Dental Care & Tusk Trimming

Tusk Trimming and Dental Care


DENTAL CARE: Pigs benefit from regular dental care, just like dogs and humans. Although most leave natural foods, toys, and dental chews to do the work, others want to be proactive in the dental health of their beloved pig. To brush a pigs teeth it’s best to start when they are young, touching their teeth, putting your fingers in their mouth gently, etc. so they are accustomed to it. You can use either a washcloth or a toothbrush (human or pet toothbrushes are fine). You can use these plain and let the friction do the job or you can add a cleanser. Baking soda would be fine or fluoride free toothpaste. You can find infant, toddler, adult, and pet toothpastes without fluoride. Fluoride is a problem. In excessive amounts it is toxic- to us and pigs. This is why infant and pet toothpastes DO NOT contain fluoride. Most adult toothpastes DO contain fluoride with a warning to spit and rinse to prevent swallowing the fluoride.


Fluoride poisoning:


Fluoride poisoning:


Fluoride poisoning:



TEETHING: Pigs start teething at about a year old. Here’s a great link; During teething your pig may be grumpy, drool, or grind her teeth. Some families choose to give teething items such as Whimzees that you can find in some pet stores or on Greenies are said to have harmful ingredients, and Whimzees are preferred. NO RAWHIDE. Rawhide is dangerous to all pets, through risk of choking, impaction, and the chemicals used on them. You can offer your pig a few ice cubes, make some yummy frozen treats with a combination of water, juice, yogurt, pureed pumpkin, apple sauce, coconut oil, bits of fruits & veggies, or any combination thereof. Put your chosen mixture into an ice cube tray or silicone mold, freeze, and enjoy! If teething pains are terrible your pig can have children’s or buffered aspirin WITH FOOD. Buffered aspirin – 5 mg per pound of body weight twice a day. Must be buffered and given with food. Do not give if your pig is not eating and do not give for more than 3days without seeing your vet. Do not give aspirin before/after surgery. Don’t be alarmed to find teeth on the floor. They don’t look like whole teeth, they look like broken off fragments. No worries, this is simply the baby teeth falling out and making room for the next set of teeth.


NEEDLE TEETH: Needle teeth are eight VERY sharp pointy teeth the piglets are born with. These are often clipped by the breeder or veterinarian before your piglet comes home. If they have not been clipped you may speak with your vet about clipping them. Do not clip the teeth if you are not experienced. The reason for clipping these teeth is they are not necessary, they are baby teeth that will fall out, and they are very sharp and will tear up the sows nipples and sibling’s ears as they play and roughhouse. These teeth can also cause accidental wounds to children as the piglet plays. If your pig has needle teeth intact and isn’t causing any problems, great!! Nothing to worry about, they will fall out naturally with the rest of the baby teeth. If these needle teeth are clipped before you get your baby, the teeth will not grow back. You don’t need to do anything. The little stub will fall out when she loses her baby teeth.


TUSK REMOVAL: A pig’s tusks are rooted into the jawbone requiring surgery.  There is a risk of breaking the jawbone, infection, and therefore is not a healthy or safe option. Even if the jaw bone is not broken during tusk removal surgery the bone may be weaker for the life of the pig causing future breaks and infection risks more likely. Females AND males do get tusks, however most of the time the females tusks do not grow long enough to need trimming. Neutered and spayed pigs do get tusks. However, tusk growth is fueled by testosterone. Therefore an intact boar is going to have the fastest tusk growth, a neutered male and intact sow will be slower growth, and a spayed female will have the slowest tusk growth. Instead of removing the tusk teeth you may choose to have your vet file or trim them periodically.


