California Potbellied Pig Association, Inc
Spay and Neuter
By Chris Christensen
We are often asked if a male or female potbellied pig is a better pet. As near as we can tell if the pigs are altered there is little difference. The males will usually grow their tusks a little faster and are perhaps (in my opinion) a little more mischief prone. After all, they are little boys. The females are just sneakier.
Why spay or neuter your pet potbellied pig? Far beyond the need to control the overpopulation and the cruelty and abuse that overpopulation causes, are the health and living condition problems caused by not altering these animals.
In a feral situation these pigs would be constantly breeding and many of the offspring would die to predation and the other hardships that keep feral populations in check. Those same factors would also affect the overall lifespan of the feral pig, making many of the long term health problems moot.
A female potbellied pig is capable of producing a 100 or more offspring in its lifetime, and considering the difficulty involved with finding good homes for even one rescued potbellied pig, keeping a pig pregnant for its health is not the least bit feasible. Problems with tumors and other reproductive problems are very prevalent in female potbellied pigs and spaying them at between six and twelve weeks of age is recommended; however, some veterinarians prefer that the pig weigh at least 20 lbs. (Please read the article below on spaying potbellied pigs.) Also we have found that a full spay by an experienced potbellied pig veterinarian, not just an ovariectomy is required to ensure the pig’s long term health.
An un-neutered male potbellied pig can become sexually active at six to ten weeks of age. The pig will exude a musky smell which many people find objectionable. This smell will, of course, also be transferred to any area where this un-neutered male pig is housed. The pig will be following its biological imperative to breed and may show signs of aggression or be overly amorous which can lead to the destruction of items like sofas, chairs and other inanimate objects. The un-neutered male pig may also be difficult to keep penned or housed as he will be constantly in search of a mating partner. Neutering a male potbellied pig is not the same as neutering a domestic pig and needs to be done by an experienced potbellied pig veterinarian.
The Older Female Potbellied Pig
By Nancy Shepherd
I have observed over the years that when sows are not kept in the rhythm of breed, gestate, lactate, wean, breed, gestate, lactate, wean, their hormones become unbalanced and they tend to develop various intrauterine infections or problems related to the estrous cycle. Some of these conditions are: pyometra, cystic endometrial hyperplasia, endometritis, and aerobic bacterial infections. Bruce Lawhorn, DVM of Texas A & M reports other conditions that are likely to develop include: leiomyosarcomas, leioyomas, ovarian cysts, and vulvar bleeding. Dr. Lawhorn further states: "older and larger potbellied pigs tend to be more of an anesthetic risk. Spaying these older, obese potbellied pigs while in heat can be a veterinarian's worst nightmare..." Personally, I have had four older sows develop such problems and emergency ovariohysterectomies were performed.
If a female potbellied pig is to be a pet and not a breeder, the pig should be spayed as soon as possible. They can start cycling as early as three months of age. Spaying a female piglet is no more difficult than spaying a cat or dog.
The two key factors here are:
1) Working with a veterinarian who has experience spaying potbellied pigs.
2) Having this procedure done between the ages of six and twelve weeks, before the first heat cycle, and definitely NOT when the pig is in heat.
There is a bit of controversy concerning the best age to spay, but the consensus I have gleaned from talking with many breeders, veterinarians and pet owners is the earlier the better. The proof is in. Older unspayed female pigs, whether pets or breeding stock, tend to develop intrauterine problems.
1) Spay female pet pigs at an early age, thus extinguishing this problem all together.
2) Spay female breeding pigs when their breeding days are over.
"The paradise of my fancy is one where pigs have wings."
G. K. Chesterton