Medical update

Posted in Day-to-day, Medical at 1:29 pm by ACR&S

Piglet, the little incisor-less piggy we took in at the beginning of April, had her remaining incisors pulled on the 17th. There was absolutely no sign of regrowth from the missing incisors in the month and a half we had her, so our vet was convinced that the tooth buds were dead, and that pulling the two remaining teeth would be easier on her than having monthly anesthesia to trim the teeth (without their uppers to grind against, the incisors would grow and grow until they impacted her upper gums).

The surgery was risky because Piglet has been in such poor body condition. She was so thin when she came to us, it took forever to get her stabilized above 700g, which is the minimum weight the vet felt would allow her to survive an extended anesthesia. There was a good chance that after all this effort, we’d lose her.

Fortunately, just a couple hours after she went in, I got the call that her surgery went very well. She was awake and taking syringed Critical Care very quickly afterwards, which was excellent. Here’s a picture of the extracted teeth. The blue lines roughly indicate where the gumline was – piggy teeth curve WAY down into the jaw! They are laying against the printed boxes on a GL weight record, for size reference.

Unfortunately, as soon as we picked her up we noticed something else was wrong: her right eye was dry looking and slightly swollen. It shortly developed a reddish spot. We traipsed back into the vet and he thinks that her eye rubbed against something during surgery or recovery. She had a definite corneal abrasion and would have to be on antibiotic eye drops, in addition to the oral antibiotics and pain meds for the tooth extraction.

The vet\'s e-collarTo make matters worse, the eye was clearly bothering her, and she persisted in trying to scratch it with her hind leg. The vet had to fit her with an e-collar to prevent her from causing further damage. The only e-collar small enough was actually a bird collar. He cut the central opening larger to accommodate the larger neck of a piggy, but it was designed to be very wide and stiff to prevent a bird from removing it. Poor Piglet could hardly walk with it on.

I was concerned about having to use an e-collar – they are bad for pigs and rabbits, for several reasons. First and foremost, both species are coprophages and must eat their cecal droppings in order to complete their normal digestive cycle. With an e-collar, they cannot reach these nutrient-rich pellets, and may quite quickly develop digestive problems such as stasis, because without them digestion does not occur correctly. This is compounded if the e-collar interferes with normal eating, too. This one certainly did, as Piglet could not even lower her head to reach her bowl.


However, we really didn’t have many other options with Piglet. She absolutely had to have something between her eye and her feet. When we got her home, the first thing I did was take off her collar and give her a chance to eat while DKMS stood guard against eye scratching, and I tried to figure out some alternatives to the collar. I figured she would spend all her time scratching, or her gums would hurt too much to eat, and I’d have to re-collar and handfeed her. Boy was I wrong. She went after her bowl of mash like a buzzsaw, actually STANDING in it to lick it up against the far side of the bowl!


At the advice of the good people on Guinea Lynx, we were advised to construct a new e-collar out of interfacing, which is a stiff but flexible fabric material used in sewing. While she was eating, I made one up, and after she’d eaten her fill, I taped it on. She was NOT happy. But at least she could bend her head down, lie down, and reach her bowl, now.

She managed to keep the collar on all night, much to my surprise (these guys are often very inventive at getting a foot inside the neck hole and wiggling out of them). She’d definitely eaten some more mush overnight, too. I took the collar off for about an hour, and although she wasn’t thrilled about breakfast, I did see her eat several cecals and do quite a bit of grooming. She only scratched at her eye once, and it looks slightly less red and swollen, although still very dry. Maybe, if it’s better tonight, she can go a little longer without the collar!

The next few days will be critical for Piglet. We must keep her eye from getting infected, because an infection that close to the surgery in her mouth could spread quite easily and become fatal. We also have to make sure she keeps eating, as the antibiotics and surgery have compounded the eating problems she already had with missing teeth. If we can just get both of these issues resolved, we can work on getting her to eat more whole foods, and that will allow us to try to find a cagemate for her. The ultimate goal of her rescue was to allow this poor, lonely, malnourished girl to have a shot at a normal piggy life. At this point we just have to wait and see whether that will be possible.

Eye - day 3Update: This morning, here eye definitely looks a little better!

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