TUSK TRIMMING: Females AND males do get tusks. Neutered and spayed pigs do get tusks. However, tusk growth is fueled by testosterone. Therefore an intact boar is going to have the FASTEST tusk growth, a neutered male and intact sow will be slower growth, and a spayed female will have the slowest tusk growth. Instead of removing the tusk teeth you may choose to have your vet file or trim them periodically. The frequency will depend on your individual pig, the rate your pig grows his tusks, and the risk to others. Some people never trim tusks. They prefer to leave the tusks natural. Families with other pets or small children may find tusks to present a danger, either by an aggressive act from the pig or by simply running too close to someone or rubbing against their leg– serious bodily damage can occur from these sharp teeth. Most people start trimming their pig’s tusks between 1.5 and 3 years of age. Most male pigs do not start to grow tusks until about 18 months or later. Some have yearly tusk trims, others follow their own schedule on an as needed basis. Some tusks can grow at a bad angle until they actually pierce the cheek of the pig. In this case, tusk trimming is not optional and must be maintained for the health and welfare of the pig.

Schedule a tusk trimming appointment with your veterinarian. Most say you should never trim tusks of a pig while awake. If they are screaming and inhale a piece of tusk you’re going to have big problems. They also stress easily and can suffer from Porcine Stress Syndrome. They can literally die from stress. I understand some people will restrain the frantic pigs for hoof trimming and tusk trimming, but the pig feels like he is fighting for his life. His instincts kick in and emotions take over, that takes quite a toll on them. As we know how smart pigs are they are going to remember that restraint and will be more cautious to avoid the trauma in the future, causing even more difficulty getting him to a vet or other basic care done. Isoflourane gas is the safest anesthesia for pigs, but it is expensive and not feasible for traveling veterinarians. Other anesthesia or sedatives may be used. Discuss options with your veterinarian.


From The Merck Veterinary Manual for pet owners:

Dental care is extremely important for potbellied pigs. Newborn pigs should have their 8 needle teeth trimmed to prevent injury to littermates and cuts on their mother’s breasts and underside. At about 5 to 7 months of age, the permanent canine teeth will erupt. These canine teeth grow continuously throughout the pig’s life. They should be first trimmed at about 1 year of age and then trimmed on an annual basis. Without trimming, the canine teeth will become elongated and cause discomfort and a misaligned bite. Pigs with elongated canine teeth may show persistent chewing motions and heavy salivation. Tooth trimming requires sedation or anesthesia and is often accompanied by a tetanus vaccination and removal of accumulated tartar and other debris from around other teeth to maintain good dental hygiene.


From The Merck Veterinary Manual for Veterinarians:

Dental Care

The 8 needle teeth (4 deciduous lateral incisors and 4 deciduous canines) of newborn PBPs should be trimmed to prevent injury to littermates and laceration of the sow’s underline. Four permanent canine teeth erupt at ~5–7 months of age and are first trimmed at or after 1 year of age. Elongated permanent canine teeth may cause discomfort, malocclusion, and persistent chewing motion and salivation. In PBPs, the canine teeth grow continually and should be cut about once a year using obstetrical wire, mechanical saws, or other instruments. Sedation or anesthesia is required. Teeth should be cut as close as possible to the gum line without cutting the oral mucosa or lips; there should be no exposed root canal after cutting the canine teeth of any type of swine. Tetanus antitoxin (500–1,500 U, depending on PBP size) and antibacterials are usually administered. In PBPs properly vaccinated with tetanus toxoid, a tetanus antitoxin injection is unnecessary. Tartar buildup can be removed manually by instrument scraping at the same time the canine teeth are cut. Dental cleaners for small animals may be used with care, positioning the head of the PBP downward during use to prevent water aspiration.

Geriatric PBPs may have abscessed and/or exposed tooth roots; sedation (tiletamine-zolazepam 2.2 mg/kg, IM, in ham) and examination of the oral cavity with or without endoscopy is indicated if anorexia and/or bruxism are reported. Radiographs may be necessary to diagnose tooth root abscess. Swelling followed by a draining tract at the angle of the mandible, especially in geriatric PBPs, indicates canine tooth abscess. Removal is challenging even for skilled surgeons and may result in mandibular fractures. However, PBPs seem to recover well after tooth extraction followed by antibiotics and tetanus prophylaxis



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