Tetanus is a serious infection that causes muscle spasms. You probably already know that people can get tetanus—though due to routine vaccinations, it's rare—but potbellied pigs can also get this deadly infection. Here are four things potbellied pig owners need to know about tetanus.
How do potbellied pigs get tetanus?
Tetanus is caused by Clostridium tetani, a type of bacteria. You can find C. Tetani pretty much everywhere, including in soil and dust. Tetanus occurs when the bacteria passes through broken skin.
Any injury can allow this bacteria entry to your pig's body, but some injuries present a higher risk than others. The stereotypical way people get tetanus is by stepping on a rusty nail, and puncture wounds are high risk for pigs, too. Before your let your pig play outdoors, carefully check the area to make sure that there are no nails, needles, or other sharp objects on the ground.
Contaminated wounds also present a very high risk. If your pig gets dirt or feces in their wound, make sure to wash it immediately with soap and water. Some people assume that animals don't need their wounds washed out, but this isn't true and you should care for your pig's wounds the same way you would care for your own.
What are the signs of tetanus?
If your potbellied pig gets tetanus, they'll develop muscle spasms. These spasms later become constant muscle contractions, and your pig won't be able to open their mouth. The latter symptom is known as lockjaw. Your pig won't feel like eating or drinking due to their locked jaw. Additional signs include flared nostrils, a fixed stare or a protruding third eyelid. The third eyelid is the translucent membrane that your pig can use to cover their eyes.
Can vets treat tetanus?
The condition is often fatal, even with treatment. Tetanus antitoxin, a medication that is created by hyper-immunizing horses, can be injected into pigs that have tetanus. Large doses (3,000 to 15,000 units) are required. However, even with large doses, the treatment may fail. If the tetanus antitoxin works, your vet will give your pig supportive treatments like painkillers to make them feel better while they heal.
How can you protect your potbellied pig?
Since treating tetanus is so difficult, it's best to prevent your pig from getting it. Your pig should be immunized for tetanus every year at their regular vet checkup.
If your potbellied pig has never been immunized for tetanus, take them to a vet, such as River View Veterinary Service LLC, right away to remedy this.