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, a common bacterial disease called erysipelas, and an unusual disease called Dipity Pig. 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 common health problems in mini-pigs?
Urinary Tract Problems
Young, male mini-pigs commonly develop bladder and/or urethral stones, scientifically known as urolithiasis. This disease occurs when urinary tract stones (uroliths) form and lodge in the urethra, causing a life-threatening urinary tract obstruction. These stones are formed by an accumulation of crystals and minerals that form a round mass.
Factors that contribute to this problem include infrequent opportunities to urinate due to being housed indoors, improper nutrition, and a narrow/underdeveloped urethra from neutering too early. Affected pigs may strain to urinate, have little to no urine or bloody urine. They are lethargic or restless, and have a swollen, painful abdomen. Pigs with these signs should be seen by a veterinarian immediately as they will 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, un-spayed female mini-pigs commonly develop leiomyoma, a type of uterine cancer. 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 the cancerous uterus by spaying her. 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. This condition is a common result of obesity and the formation of 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 and rub on the eyeball. Pigs with distichiasis constantly rub their eyes. They 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 identifying clinical signs and seeing the malformed eyelashes. Treatment involves sedating the pig, removing the abnormal eyelashes, and treating secondary infection with eye medication.
Unvaccinated mini-pigs may develop a bacterial disease called erysipelas. The bacterium 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, then break out 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 red, diamond-shaped, raised skin lesions on 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 medication. Your veterinarian may prevent erysipelas by vaccinating your young pig and recommending annual boosters.
Dipity pig is an uncommon syndrome seen in pot belly and commercial swine alike. The clinical signs are so specific and odd that this disease is diagnosed based on physical exam findings and exclusion of other diseases or abnormal findings. Pigs suffering from dipity pig exhibit signs of severe pain in their backs and will dip away from anyone who tries to touch it - hence the name of the disease. Occasionally, weeping wounds or cracks in the skin may appear on the back as well. The pigs may exhibit such profound pain that they lose function in their hind ends.
The disease starts suddenly in otherwise healthy pigs. The disease is hypothesized to be linked to a virus and similar to shingles in people, as it sometimes begins during a time of stress. Treatment is pain medication (NSAIDs), supportive care, time, and reduction of stress.
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 spreads (metastasizes) to lymph nodes. If a veterinarian completely removes it before it has metastasized, surgery can be curative. Melanoma is generally fatal once it has metastasized.
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, 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. Newer rodenticides are not responsive to vitamin K treatment. Therefore, it is critical that all rodenticides be kept securely away from pigs.
Decorative plants such as yew, azaleas, rhododendrons, and oleander are just a few very toxic plants and as little as a few leaves can be lethal.
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