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Intact pigs suffer from the hormones surging through their body. This may not be as apparent in a breeding herd where they have an outlet for these urges and grievances. However, in a home environment, it is very obvious and damaging to the relationships with their beloved people, as well as damage to the house and furniture. Their hormones are so overwhelming they become frustrated and aggressive. Pigs become sexually mature at a very young age. This makes keeping intact piglets together beyond 8 weeks of age risky as siblings can easily impregnate each other.
Girls: Many veterinarians recommend spaying females as young as 6-8 weeks. When girls are not spayed they can become sexually frustrated and aggressive due to heat cycles every 21 days. While in heat, they will mark their territory by urinating wherever they stand and anywhere in the house. They may generally be in a foul mood or be destructive in the house. This is a shock to pig parents with a well behaved, potty trained pig that suddenly goes into heat and turns into an abusive, moody pig who forgets her potty training. Many girls also become aggressive to family pets while in heat, causing potentially dangerous fights between animals (pigs or dogs). The girls try to mount and hump anyone they get a desire for, including children. Some find this cute with a 7 or 8 pound piglet, but it becomes dangerous as she matures to 40, 60, 100 pounds. You cannot train this behavior out of the pigs because the hormones are overriding their common sense and appreciation of repercussions. It doesn’t matter if they *know better* than to bite, lunge, charge, jump on people, when her hormones rage she simply can’t control herself. Female pigs, when left intact, are at high risk of developing reproductive cancers, including ovarian, mammary, and uterine. Intact females will also be at high risk for life threatening infections such as pyometra and mastitis. Not only will her behavior be affected by being intact, she will be in danger of serious health risks.
Boys: Male piglets should be neutered as young as possible. Many breeders will have the boys neutered between 3-8 weeks old, before they go to their adoptive families. Intact male pigs are called boars. Boars DO NOT make good pets. Boars are constantly raging with hormones. They will hump, ejaculate (on you, furniture, clothing, carpet, other pets, guests, toys, stuffed animals), they become aggressive and are more prone to escaping or roaming as their hormones drive them to find a mate and reproduce. They won’t enjoy you because they are testosterone driven. Their tusks will grow fast and will need frequent trimming as they can use them as weapons against you. Tusks have also been known to grow into the face of the pig causing pain and infection. The more hormones surging through the pig, the faster the tusks grow and the more frequently they will need trimmed. Even the occasional mild mannered boar will have a wretched musky smell from their prepuce. They can emit a horrendous odor if they are scared or excited, or just because. Their urine will also stink very strongly because of the prepuce gland. They most likely will not potty train because they want to leave their mark or scent, just in case a female passes by. Even if a male is the rare well behaved boar, he is prone to testicular cancer, increased risk of prostate infections, preputial ulcers, and other health conditions.
Please Spay and Neuter, for the sake of your beloved pig. Any surgery, whether animal or human, will have associated risks. However, the risks of not spaying or neutering are far more dangerous for your beloved pig. Not spaying or neutering the pet pig is the leading cause of behavioral problems which leads to them being abandoned or re-homed!
Pigs are sensitive to some types of anesthesia, so an experienced, skilled veterinarian is vital. Isoflurane gas is the safest anesthetic for pet pigs. Discuss the best anesthetic plan for your pig with your veterinarian.
The more weight or fat the pig has can complicate the anesthesia administration and procedure. Spaying or neutering your pet pig while they are younger is advantageous. Older pigs can be spayed/neutered but the procedure is often more costly and complicated. However, leaving the pig intact is more risky than the procedure itself. Larger females may benefit from a flank incision rather than an abdominal incision. In this procedure, the surgeon will cut into the side of the pig for her spay, rather than her abdomen.
In males, the inguinal ring should be closed to avoid a dangerous hernia. Inguinal hernias occur when the intestines slip through the opening where the testicles were. There are two places the vet can make the incision, either near the testicles under the anus or in the abdominal area. If both testicles have not descended the procedure is more complicated and requires a skilled surgeon’s attention. This is a more expensive procedure than a basic neuter because of the added complications.
