I thought I´d just share my experiences with pigs and abscesses for the benefit of those who might find themselves in similar situations.
My boar Clyde developed an abscess beneath his chin which became quite large in a very short space of time. As he was a Sheltie (Silkie) the hair beneath his chin hid the lump until it became pretty big - lesson here - examine your pigs regularly for irregularities. I got him to the vet promptly and she was unable to aspirate any pus out of the abscess. She recommended he undergo surgery to remove it. Clyde had the abscess removed and came round well from the anaesthetic. He was on Baytril and was due to have his stitches taken out in about 10 days.
Three days after the surgery, he stopped eating. I began hand feeding and made repeated trips back to the vet, who gave him intravenous fluid and vitamin injections. She advised me to take him off the Baytril, which I did. I spent a further two days hand feeding him. He sat in one corner of his pen for the whole of these days, except for the times when I was hand feeding him. On the second day I took a sad little bag of bones back to the vet. The incision on his neck was beginning to become infected and he still refused to eat. I asked what his chances were and the vet advised that euthenasia would probably be the kindest thing. I walked out of the surgery empty handed and blinded by tears.
About two months later, Clyde´s daughter Biscuit, developed an abscess on her neck. Heart sinking, I took her to the vet. By this time, I´d begun to search the guinea pig forums on the net and had read a lot of other people´s accounts of a similar situation. I asked the vet to drain the abscess, pointing out that Biscuit was far too young to undergo surgery (she was six weeks old at the time. In fairness, the vet didn´t argue with me!). She did so and I spent two weeks flushing and cleaning the abscess myself (much to Biscuit´s outrage - I would not have believed a pig could shriek so loudly!). The vet prescribed antibiotics and before I gave them to Biscuit every day I stuffed her full of acidophulous. The wound on her neck shrank to nothing - you can´t even feel a scar. She is now a fat and healthy pig of 5 months, although perhaps not quite as noisy!
Incidentally, the pigs were fed lucerne hay at the time of these abscesses. Sharp, spiky lucerne hay. I got a splinter wedged under a fingernail and that festered for a week. So you can imagine what the hay was doing to their delicate little mouths. Since swapping to oaten hay, I have had no more trouble with abscesses.
I´m not saying the vet was wrong in performing surgery (it was a very large abscess) just that there are sometimes less drastic alternatives, which pose far less of a risk to your pig and would be worth considering.
Thanks for posting your experiences. From what I understand, sometimes the abscess can be removed "encapsulated" which helps stop the spread of whatever bacteria is at work. It is always hard to second guess vets but I agree I have heard it important to keep the wound open and flush it daily so it heals from the inside out.
I´m sorry you lost your pet. It can be heart breaking.
Here is a pic of a curved tip syringe used to flush an abscess:
Edited by Lynx on 7/19/2003, 7:48 am
Oh joy, abscesses. Yuk, yuk.
My very first encounter was with Raichu in Nov 2000. Hers was lanced, drained and shunted. Hers healed very quickly. http://www.geocities.com/jczmom/raichu.html
I´ve had the "encapsulated" abscesses removed on 3 pigs. All three had abscesses on their necks just under the chin.
One was completely successful with no complications. (Aug 2001) This method was handy as it didn´t require daily flushing & squeezing, though the incision (and empty area where the abscess once resided) did fill up with serum. Was enough for a second vet visit, but quickly diagnosed as serum with a needle aspiration and the lump did go down on its own. This was Sissy, who has been adopted, and Sissy now owns "I am my pigs mom"
The second surgery was not successful. My little Shyla passed away during surgery. Very difficult and unexpected loss.
Third removal was October 2001 and at a new vet; abscess was removed and staples were used to close the incision. FrankenFrizzy ... unfortunately my camera was in the shop!
My vet showed me the abscess after he removed it. Completely encased in fleshy looking material. He opened it by squeezing to reveal ... well, cottage cheese.
Major epidemic -- shortly after having Frizzy all squared away and taken care of, 4 other pigs also had abscesses develop under their chins, all within a few weeks! Arrggh!
Shunts were inserted on the others and I spent my days flushing abscesses. Some patients are better than others about receiving treatments at home............
The how to:
*Cleaning the abscess daily requires warm compresses to loosen/soften the scab, flushing with a betadine solution and gently squeezing out pus. My vet gave me a syringe with a long thin tip to insert into the shunt and flush fluid out the other side of the shunt. This is done three times per day for about 4 days. The shunt is then removed. Flushing & cleaning continues until the skin healed from the inside to the outside. * My vet has prescribed Baytril for 10 days with each infection.
