California Potbellied Pig Association, Inc
by Chris Christensen
Is it safer to anesthetize or to restrain a potbellied pig when trimming its hooves?
On young healthy non-obese pigs, it is really a matter of what is available. If the hoof trim is being done at a veterinarian office or hospital and Isoflurane (ISO) gas is used as the anesthetic, it is usually quite safe and will be the less stressful method on the pig, the owner and the veterinarian.
(Read the section of our web site under “Health/Medical Information/Anesthetics”)
Injectable anesthetics should ONLY be used when there is NO other option.
The real problem comes with older and/or obese potbellied pigs. These are the pigs most prone to serious leg problems caused by untrimmed hooves, but they are also the pigs most prone to have an adverse reaction to anesthetics and to being injured when manually restrained.
Methods of restraint vary from gripping the pig’s chest under its front legs and rolling it onto its tail and either holding it there or continuing to flip it onto its back. This is not too practical when dealing with pigs much over 150 lbs. Even if you are capable of lifting larger pigs, the danger of injuring their front legs becomes an issue. Larger pigs can sometimes be rolled onto their sides and then their backs and be restrained. This often requires pulling their legs out from under them, also creating a danger of injury. With tamer pet pigs you may be able to approach them while they are lying down and roll them onto their backs.
(For videos of pig flipping and hoof and tusk trimming, refer to the "General Health Care" page.)
Nearly all of these are at least two person projects with one person restraining the pig while the other person trims.
Probably the best, but least available method for older and overweight pigs is a squeeze chute. The pig is guided into an area between two padded cage like sections which can be pressed together holding the pig firmly between them. This structure can then usually be tilted, bring the feet off the ground where they can be trimmed. (This is the preferred method used at U C Davis Vet Hospital for older and/or obese potbellied pigs.)
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