Common Health Problems Affecting Mini-Pigs - Part 2
Like other pets and people, mini-pigs may suffer from numerous health problems. This handout covers problems associated with the urinary and reproductive tracts, eye health, melanoma, accidental poisoning, and a common bacterial disease called erysipelas. For information on obesity, foot abnormalities, ear infections, upper and lower respiratory diseases, and gastrointestinal problems, refer to the handout "Common Health Problems Affecting Mini-Pigs – Part 1".
What are the most commonly seen health problems in mini-pigs?
Urinary Tract Problems
Young, male mini-pigs commonly develop urolithiasis. This disease occurs when urinary tract stones (uroliths), made of various minerals, form and lodge in the urethra, causing life-threatening urinary tract obstructions. Predisposing factors include infrequent opportunities to urinate from being housed indoors, improper nutrition, and a narrow/underdeveloped urethra from y neutering too early. Affected pigs may strain to urinate, pass little to no urine or bloody urine, are lethargic or restless, and have a swollen, painful abdomen. Pigs with these signs should be seen by a veterinarian immediately and require surgery to remove the stones and alleviate the obstruction.
Reproductive Tract Problems
Mini-pigs can suffer from numerous reproductive tract diseases. In males, one of the most common diseases is cryptorchidism, in which one or both testicles fail to move from the abdomen to the groin as the pig develops and matures. The testicle(s)are retained in the abdomen. Your veterinarian should notice this abnormality during a routine check-up and can treat it by removing the retained testicle(s) when the pig is neutered.
Older, unspayed female mini-pigs commonly develop leiomyoma uterine tumors. Affected pigs may have swollen abdomens, vaginal bleeding, and difficulty walking. Your veterinarian should feel this tumor on a routine check-up and will remove it by spaying (removing the uterus and ovaries) the pig. Spaying at a young age prevents development of these tumors.
Perhaps the most common eye problem in mini-pigs is entropion in which either the upper, lower, or both eyelids roll inward, toward the eyeball, as a result of obesity and large folds of fat on the face. Affected pigs are typically 1-3 years old, have mucus discharge from their eyes, and rub their eyes frequently, causing redness on their faces. Treatment involves weight loss and surgical removal of facial folds. This condition is best prevented by proper weight maintenance.
Another eye condition commonly seen in young mini-pigs that likely has a genetic basis is distichiasis, in which the eyelashes on the upper eyelid are misshapen and misdirected so that they point in toward and rub on the eyeball. Pigs with distichiasis constantly rub their eyes, have mucus discharge and tearing from their eyes and nose, sneezing, and hair loss and red skin around their eyes. A veterinarian can diagnose this condition by clinical signs and the obviously malformed eyelashes. Treatment involves sedating the pig, removing the abnormal eyelashes, and treating secondary infection with eye medications.
Erysipelas Unvaccinated mini-pigs may develop a bacterial disease called erysipelas. This bacteria is found in soil and can also infect dogs, cats, and people. Without showing symptoms of infection, young pigs may carry this bacterium in their tonsils and lymph nodes and then breakout with disease when they are 4-12 months old, especially if they are exposed to stress. In the acute form of this disease, affected pigs stop eating, become lethargic, develop a fever, and cry out in pain. They may develop characteristic diamond-shaped, red, raised skin lesions over their bodies. Severely affected animals may have seizures, become comatose, and die. In the chronic form of infection, pigs develop joint cartilage damage, arthritis, and heart inflammation. Affected pigs may show few signs of illness other than lameness until they go into heart failure, become weak, and have difficulty breathing. Untreated cases of erysipelas are generally fatal. If erysipelas is detected early, affected pigs may be treated with antibiotics plus supportive care and heart medications. Your veterinarian may prevent erysipelas by vaccinating your young pig and boostering him annually.
Like other animals and people, mini-pigs can develop tumors. The most common skin tumor in mini-pigs is melanoma. In certain breeds, this tumor is hereditary. This raised, dark-colored growth occurs most often in young pigs and frequently metastasizes (spreads) to lymph nodes. If a veterinarian completely removes it surgically before it has metastasized, surgery can be curative. It is fatal after it has spread.
Mini-pigs are non-discriminatory eaters, so they eat all sorts of inappropriate things, including rodent poison (rodenticide). These poisons are commonly left out to kill unwanted rats and mice, but pigs eat them because they taste good. They interfere with the ability of the blood to clot; therefore, pigs that eat these toxins develop blood in their eyes, tar-like stool containing digested blood, bloody vomit, weakness, lameness, difficulty breathing, and bruising over joints. Pigs that have ingested rodenticide should be treated immediately by your veterinarian. Depending on the type and amount of rodenticide ingested, the time since ingestion, and the pig’s size, your veterinarian will administer a charcoal substance by mouth to absorb the toxin, as well as vitamin K to help improve clotting. Left untreated, rodenticide ingestion can lead to fatal bleeding. Therefore, it is critical that all rodenticides be kept securely away from pigs.
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