Cultures were done: abscess contents are not growing in a lab after 5 & 7 days. Determined to be "sterile abscess caused by puncture wounds/staph".
This was a very frustrating experience and (knock on wood) I am glad it is over! This occurred in mid October until early November.
My vet did not feel it was anything I was doing, or not doing. He commented on how clean my pigs always are & he didn´t feel it was a husbandry problem. He didn´t seem to think that hay would cause puncture wounds in their mouths and throats, but the only thing I have changed is where I buy my hay. One bale was particularly "stalky" and that is when the problems started & ended. I now look for very soft hay.
Raichu´s shunt is pictured below -- I should add that she had to be kept from her cagemate as Mimi wanted to chew the shunt out of her face!
Edited by imanut4u on 1/17/2002, 9:40 am
Lennard´s abscess - exerpts from email correspondence.
9/18/00 - Lennard is at the vet to get an abscess on his throat
drained, discovered yesterday during their weekly weigh-in and
checkup. It has a thick encapulation and the vet didn´t think
lancing was going to do it. So she´s going to remove the whole
thing. She said there were better places it could be located for
this procedure - lots of important nerves.
This is now more complicated than a simple draining.
9/18/00 - Once a week we weigh them, check their teeth, eyes, feet
and feel them up for lumps. This felt like a lump. Wasn´t present
in other pigs.
Lennard is home. Was a lymph node that abscessed. The vet´s saving
it in case they need to send it for biopsy, but she´s pretty sure
it´s not a tumour.
So they took out the lymph node. I asked if he needed it - they
said he had others and even if the abscess healed the lymph node
would be toast from scarring. I think the vet said it
burst(leaked?) while she was taking it out so I gotta really watch
for any signs of septicemia(systemic infection). Lethargy I´m
guessing is a symptom. He´s on baytril and the vet said she
irrigated the hell out of the wound with iodine and something else.
Saw it - size of a cherry looked like an organ, saw where the puss
She did say this morning when we took him in that if it was anyone
else´s pig - they wouldn´t have caught it. Hard to believe - it was
pretty obvious. She said it would have burst for sure at some
point - grew in a week - he might have not made it another week -
but just conjecture.
9/26/00 - Len´s back in to the vet getting his throat reopened.
Complication - another abscess formed. Don´t know if she´s removing
or draining. Probably take weeks to kill it off - I hate abscesses.
9/27/00 2:39pm - Lennard is doing badly - the surgery was hard on
him. the vet had to take a ton of stuff out. He´s in a lot of pain
- can´t eat or drink because the pain is in the throat. Took him in
for torbitrol(sp?) this am - will go back again this pm. Hot
compressing his throat right now. Put all the other pigs on
Baytril in case it´s cervical lymphadenitis(sp?). Lennard is
quarantined. The vet sent samples to the lab to rule out tumour -
is sure it´s not but wants a confirmation.
The only good thing is he´s a heavyweight and can take recuperation
weight loss. Still, starting to feel lonely as I realise our vets
probably have gone further than the rest and there´s less and less
point trying for answers on the net. You know the only reason I got
on the net was to get med info for my pigs - and now it turns out
there´s little out there that our vets don´t already know. Bad
turn of events.
Can´t forcefeed him - too stressful. He had a hydration subcue.
Have to wait until the pain can be managed enough for him to eat.
He tries for lettuce but he is an attack eater and to fling the
lettuce around hurts him too much. Can´t seem to settle for just
eating it - wants to throw it first.
9/27/00 7:38pm - 3 or 4 years ago when Tiramissou had an abscess on
her lower jaw from getting her head stuck in a hamster toy
overnight at the petstore the vet packed the hole with dental
stuff. Lennard´s is too deep with no exit for the packing material
short of cutting it out. We did discuss using that stuff in
abscesses caused by neutering - but didn´t need to when surgical
glue put an and to their incidence.
If he ends up with shunts - it might be worth considering.
Right now, I´m just back from the vet - another subcue and more
torbitrol. We´re keeping him doped up until the pain recedes
naturally. But sooner or later - he´s gonna have to eat. Could
only get 1cc wet Critical Care down him. He chokes and lurches
forward because it hurts to swallow.