Some veterinarians will remove the preputial diverticulum or “scent gland” in males during the neuter procedure. This procedure will minimize the pooling and discharge of foul smelling preputial fluid. The older the male piglet is when he is neutered, the more likely that this procedure will be necessary.
Anesthetics and pain medications are constipating. Add in pain and soreness after such a major surgery and poop problems can escalate quickly. To keep everything moving smoothly in the digestive tract you can give your pig 1/4 can of 100% pure canned pumpkin twice a day for two days before and 3-4 days after surgery. Pumpkin has a bulking effect and has the benefit of avoiding constipation while bulking poop, making it softer and easier to pass while also adding moisture to the diet to avoid dehydration.
Most veterinarians recommend NO food or water after midnight before surgery. Please follow the recommendation of your veterinarian.
Once you pick up your pig from surgery, bring him or her home to a quiet secluded place without children or other pets. The pig needs to rest. They also need to be kept warm. Your pig will have a harder time regulating his/her body temperature immediately after surgery, so he/she should be kept in a warm, quiet place. It is generally best not to feed immediately after surgery. The evening after the procedure, it is advised to feed small portions because the anesthesia can make your pig nauseous. Your pig may return to its regular feeding schedule the following day. Always follow the recommendation for after care from your veterinarian.
Pain management is important after surgery. When the pigs are in pain they are reluctant to eat. Pigs are prone to ulcers created by stress or lack of food in the stomach for too long. Therefore, keep the pig’s pain managed and offer small meals throughout the day. Hydration is important for normal body functions and to prevent constipation. After surgery, give all medicines with food to protect the stomach. Feed your pig easily digestible snacks to keep him or her eating. Obviously processed foods, greasy foods, or spicy foods wouldn’t be good for a nauseous pig. Canned pumpkin, applesauce, yogurt, cottage cheese, popsicles, a bite of ice cream, peanut butter, hydrating fruits/veggies like watermelon and cucumber are all excellent choices for after surgery care.
A pig’s ovaries are situated right below her bladder. Occasionally after a spay procedure, your female may have potty accidents. Be patient as she heals and strengthens her controlling muscles. Keeping her in a place where cleanup is easy will keep the healing period stress free for everyone. Do not let the pig run, jump, play, climb on furniture, etc for a couple of days.
Usually, no baths or water on the incision for 10 days is recommended.
Keep an eye on the incision daily. If it becomes swollen, hard, red, inflamed, oozing, or has any discharge or discoloration, contact your veterinarian immediately for instructions. In case of a protruding bulge, contact your veterinarian immediately to discuss the possibility of a hernia, either abdominal or inguinal. If you have any concerns about your pig’s incision or procedure, contact your veterinarian immediately. It is best to have your veterinarian recheck your pig and find out that it is normal than to miss a potential problem.
Hormones will remain with the pigs for another few weeks. Boys will still be fertile up to 2 weeks after surgery. Their behaviors and odors may remain during this time but will improve as the hormones wear off. Girls will also have lingering hormones that may affect potty habits for a couple weeks.
If the vet has instructed you to return for removal of stitches follow his/her directions. Some veterinarians will use dissolvable stitches that are buried in the skin and will be absorbed by the body. However, sometimes a fragment of a stitch is not absorbed and will poke out through the skin sometime after surgery, this can be weeks or even months later. Do not pull or tug at it, as you could damage the insides of the pig. Contact your veterinarian for instruction if this happens.
NO ASPIRIN products before/after surgery without veterinarian direction. Aspirin can increase bleeding which can cause serious complications with surgery and/or healing.
Spay & Neuter risk vs. benefit
Identifying spayed or neutered vs. intact males and females via pictures
The Merck Veterinary Manual Spay/Neuter guidelines
Advantages of spay/neuter
NAPPA’s spay/neuter recommendations
Pig Pals Sanctuary Spay/Neuter advice
CAPPA Spay Neuter advice
Spay Procedure, graphic pictures
Neuter procedure, graphic pictures