Spay & Neuter...
The number one reason behind spaying and neutering (having your pet pig fixed or altered), is always to reduce unwanted litters. Although this has not always been an overly large problem in the pet pig community, it has been drastically on the rise over the last 10 years. Unlike commercial hog farms that have a strict and ridged genetic rearing and slaughter program, the pet pig poses the same overburden on society as both their domestic feline and canine counterparts. In feral populations of swine natural selection, environment, disease and survival of the fittest play a large roll in keeping populations in check; again, this does not happen in the pet pig community. We must take responsibility ourselves to keep pet pig numbers in check so we don’t end up with mass euthanasia or unwanted pigs that suffer a miserable existence at our unscrupulous or ignorant hands.
Beyond our personal responsibility to curb unwanted pets, spaying and neutering have many other valuable attributes. In both males and females, the pig makes a much better pet when altered. Their behavior due to increased amounts of respective hormones, proves to be a major challenge to live with if left unaltered; it is not even recommended that an unaltered male be an indoor pet as they become too aggressive. Both females and males will become substantially more aggressive when the need to mate arises. Both will try to find ways, even violently at times, to wander away from the home or escape their pen in order to seek out a mate. Females will urinate in areas they usually don’t (even if they are house trained), they will pee in front of people and other animals or even attempt to pee on them, in order to seek attention and let others know they are in estrus/heat. When male testosterone kicks in (especially if the unaltered male has tusks), they will become so aggressive in behavior it may pose a threat to even live in the same environment as them. Pigs in heat or looking to mate, are not an animal you want in your home, to put around your children or other domestic pets. They could also turn very destructive to the home and surroundings when their innate need to breed is not met. This is all a natural behavior to swine and furthermore, a reason we spay and neuter pigs as soon as possible.
In females that are unspayed they can develop possibly fatal diseases of the reproductive organs, they also tend to live slightly shorter lives. A heat cycle happens every 21 days in female pigs. In unaltered males, we see the same issue. Males tend to suffer heavily from testicular and prostate cancers and thus, shortens their life expectancy as well. Males get very agitated and stressed out when they are not altered and have the desire constantly to mate. This creates an undue stress on the animal, which in turn, creates an overall systemic stress on the pig. An unaltered male pig is referred to as a boar and after he is fixed, he is referred to as a barrow. In females, a gilt is what we call an unbred female. Once they have had a litter or been bred, we refer to them as a sow.
You should always have your pet pig spayed or neutered as soon as possible! Many vets have an age requirement or weight requirement, this may differ from vet to vet, so call to make sure they will do the procedure. We recommend having a male neutered between 8-12 weeks of age. A male piglet can father a litter as young as 6 weeks old though. If you obtain a male that is unaltered and over that age, we still recommend having them neutered; just check with your vet first as to the process and procedure. A lot of vet clinics will not spay a female, they will only neuter the males. This is because spaying is a more involved process that requires more tissue to be cut through (more invasive). Because it is more invasive, it will also require more anesthetic. The spaying procedure will always cost more than a neuter, so be prepared for that! The procedure will also cost more the older and larger your pig becomes again, this is is due to the increase in tissue required to cut through to do the procedure and the amount of anesthesia it will take to keep them under. Regardless, we still recommend spaying your female! A female is usually spayed between 4-6 months of age, some vets will offer to do it sooner, so check! If you do have an accidental litter or rescue a pregnant female, always separate the males from the females at about 5-6 weeks of age or once you know they are eating solid foods on their own. If any mating behavior is displayed repeatedly (not just pushing and playing), remove the males immediately, the last thing you want is another litter.
Preparing for Surgery
Always make sure to find a reputable vet that treats and specializes in pot belly pigs or the miniature varieties. There are many farm or swine veterinarians that don’t have much if any practice on the smaller pot bellies and their even smaller counterparts, this can be dangerous. You don’t ever want a vet that tries to schedule the procedure “in the field” like they would with a large farm hog. Pot Bellies and miniatures need to have any and all surgeries, including routine spay and neuter procedures done in a clinic. This is to ensure that if the pig has a reaction to the anesthetic, they can swiftly and appropriately address the issue and have all the needed equipment and drugs on hand to do so; that would most likely not be an option in the field. So mainly, your priority is to find a good veterinarian and clinic to perform the surgery.