9/27/00 8:18pm - One of the vets called - she´s staying late
(clinic is closed now) to give Len a sulfa shot. Some lab results
are back and there´s a ton of bacteria in there resistant to
baytril. No sign of strep - needs more investigation to see if
there is a risk of contagion. She wants him to get a headstart on a
diff. antibiotic rather than wait until tomorrow.
And yeah, he´s the one-toed Lennard.
9/27/00 10:57pm - He just died in my arms.
9/28/00 - The vet called me today. She wasn´t on today but went by
the clinic and heard the news. She said she was shocked and hadn´t
expected this to happen. She had seen him yesterday and thought he
would pull thru but did say - he wouldn´t be able to take any more
She said there was no other way to handle the abscess. Because it
was in the lymph gland - it had to be removed - draining wasn´t an
option. It wasn´t like the abscess Chilla had that was just under
the skin and could take shunts and flushing - this was too deep. We
think that most likely septacaemia(sp?) set in. When she operated
she said it was all over the place. We´re culturing a sample for
strep. Until then all pigs are on baytril.
I really wish I could have learned something from this - but we did
everything right. The only thing tha may have made a difference is
a different antibiotic at the start - only my thought - all the
textbooks prescribed baytril.
All I can think to do is to immediately culture all abscesses to
insure you use the right drug. But even that takes enough time -
the damage can already be done. Really hate this so much.
9/29/00 - Results of culture are back. No step. A fungus. Virulent.
Cows get it - called wooden tongue. Not contagious. But the puss is
exta cheesy - filaments - won´t drain. Nothing we could have done
But the vet has decided from now on she´s going to culture all
abscesses on the off chance a specific antibiotic could help. She
was surprised it wasn´t strep. Said she was very depressed and it
wasn´t even her pigs.
Edited by pinta on 1/13/2002, 6:32 am
After Biscuit´s treatment I think I was on hyperalert for abcsesses and when I found out that 4 of my other pigs (they were all babies) had what seemed to be tiny lumps under their chin, all in the exact same spot I nearly had heart failure (I actually posted about this on CG ages ago). I kept a very close eye on the ´abscesses´ and when they failed to get any bigger at all, breathed a heartfelt sigh of relief. In retrospect, I think I was actually feeling a part of the jawbone. D´oh!
This pic was sent to me of an abscess that was removed and stitched closed. It healed fine (most abscesses require a shunt and daily flushing). Cupesn sent it to me to use in the medical pages (no abscess topic yet) and also posted it at CG.
I also suggest checking out Teresa Murphy´s medical page. She includes several photos of an abscess in one of her boars and recounts the problems she had keeping the shunt in place (a collar was used to prevent the boar from removing it). See:
Edited by Lynx on 7/19/2003, 7:38 am
I thought I´d share my story of Spot´s abscess. I came home after being gone for two days to find Spot with puss coming out the top of his head. He is not a crested pig, but the puss made all the hair on his head lay down like a crest, kind of covering his eyes. Upon closer examination, it looked like a big boil about the size of a quarter -- when I wiped the puss, more came oozing out.
I rushed him to emergency (luckily my exotics vet was working). The vet said it could have been caused by a puncture wound or a boil that just grew from the inside. It was at least a week old and up to a month old. I can´t believe I never noticed it. I mean, I hold him every night and often scratch his head. Weird.
The vet had to shave his head to get a better look at it. This was very traumatizing for little Spot (who we later found had heart problems). The portion he had shaved exposed a big swollen lump, about the size of a quarter with three holes oozing with blood and puss. He continued shaving and then drained the puss and blood clots. After 20 minutes or so, they brought me a very limp pig with a shoestring type thing going through his head to keep the wound open. Spot was now making these little convulsive jerks with his body. The vet said the jerks were just a result of him coming off the anesthesia. I held him for another 10 minutes while they prepared the meds. During that time he became more responsive and coherent. I gave him a piece of cabbage that he kind of nibbled on and drove him home.
When I got him home, I held him for a long time. When I put him down he immediately ran under his box head first with his little bottom poking out. Like he was trying to protect his head. After a couple hours, he came out of his box and started begging for food!!! I was so happy, I cried. This was a good sign. I gave him cukes and lettuce and held him for the rest of the night.
I was instructed to "tug" on the string every morning and night to keep the wound open and not scabbing over. This was quite difficult as Spot would violently throw his head around, spraying blood everywhere. He was given pain meds which I administered about one hour prior to doctoring the wound. He was also on an antibiotic.
