by Phyllis Battoe (February 2001)
The uterine infections and tumors has become a problem for pigs across the Country and seems to affect mostly the older girls that people have. The uterine infections happen only to females still intact. This may have to do with heat cycles etc.
Tumors: There are few symptoms of the growth of the tumors except to the most discerning eye of the owner. The pig may appear to have a swelling on one side or a distended stomach in one area. Eventually the loss of weight and overall well being of the pig is affected. In the early stages and sometimes in the later stages, there is no rise in temperature nor lack of appetite, both key things we watch for with our pigs.
Most of the cases with these kinds of tumors are non malignant, but not always. The tumors can grow to very large size before the diagnosis is made. One in CA was weighed in at 70 pounds (Pictures, warning: graphic) and one in PA caught early at 35 pounds. In most cases the prime area seems to be an attachment to the uterus. The only cure for this is surgery.
It is far better to have that young pig spayed than to have to put an older pig through the surgery when it is compromised by the tumor once a tumor exists. This is not to say that everyone should run out and spay these older females now that we know this, but it is reason to watch a little closer and mention should your pig show any of the above symptoms.
Spaying is not easy on an older pig and my vet personally really does not want to do them unless it is a medical necessity. So we aren't saying go out and find a vet to spay your old girls. This does however tell us that when at all possible, get them spayed as youngsters when it is easy on them. We have always known that spaying the one and only house pig still had lots of merit as the once a month PMS that the females can go through made life uneasy for all of us. This is another more important reason to have it done on our pets.
It also gives us something else to watch out for as much as possible. It is good that we are now aware of this problem and gives us a chance to discuss it with our vets should we think it's a problem to our own animals.
Uterine Infections: The uterine infections are also called Pyometra. This is an infection inside the uterus that can cause major problems and even death if not treated. Symptoms include running a temperature, poor appetite, general malaise of the pig and sometimes a discharge from the vulva. This is something that only intact females have and the most thorough treatment is a spay.
Pigs that have the discharge are less likely to be as bad as those with no discharge. At least some of the infection is moving out. The discharge can be yellow or white and sometimes green. Some pigs do not have any discharge and that means the uterus can be full of pus and infection. In severe cases left untreated the uterus breaks and peritonitis sets in which is often fatal.
Antibiotics can hold the infection down and in some early cases may appear to fix the problem, but it has been found that the safest surest way of treatment is a complete spay. This problem if caught early and treated can be fixed. Once again if the pig is spayed this would not be a problem at all.
Cancers: We have long known that pigs are able to get cancer. One of the most common is the mammary gland type where you might find a hard knot on the teat line of the pig. (Gives you good reason for that belly rub every day as you feel for this.) Pigs have shown up with pancreatic cancer, skin cancer, lymph gland melanomas etc.
Females are showing cancer growths in the vulva area and intact males have shown it in their testicles. Its important that you go over your pig looking for any unusual lumps, bumps etc. on a routine basis. Not that I feel all are operable, but the vastness of our scientific research says that some are fixable.
I would never suggest surgery on old pigs that will stress easily or who will probably be gone before the cancer ever gets them. For these a good quality of life for the time remaining, as long as the appetite stays good is the best we have to offer.
Copyrighted by Phyllis Battoe