FA GI Topics

Porcine GI issues

Pig Gastrointestinal Foreign Bodies

Given normal foraging and rooting behavior, pigs are at a high risk of developing gastrointestinal foreign bodies, especially pet pigs.  Additional causes of gastrointestinal obstruction include adhesions (secondary to a previous surgery), intussusception, neoplasia (adenocarcinoma) and fecal impactions.

  • Clinical signs: Vomiting. lethargy, anorexia, decreased fecal output and abdominal distension.
  • Physical exam: Tachycardia, tachypnea, abdominal distention and pain on palpation.
  • Diagnostics: Similar to a workup in the acute abdomen in dogs and cats including blood work, abdominal radiographs +/- contrast studies, and ultrasound.
    • CBC: Varies stress leukogram, inflammatory leukogram, or leukopenia +/- left shift inflammation leukogram (depending on severity)
  • Stabilization: Owners may have a difficult time finding a veterinarian willing to treat a pet pig and pigs may present days to weeks after the initial clinical signs started. Pigs may present with hypothermia, dehydration, electrolyte abnormalities, and metabolic alkalosis due to vomiting and intestinal obstruction.  As with most species, warming and administration of fluid therapy and correction of electrolyte abnormalities is essential for stabilization.
    • Hypochloremia, metabolic alkalosis
    • hyponatremia
  • Most likely location of obstruction: stomach and small intestine (jejunum or duodenum). Can also obstruct in the spiral colon, transverse or descending colon
  • Treatment: Typically requires surgical intervention
    • Ventral midline approach
    • Enterotomy and resection and anastomosis techniques similar to what is performed in dogs and cats
  • Prevention: Rooting box in housed, pet pigs. Locks on cabinets and pantry doors.
  • Differentials: Over-eating and viral or bacterial causes in young pigs
  • Post-operative complications: A common complication in pigs with abdominal surgery is adhesion formation. Pigs may present in the future with abdominal pain due to a gastrointestinal obstruction from adhesions, or adherence of the gastrointestinal tract to the body wall.  Therefore, it is not uncommon for pigs who have been spayed to have GI obstruction secondary to adhesions.


Evaluation of the reasons for and outcomes of gastrointestinal tract surgery in pet pigs. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2017 Sep 15;251(6):714-721

A case of a linear foreign body removal in a miniature companion pig J Dairy Vet Anim Res. 2020;9(1):6‒9



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Large Animal Surgery - Supplemental Notes Copyright © by Erin Malone, DVM, PhD is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.