Having a pig farm in the family gives me a bit of a distorted view on the world. For example, I’m a complete pork snob and would rather go without then eat crap sausages.
However, I find it bizarre vets start panicking and fervently flicking through dusty textbooks on the practice shelf before going out on the incredibly infrequent pig call.
When I think about it, though, it isn’t so bizarre. I can’t remember the last time we had a vet out to the pigs. My step-grandad has been looking after them and developing his own bloodline for 50 years – if there’s anything he doesn’t know about pigs, it’s not worth knowing.
The UK pig farming industry has been declining over the years to the point where there are very few pig farms around, and those that still exist rarely need a vet because the farmers know what they’re doing.
We do get taught about pigs at uni, but they are seen so irregularly in practice that the “P” word sends a shiver of fear down any vet’s neck.
But what about the pet pig? I went on one pig call while on placement at a mixed practice, and finding out we were going to see a Gloucester old spot (one of the breeds we have at home), I was intrigued. As it turned out, the pigs were “rescued” from going to slaughter and the pig we had been called out to was lame, but still weight bearing.
Suspecting a mild break or soft tissue damage after a compromised examination (a quick manipulation before the sow decided she was walking off), the vet gave an anti-inflammatory and advised re-examination a few days later.
On discussing the case with my step-grandad, he disagreed, and muttered something about mycotic lameness or remnant erysipelas. His advice was to “bang in some penicillin” (farmer’s favourite) or lincomycin.
However, on the re-examination, the pig had improved and the owner was given oral anti-inflammatories to continue with.
After relaying this advancement, the pig expert then retracted to: “Well, it could have caught its leg”.
Either way, the pig has improved.
Even though pigs are rare in practice, I think it’s important not to be scared of something you don’t know much about (the same also applies to exotic pets) and to always know the books are there for back up. Failing that, in my case, my step-grandad is a phone call away – even if the second opinion is to be taken with a pinch of salt.