I recently participated in a farm call with my friend Calvin. We joined one of the ambulatory vets and drove out to find a one-year-old gilt who was in a bad way. Though her sister had successfully given birth to a dozen or so piglets, our patient was struggling in the adjacent pen. She had passed two dead fetuses the day before and was still clearly in pain, not eating or drinking. I had never seen a pig dystocia before so I had no idea what to expect. It essentially took three full grown adults to pin the pig against one of the walls while the vet forcefully removed nine fetuses, all of which were dead. Because even just one piglet in breach orientation can cause a traffic jam that ruins the whole process of parturition, it’s amazing how any successful births take place!
Throughout the experience of restraining this poor “mother” and trying to her calm down, I couldn’t help but think how incredibly painful the experience was for her. Her uterine contractions, aided by injection of medication, advanced the process, but I was in awe by how forceful the vet had to pull in order to extricate the trapped fetuses. After it was all said and done (about an hour and a half after we started), the pig was extremely hot and breathing forcefully. We doused her off with some alcohol and put ice in her vagina and on top of her exhausted body. To our knowledge, there were no retained fetuses. With some anti-inflammatories and antibiotics on board, we hope that she will recover soon.