In anticipation of the January 2018 requirement for AMPA Registered Breeders to spay and neuter all pet piglets before placing them in their new homes, the AMPA – American Mini Pig Association contacted many veterinarians across the nation for input and guidance. We focused on veterinarians at teaching universities and veterinarians that routinely spay and neuter the piglets from AMPA Registered Breeders.
The veterinarians contacted were asked whether they prefer spaying before or after the first heat cycle and why.
Dr. Meera C. Heller DVM at UC Davis tells us: “Before the first heat cycle is better, the uterus is smaller and there are less complications of bleeding. After is fine, but during a heat cycle is difficult and has increased risk of bleeding complications.”
Age and/or size requirements vary greatly by individual veterinarian preference and experience. Ideally, piglets will be spayed and neutered before they are placed in their new homes. This may be new territory for some veterinarians. AMPA Breeders have access to a list of experienced veterinarians offering consultation to walk other veterinarians through the procedure, anesthesia, and answer any questions.
Dr. Cassee Terry at Redmond Veterinary Clinic spays and neuters all the piglets at Sharp’s Little Pig Town. She tells us: “3 pounds is fine [to spay piglets], it is very nice to do them at 4-5 pounds, easier to find the uterus.”
Dr. Tony Roe of Roe-Burke Veterinary Clinic in Kentucky spays all the piglets from AMPA Registered Little Rooters Mini Pigs tells us 2-3 pounds is fine.
Dr. Kristie Mozzachio specializes in veterinary practice of pet pigs, writes: “I don’t have a minimum weight – I think it just depends on the comfort level/preference of the veterinarian as well as the overall health of the piglet. Puppies and kittens can be very tiny at the time of spay.
Anesthesia protocol also varies by veterinarian preference as well as individual case.
Dr. Tony Roe of Roe-Burke Veterinary Clinic in Kentucky spays all the piglets from AMPA Registered Little Rooters Mini Pigs uses a combination of Xyalzine and Ketamine for induction and gas anesthesia for maintenance.
Dr. Kristie Mozzachio specializes in veterinary practice of pet pigs, writes: “There are a number of different drugs used for anesthesia, and I would be happy to discuss with a veterinarian needing specific information on drugs & dosages.”
Dr. Meera C. Heller DVM at UC Davis explains: “I do not want to recommend a blanket protocol for all pigs because situations differ. However I would strongly recommend inhalation anesthesia with the pig intubated (having a tube in its airway to deliver the anesthetic gases rather than delivering them via a mask). This is safer for the pig, however intubating a pig can be difficult if you have not done it before, so some vets may be reluctant. With some guidance and tips, it is not difficult.”
Dr. Cassee Terry at Redmond Veterinary Clinic spays and neuters all the piglets at Sharp’s Little Pig Town prefers sedation with Rompun and Telazol, then intubated and maintained on Iso.
Dr. Jan F Hawkins, DVM at Perdue University writes: “Small pigs less than 10 pounds can be lightly sedated and masked with inhalational anesthetic, once they are down they can be intubation. Larger pigs are given a combination of xylazine and Telazol in the muscle. We have the advantage of working with Veterinary board certified anesthesiologists and they do a wonderful jobs with our pig patients.”
Dr. John Carr tells us: “From an anaesthetic point of view I always use intubation and gas and have published techniques how to achieve this. But this is generally the domain of the veterinarian.”
We asked veterinarians experienced in spaying young piglets to share any tips or insight.
Dr. Jan F Hawkins, DVM at Perdue University shares: “They are different than a small dog or cat. Incision a little further forward. Tilt the head down and the butt up really helps by causing the intestines to slide forward. Find the ovaries first (spay hook) is helpful. The broad ligament is more vascular in the pig and needs to be ligated. We use a special electocautery device to minimize bleeding. The uterus in a pig who has not had a heat cycle is very tiny and challenging to find.