Like we have previously mentioned, pigs tend to have a poor reaction to typical anesthetics. Make sure to use a vet that routinely uses ISO fluorine gas/oxygen as apposed to any injectables. Larger pigs can have a form or mixture of injectable anesthetic done in certain situations that may not lend itself to the use of gases. When in doubt, always have your vet perform a preanesthetic exam and blood panel to ensure there are no other medical complications that would cause an issue to your pet receiving such medications.
Most pigs will come home in the late afternoon or evening hours. Before your pet comes home, make sure to have a small and quite spot set up away from all the commotion of the home or other animals. If in a barn, make sure that you put them in their own small enclosure or stall for monitoring. Make sure the bedding is clean, dry and the area you chose is away from any direct sun or bad weather. Your pet will need a quiet and calm place to recover. Always make sure before you leave the clinic that a pain injectable has been given post op and ask about any take home pain medications you can administer yourself in the next couple days. Food should not be offered for a few hours and keep water away for the first hour. When coming out of the anesthetic, it can make the pig very nauseous, so never force a pig to eat or drink. Be patient, your pig will slowly gain back it’s appetite. If your pig is not eating in 3-4 days, call your vet back immediately. The younger the pig when it is altered, the faster it will recuperate from the surgery; so always take your pigs age in to account in regards to recovery time. A male will also recover from a neuter much faster than a female will recover from a spay because a spay is always more invasive. A male can still show signs of wanting to mate and this is normal. Over the course of the next several months his hormones will slowly diminish and the behavior will subside. There is no need to worry any more that he may be fertile or impregnate the female though, the neuter procedure took care of that.
Watch the incision site from the spay or neuter and make sure that it doesn’t become infected. In cases of infection you will see redness, swelling, oozing of a colored or thicker pus like serum coming from the wound and your piggy may be running a fever (feel his ears to get a good guess). With out intervening too much, you always want to make sure that the wound stays clean and free of any foreign material during the first week. There are products that you can apply to prevent infection but we don’t recommend them right out the gate as your vet most likely applied some form of antiseptic or maybe even gave you one to apply. Let the incision site have the time to try and heal on it’s own first. If and when you see excessive redness and swelling, it may be time to break out the Wonder Dust, Vetracyn spray or Neosporin. Always let an incision try and repair on its own first before introducing topical medications as the small incision needs oxygen to properly heal itself. Only in instances of possible infection should we start using topical remedies to try and draw out said infection. Under normal circumstances, the body needs to utilize it’s own natural healing process.
To see what a neuter procedure looks like step by step, please visit the Long Beach Animal Hospital’s Website at: http://www.lbah.com/word/neuter-pot-bellied-pig/
Castrating Very Young Piglets
There are a couple procedures out there that old time hog farmers have been successfully using for years to castrate young males piglets that will eventually be bound for slaughter. There is a regular castration method and what they refer to as a "Side Cutter" method where one person can perform the surgery alone. We do not normally recommend this procedure on pot bellies, although it can be done. We will not provide information on how to do it on our website because someone extremely proficient in the method of farm castration should be the only person to attempt such a procedure. This is NOT a procedure that should be attempted by inexperienced hands. The biggest complication that tends to arise from these procedures is that the male may have an unknown scrotal hernia and this is not found out until the procedure is attempted. In that case, you would need to have an individual knowledgeable or experienced enough to repair the hernia in the field. Some hog farmers do have that experience but again, with the smaller pigs, we never recommend it. These methods are also done without any anesthesia or local anesthetic, they are performed quickly (takes less than 2 minutes) and usually between 3-10 days of age. The piglet will scream but rebounds very quickly from these procedures. I have personally seen and assisted in these procedures that were done successfully and the piglets show no problems or complications, even within an hour of the neuter. Remember though, this is not always the case and should not always be expected.
Written by Jodi Register (2015)