softness of the teeth so the rate of wear is irregular. A great deal depends on the nature of the food your pig eats, also if the pig has an undershot or overshot jaw then wear will be irregular. Many boars when fighting break their tusks. An adult pig will not have a mouth full of white shining even teeth like a film star.

It is important to remember though at any age your pig could have a mouth problem, just as we humans do. It is especially important to seek expert advice if your pig is showing signs of pain, difficulty in eating his food, swelling around the jaw area or losing permanent teeth.

Used With Permission From The Potbellied Pig Club, England

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HOT WEATHER PROBLEMS by: Dr. John Walton and Dr. Oliver Duran, The University of Liverpool

Just recently the outdoor temperature has been very high indeed and this has resulted in almost unbearable indoor conditions also. This type of weather presents many difficulties for both black and white skinned pigs who do not have the opportunity to find shade or a wallow.

The ideal living condition for pigs outdoors is a wooded area with hollows and hills giving direct protection from the sun, wind and rain. Fallen leaves and branches provide good bedding and there will be lots of "goodies" to eat as well. Many domestic pigs are kept outdoors and the only protection they get from the elements may be a tin shed or a wooden hut. In the summer, both these can be extremely hot so the pig is forced to go outside in an attempt to get some cooler surroundings which of course will probably not be available and there will be the added risk of hot direct sunlight. These conditions will soon give rise to sunstroke which can be fatal if the pigs remain outside in the sun without shade.

If a pig is suspected of having sunstroke then it must immediately be provided with shade, kept quiet and hosed down with cool water. If the pig starts having convulsions then the vet must be called to administer a sedative, but one word of caution…pigs with severe sunstroke may not recover. If the sow is pregnant then an attack of sunstroke often leads to an abortion with all the litter being lost.

Pigs kept indoors during very hot conditions run the risk of heat stress because of prolonged exposure to a hot atmosphere. Lots of drinking water must be provided for both indoor and outdoor pigs and if possible a wet wallowing area provided. Alternatively a water shower or dripping water from a length of hose can be made available to enable the pigs to cool down.

Do not attempt to mate pigs during the heat of the day – wait until the cooler evening time but remember prolonged hot weather can cause boars to become temporarily infertile so try and keep them cool by providing a shower or a drip hose. You may only recognize that your boar was affected by the heat when mated sows return to estrus 21 days after service.

Appetite may be somewhat irregular with prolonged hot weather but you must make sure that fresh drinking water is always available especially for pigs that are normally given a wet mash feed. Do not let uneaten food become sour or moldy as this might produce future health problems if it is eaten at a later date.

Of special concern will be the extremely overweight pig. As you know pigs do not have sweat glands on their body except in a very few places such as around the nose with heat being usually lost from the body by panting through an open mouth. It is most important to provide these very heavy pigs with shade, a wallow or a shower. If they are getting over-heated then try and cool them down with water from a hose or use an electric fan to blow air over them. Do not make "hot" pigs take physical exercise ….just allow them to rest as much as possible in a quiet, cool place.

Another major problem with hot weather is sunburn. Remember that just as with ourselves, skin can burn even on overcast days when there is not any direct sunshine. Obviously the best course of action is to prevent sunburn. So just like the advice above provide lots of shade in a cool area, sun screen lotions can be applied but never use oils such as motor oils or cooking oils. Both of these will damage the skin and neither do they keep out ultra-violet "sun burning" rays.

Often indoor pens or boxes have no mechanical ventilation and even though a half door may be left open often the temperature inside can be very high indeed. If no system is available to produce some air movement then a drip or shower hose is needed to enable the pigs to get wet and then cool down by evaporation. Open as many windows and half doors as possible. Provide some form of shade if direct sunlight is entering the box and it would especially help if a fan could be fitted to move the air about inside the pen.

Points to Remember During Very Hot Weather:

For outdoor pigs: Provide shade out of direct sunlight and a wallow big enough to allow the whole pig to get in but not so deep that it covers the snout when the pig is lying down. Do not force exercise. Make sure fresh drinking water is always available.

For indoor pigs: Provide shade from direct sunlight and provide a drip or shower hose and if at all possible give some air movement by attaching a fan to the wall. Avoid mating during the heat of the day. Make sure that fresh drinking water is always available.

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