Fix Your Pets February: The Finale (Livestock Pets)

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The kinds of livestock most commonly kept as pets are usually, in my experience, horses, goats, and small pig types, so that’s what this article will cover. However, if there is another type of barn animal that you’ve made a companion of and are curious about whether they should be altered, comment or email me (MMauney@wowinsync.org) and I’ll be glad to look it up for you! Ditto for any “pocket pets” I have missed in the small animals article. The most popular type of pet pig is the pot-bellied pig, and, like dogs and cats, both sexes should be fixed for a number of reasons pertaining to health, temperament, and cleanliness. Fixing will decrease aggression, territorial marking behavior, and the urge to roam in both sexes, as well as usually making them more docile and easy to train. Keep in mind that fixing a pot-bellied pig, as well as other small pig breeds like “micro” and “teacup” pigs, is NOT like fixing a dog or cat, nor is it similar to how regular large livestock pigs are fixed, so it is imperative to find a vet familiar specifically with your breed of pig. The following information pertains specifically to the pot-bellied pig, but it mostly holds true for other small/pet pig breeds as well.

An un-neutered male pot-belly will hump everything, have a terrible musk, and become aggressive towards humans and female pigs. Neutered males cannot develop testicular cancer, and have a lower risk of prostate cancer. While male pigs can technically be neutered at one month old, it is best to go by weight rather than age, when they’re around 10 to 12 lbs, which will usually be at around 8 to 12 weeks of age. Since they become sexually mature at two months, you may have to deal with some of their unpleasant behavior for a little while before you can safely get them fixed, but look at it this way: now you know you’re definitely making the right decision! As mentioned previously, be sure to make sure your vet knows what they’re doing. Testicles are not as obvious on these pigs as they are on other animals, and it’s not uncommon for one to be missed during the operation. Improper neutering can also lead to the pig herniating afterwards, so it’s essential to find a vet that knows the proper procedure and to familiarize yourself with article on the proper aftercare for your piggy---it’s just a Google away!

Like a human menstrual cycle, female pot-bellied pigs have a heat cycle every month that lasts three to five days. And just like humans during menses, they get PMS during this time too, becoming become aggressive and temperamental. Their first heat cycle usually starts when they reach 12 weeks of age, and if they are not spayed, these cycles will continue for the rest of their lives. Un-spayed female pigs also like to pee in front of their favorite people, a behavior that sadly leads to many of them being dumped or gotten rid of because the owners don’t realize there’s an easy solution. Spayed sows are also much less likely to develop mammary tumors, ovarian cancers, and uterine infections. Most vets recommend that the female go through one heat cycle before being spayed, but don’t wait too long after that, because the surgery become risky once the pig is eight months or older. This is due to the amount of fat that the vet will have to cut through to perform the surgery.

It is best for your male goat—called bucks or billies—to be neutered, making him a “wether” instead. When they are in rut and looking to breed, they become stinky and aggressive, to the point that even the sweetest may attack their owner. Wethers, on the other hand, are full-time sweethearts in terms of temperament, and they don’t stink at all (at least, not more so than any other animal that lives outdoors). It is also key to make sure that they are neutered at the right time, about at 8 to 12 weeks, when they become sexually mature. Neutering too early can cause them problems because their urethra won’t grow to their full size, while neutering too late can also lead to medical problems as well. See about getting your goat from a breeder, preferably one that was bottle-fed as a baby, which will make it much more affable and cuddly towards humans, and be sure to also get one that has been disbudded (de-horned) if you plan on keeping it as a pet. As for females, they do not require spaying; if you are planning to keep them with a male and don’t want kids, the male should be neutered in the first place for reasons already mentioned.

Spaying a female horse is a rare thing due to it being much more dangerous, expensive, and unneccary than gelding a stallion (that’s “neutering a male” in horse-speak). It should only be done for medical reasons. Gelding, however, is standard practice for male horses, generally done before the age of three. Stallions are notoriously temperamental and difficult to handle, and can’t be kept with females without breeding with them or other males without fighting with them (though some can be kept with geldings). Unless the owner intends to use the stallion as a stud for breeding, gelding is the way to go.

In summary: Spay just the boys for goats and horses, fix both sexes with pigs, and always be sure you’ve got a vet who knows best for YOUR pet!