Teeth and Tusks In The Mini Pig

Teeth and Tusks In The Mini Pig

Teeth

Pigs are born with 8 teeth and the rest of the baby teeth erupt by 3 months of age. At about 5 months of age the permanent teeth will start coming in and will continue until 18-20 months of age. Be sure to watch for and save those baby teeth for the tooth fairy. Teething can be uncomfortable for your pig so you may hear him grinding his teeth occasionally and/or wanting something to chew on during this time.

Provided
by:  The Veterinary Journal for  Miniature Pets

Grinding Teeth

Yes, pigs will grind their teeth for a variety
of reasons. Most will do it when teething, others do it to keep those
tusks sharp. Or, he could be a little distressed. It comes with the
territory.

Our pigs tend to have lower front teeth that will stick out farther than their upper teeth. This is called an undershot bite and is normal.

Clyde showing off his undershot bite and tusks.

Teeth cleaning to prevent decay is desirable, but not essential.  I have never done it here as I like having ten fingers. Others use a soft child’s toothbrush or simply put some toothpaste on their finger and let the pig eat it. Pigs are prone to tooth decay because of their love for food, so care should be given when feeding sweets and fruits which are loaded with calories and sugar thus leading to cavities. However, a close examination of the teeth and jaw for signs of abscesses, especially in older pigs, is essential.

This is a molar from Hansel who is 18. You are seeing the top and bottom of it.

The molar above is from Hansel who is 18. I actually watched as he spit it out after dinner one evening. It was at least a good 2 weeks before he could get the hang of eating without it and he wanted only soft food and smaller pieces of his nightly treat. Thankfully no abscesses.

Tusks

Do all pigs grow tusks? Yes, all pigs grow tusks. This, of course, includes potbelly pigs. Female pot bellied pigs grow small tusks that rarely get large enough to stick out of their mouth. In fact they usually look like the rest of their teeth. Neutered males will have a nice set of tusks that usually grow large enough to protrude from the mouth. This will start to happen at about two to three years of age.

Nicholas is showing off his tusk which is just now starting to show.
Nicholas is just a little over a year old and you can see his tusks just starting to show.
As our pigs age, tusk growth slows. Growth is driven by testosterone in early life.

This is Harley at age 17 and no tusk trims needed in the last 7 years.

Tusks need not be trimmed unless they are causing a problem for the
pig or you. NEVER let anyone trim the tusks if the pig is awake and
screaming. He can accidentally inhale the tusk. Tusk trimming is best
done by your vet while using Isoflurane gas anesthesia. IF you are like
most of us and have a mobile vet ask them about using Midazolam if necessary. This is
a mild sedative which is very safe and the pig never really goes
“under”, just dozy and wakes slowly and naturally. NOTE: You will need
to know your pigs weight (NO guessing) so that the correct amount can be
given. It is not necessary to put the pig under…most vets are able to trim the tusks while the pig is flipped for his hoof trim.

Most vets will use what is called a Gigli Wire which is
like a saw to cut the tusk off. Make sure that at least 1/2 inch or more
of tusk is left. The gums have a tendency to become infected if the
tusk is trimmed to close to the gum line. Also, DO NOT have anyone
remove the tusks! They are part of the jawbone and removal will cause
serious problems! Again, this is definitely a job for a vet or
experienced trimmer… anesthesia may be required.

Tusks will
continue to grow for the life of the pig. They are the top and bottom
canines and both curve upwards. In the wild the tusks wear down or break
off, however, this isn’t likely with the pet pig. Clyde was one of
those pigs that never needed a tusk trim and was neutered at about 8-12 months of age. He was constantly grinding them…they were nice and
sharp, but short enough at the same time not to cause any issues.

Just a few of the tusks removed from a couple of my boys over the years.

As you can see from the picture above I like to let the tusks grow until they start to be a problem. Porky’s were just starting to go into his cheek when I was looking for a new vet. He was a bit of a challenge being 205lbs, but with a little Telazol the vet and her assistant were able to safely trim them back and we are now good for another couple of years. Porky was up and his normal self in about 30-60 minutes. NOTE: I am not fond of injectables, but there is a time and place for them and this was one of them. Porky ended up sitting on the syringe with needle in his butt. Vet guessed that he had received half of what she was planning to give him…and it ended up being the right amount for him. He was a little drunk /wobbly after the trimming, but able to stand on all 4’s after about 30-60 minutes of a good nap.

Can the tusks be removed? NO, they should never be removed as they are part of the jaw. Tusks are not teeth. The root of the tusk is deep in the jaw. Removing a tusk is dangerous, expensive and painful, because the jaw must be broken to remove the root. Normally this surgery is done only when there’s a medically necessary reason (cancer or deep infection). Most vets won’t do it. If a vet says he will remove the tusks…look for another vet. The blood supply and nerves are below the gum line so they can be trimmed down, but never to the gum line. Always make sure that at least 1/2 inch or more is left. Cutting all the way to the gum line can lead to other issues like a abscess. Tusks are NOT TEETH and will grow for the pigs whole life. Don’t confuse the word “removed” with “trimmed”. They mean two different things.

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