That time we neutered a pot-bellied pig….

In vet school there was a course on pigs. I took this course, and did some very general pig care and learned some pig specific diseases. Then over the course of the past 10+ years, I have promptly forgotten this information. Pigs are generally not high on my list – I’m more of a dog person, but I have to admit that this particular pig was pretty cute, and certainly left a lasting impression on me.

Back in the summer of 2017, our rescue partners down in West Virginia contacted us regarding a family looking to surrender a pot-bellied pig that they could no longer keep. Alison was pumped – she had always wanted to foster a pig (why?? I cannot say, lol), so she asked if we would be willing to help it. I said sure, and figured we would give it a go.

So enter Cletus – the one year old, intact male pot-bellied pig. He arrived and settled in, and I confirmed that I still really knew nothing about pigs. He got a rabies vaccine, sure, other vaccines? Um…no? Feeding and husbandry? Let me do a quick google search to answer those questions. Other medical concerns? God, I hope not…or we will have to enlist help. He did great with her though, and loved dogs! He loved to run in the yard and would woof and bark at the dogs to get them to play – so cute! - and he loved his veggies!

Luckily for us he was very healthy, but we knew that we needed to neuter him so we could responsibly adopt him out. I’m not going to lie – I was terrified. Pigs are sensitive – they don’t always do great under anesthesia, and with my wealth of experience of having run anesthesia on exactly ZERO other pigs, it didn’t give me a great basis of experience of work with. The day we started to talk about what to use for his anesthesia, I of course enlisted Kira and vividly remember this conversation.


‘Hey Kira, I’ve been doing some research on anesthesia choices and was thinking we should sedate him with acepromazine and ketamine, and maybe some telazol, and then just use inhalant anesthesia.’


Kira – ‘I’m going to be honest, I want NOTHING to do with this…I’m not really comfortable, and I don’t really like working with pigs!’


Me (pretending Kira had not spoken) – ‘Ok so yeah, I think start with ace and ketamine, and inhalant and see how he does…the plan is to do it tomorrow and I’m definitely going to need your help.’


Kira – ‘I really don’t want to help with this one. I’m serious.’


Me (continuing to pretend that Kira was on board) – ‘Ok yeah, so tomorrow it is then!’ 😉


Needless to say, Kira was first in line to help the next day. Getting the sedation into him was the first hurdle – his screams were insane. The yelling, yodeling, screaming sounds of an angry pig are definitely something I will never forget! After chasing him around the bathroom in the treatment room for longer than I care to admit, we finally recognized that we had to pick him up to get this injection in. He was not a huge fan of being held, so as we wrestled with him to get the sedation into him and he screamed and carried on, poor Kira just stood by his head pretending to pat him on the head (she wasn’t even close enough to make contact), while yelling, ‘It’s ok, it’s ok, it’s ok’. I don’t think it really had the desired effect, as he continued to cry and carry on, ignoring her attempts at placation. Though Cletus would argue it was NOT ok, we did get the sedation into him, and Kira immediately left in a fluster and huff, ‘Nope, I’m not ok! I told you I didn’t want to help with this one!’

Things got a whole lot easier once he was sedated, and I’m very proud to say that the neuter went smoothly, as did his sedation and anesthesia in general (which I will point out here, Kira monitored his anesthesia with Amy, lol). We won’t mention here how I was literally watching videos on how to do this neuter as I was performing his surgery, as it is slightly different from dogs…but it’s ok, we figured this one out as we went and Cletus did great! He woke up a new, slightly lighter, man and recovered without incident. Cletus went on to get adopted by a wonderful family with pups, and they folded him into their family like he was just another dog. (Which honestly I think Cletus thinks he’s a dog anyway, so that works for him!) Do I think we will do another pig adoption ever?? Yeah, no…I don’t think that is in the cards for us as a rescue. Though I am very glad we helped Cletus, the experience of neutering him, though hilarious in hindsight, is one that I am completely comfortable never repeating. Never. Happy life Cletus!!

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