My sweet little Spot didn´t make it. Turns out that with his heart problems, his system just wasn´t strong enough to deal with an infection. An autopsy showed that the infection was much deeper than we thought, wrapping around his eardrum. He couldn´t confirm where the wound originated (there was no infection in the ear or sinuses) and we assume it was due to a bite.
Here is a picture of Spot with his bloody drain.
And here is a top view.
I doubt it was from a bite. Pigs aim for the nose or the eyes on the face. To bite directly on the head almost requires the pig to attack from above. I think Fido is blameless in this.
Pinta, I think you have a thing for Fido.
Just kidding, now that you mention it, it would be a rather awkward place to bite... right smack on top of the head.
I don´t know what else it could be. I inspected the cage and run for sharp objects and found nothing.
I´m not convinced the top of the head is so inaccessible...
An unlikely bite location, yes.
I´ve seen pigs cower by putting their head down underneath the head of the aggressor. Punky did this with Ginger. Maaa does this with Piglet.
And when Missy was here, Munchkin got bit on top of the peak of her back/spine. My guess is that happened during a fur-flying brawl inside one of the houses.
I guess we´ll never know.
Backs and shoulders are standard targets. But to bite on top of the head leaves the aggressor´s throat vulnerable.
It could happen but in all my years of pig spats I´ve had war wounds just about everywhere except for the top of the head and the underside(tummy). Split lips, split snouts, ripped skin around the eyes and ripped ears are where the head wounds show up.
I´d expect other wounds on a pig that was bitten on the head indicating there had been a brawl ball of fur.
Pigs usually leave telltale puncture scabs on their victims......I have a pig with a perfect mouth shape cut out from her ear.
I think you would also notice a bite wound on top of a crested pig´s head before it totally healed. An insect wound has a much smaller entry hole and would go unnoticed. There is also the possibility that the infection was already there, deep down, and worked it´s way up in the form of an abscess.
It could have happened but I think it´s more likely something else was the cause.
I hate to see Fido getting a bad rap.
> It could have happened but I think it´s more likely something else was the cause.
I hate to see Fido getting a bad rap.
Roger that. You´ve seen dozens more pigs than I have, Pinta... in more combinations and scrapes than I´ll ever see.
Have fun picking out Fido´s new cagemate, Sunny. The new pig will be lucky -- you´re giving him a good home.
Just thinking back on how most spats start.....usually the fight picker nips the butt. The victim than spins around and the fight is on.
Sometimes it´s just an innocent shove as a pig pushes past another pig that results in nips to the flank....usually the pig that shoved past gets out of nipping range.
"bones to pick" involve stalking and lots of open mouthed shuffling from side to side, just before the fur flies.
Lately the thug that Ferd made cry is taking it out on the other thug, who sobs even louder. Just desserts in thugdom.
Spot wasn´t crested pinta. I only said the wound made him look crested. But still, I can´t believe I wouldn´t notice a bite or injury right on top of his head. It certainly could have been an insect bite or an internal infection... that would make more sense.
Fido has been a very sweet boy lately. He is not a people person and doesn´t like to be handled much. But lately, I´ll hold him and he´ll lick, lick, lick my face. And he´ll chatter at me with sweet little eyes. I imagine he´s asking what happened to his brother.
By the way, I´m not going to use this vet anymore. He´s such a nice guy and I really like him, but he´s just not very experienced. I started using him because he lives 4 houses away from me and makes house calls and works with small animals, so it was very convenient. I wish I would have read this thread while all this was happening but I was so sick at the time. When the vet came over, I couldn´t even stand up to talk to him for more than a couple minutes. I just wanted to trust him because I didn´t have energy (emotional or physical) for anything else. If I had... maybe Spot would be with me still.
I know I can´t dwell on what-ifs. But I´m so sad and haunted by thoughts of doubt every night. I wake up in the night reviewing everything in my head. And I´m haunted by the images of that poor boy gasping for air and not being able to help him. He was so sweet and loved so much.
Sorry for the long post but I´ve got a pretty heavy head right now.
By the way, I´m going to print out part of this post and take to my vet. So maybe next time he´ll know that the wound needs to be flushed and not to use peroxide. Maybe the next piggy will be saved.
The peroxide is still somewhat controversial -- but it supposedly does kill cells, slow healing. I guess the most important thing in an abscess that was left open was the flushing, as it was not going to drain on its own.
It is hard to know exactly how it started and how serious it was by the time you saw him. You really did the best you could. I hope you can reconcile this and not at all feel guilty. We learn, we try to be more observant owners, we look for the best vets. And we hope for a successful outcome.