Dr. Cassee Terry at Redmond Veterinary Clinic spays and neuters all the piglets at Sharp’s Little Pig Town advises: “Incision on midline is caudal 1/3. In pigs we need to remove ovaries and uturus. 2 large blood vessels that feed the uterus so I tie off the ovarian stump and then the other blood vessel to the uterus and then the uterine stump.”
Dr. Tony Roe of Roe-Burke Veterinary Clinic in Kentucky spays all the piglets from AMPA Registered Little Rooters Mini Pigs assures us: “A piglet is the same as an adult. The key is to pay special care with anesthesia.”
Dr. Kristie Mozzachio specializes in veterinary practice of pet pigs, offers: “I have a number of annotated PowerPoint presentations available to veterinarians, although they are only generalized for spay/neuter, not specific to young piglets. There are very few resources for veterinary care of minipigs. There is one “textbook”, but it was written in 1993 and is outdated. I don’t know of any resources specific to early spay in pigs.”
Dr. Meera C. Heller DVM at UC Davis explains: “The anatomy is slightly different than a dog; there is no ovarian ligament to “strum,” the broad ligament is highly vascular and requires ligation for its whole width (from cervix to ovarian pedicle), closure of the peritoneum is important, and good closure of the body wall. I keep them exercise restricted and no jumping on or off furniture, no stairs, and no struggling with them for 3 weeks post surgery (no squealing!) so that we get optimal healing of the body wall and no hernia formation.”
AMPA Breeders have access to a list of veterinarians experienced in routinely early spaying and neutering of piglets that have offered to consult with veterinarians interested in offering this service to their clients.
On behalf of the AMPA – American Mini Pig Association, we would like to offer our heartfelt gratitude for your consideration in offering spaying and neutering for piglets. It is the goal of the AMPA & our Registered Breeders to provide mini pigs a long, healthy life free of the burden of reproductive hormones or cancers, giving them the best chance to stay in their homes for life without behavioral problems or aggression attributed to being intact, while lessening the risk of unwanted or unplanned litters and the resulting abandoned or neglected pigs.
When breeder is inquiring with veterinarians to spay and neuter piglets, some questions to ask may be:
Are you willing to spay and neuter my piglets before they are placed in their new homes?
What age and/or weight do you prefer the girls and the boys for their procedure?
What is the youngest or smallest that you have previously spayed piglets?
Would you consider spaying & neutering my piglets at a younger age if you have the chance to consult with other veterinarians that routinely do these procedures? (boys typically neutered between 2-6 weeks old, and females typically spayed from 6-10 weeks old)
Will you insert microchips (that I bring) at the time of surgery? What is the additional cost?
I am an AMPA Registered Breeder held to a strict code of ethics for responsible breeding, requiring me to spay and neuter all of my pet piglets. If I agree to bring all my piglets to your office for spaying and neutering, would you offer a price break?
What anesthesia protocol would you use?
What type of sutures do you use?
Would the piglets need to come back to have sutures removed?
Do you tie or close the inguinal ring for male piglets during neuter?
Do you give pain injection or send home pain meds for the piglets? What medication & what is the cost?
If there is a post-surgical complication or emergency, are you available after hours or would I need to contact an emergency veterinarian?
Jan F Hawkins, DVM, DACVS
Department of Veterinary Sciences
Meera C. Heller DVM, PhD, DACVIM
Assistant Professor of Clinical Livestock Medicine
Department of Medicine and Epidemiology
School of Veterinary Medicine
University of California Davis
Dr. Tony Roe
Roe-Burke Veterinary Services
Exceedingly experienced in spaying young mini pigs, spays all piglets for Little Rooters Mini Pigs in KY
Dr. Cassee Terry
Redmond Veterinary Clinic
Experienced in spaying young, spays & neuters piglets for Sharp’s Little Pig Town in OR
Dr. Kristie Mozzachio,
NC State Veterinary Medicine
Mobile veterinary practice for pet pigs. Many research articles & journals published, a veterinary leader in the pet pig community
Dr John Carr
BVSc PhD DPM DiplECPHM MRCVS
Worldwide consultant to the animal production industry
Recognized Specialist in Pig Medicine by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeon