In life, if you ever find yourself debating between becoming a farmer or a vet, become a vet.
Yesterday was certainly one for the record books. One of our piglets was born with an inguinal hernia, which means the ligament that separates the abdominal cavity from the scrotum wasn’t fully developed and some of his intestines were in his scrotum. It’s not a common condition and not something I had seen before, so I didn’t recognize the signs before castrating him 3 weeks ago. It wasn’t until after I was done castrating him that I realized I was looking at his intestines. I couldn’t find my suture kits, so I did what any good farmer does with a serious cut and super glued it shut. It bought me some more time to see what I was dealing with and how to treat it.
As it turns out, there are two ways to treat an inguinal hernia. The first and most common is surgically by a veterinarian. The second is by reducing the hernia, then taping it with Elastikon. I tried the taping procedure first with athletic tape, but it didn’t hold well. I finally found some 3″ Elastikon at the feed store and tried taping with that, but going out of town for Thanksgiving meant that I couldn’t keep him taped consistently. For the procedure to work, the hernia needs to be reduced and retaped every few days. By the time I came back from Ohio, the hernia had gotten much bigger and I started to think that surgery was the best option for us. I called one vet for a quote, which was a reasonable price, but he couldn’t come out until next week. Hernia repairs aren’t really an emergency procedure, so I wasn’t concerned; however, the vet recommended that I try reducing and taping some more first.
Then, I fed yesterday morning and noticed that the super glued incision had come open. My time was up. Hoping to tape the hernia before more damage was done, I asked some friends if they could help me with the piglet. My friend sent over her two daughters who are thankfully farm kids. They both came into the pig pen to help me catch the piglet, then that’s when it happened. The more the piglet ran, the more upset he became. The more upset he became, the more he tensed his abdominal muscles. That put tension on his intestines, which pushed against the opening on the hernia. Before we knew it, intestines started hanging from the back of the piglet. By the time we caught him, it was looking a little scary.
I had to try my best to save the piglet, so I gloved up and got to work. While the girls held the piglet upside down and tried to keep him calm, I used Betadine to clean the debris from the intestines and carefully work them back into the hole they’d come out of. It ended up requiring both of my hands as I worked them back in and applied gentle pressure to keep them in every time he started to squeal. I don’t even know how long I worked on him, it felt like forever. There was a lot of blood, but I don’t think the intestines were damaged. I’m not even sure how, but I eventually got all of his intestines back in. Even more amazingly, the piglet didn’t go into shock while I was working on him.I kept my finger in the hole, applying gentle pressure, so the intestines didn’t come rushing back out while one of the girls got the Elastikon for me.
We got him taped up using the procedure for repairing the hernia. He was bleeding through the bandage, but it held. I wasn’t able to reduce the hernia, I’m pretty sure that ship has sailed. We gave him a shot of antibiotics and put him back in with his mom and siblings. He was alert and trying to run around, even though the bandage was awkward for him. I thanked the girls for their help and messaged their mom about what happened, in case I traumatized her children too badly.
I ended up calling another pig vet in the area to talk to him about repairing the hernia surgically. He was more expensive, but he can be here today, so we made the appointment. I don’t trust the tape to hold until the other vet can get here next week. I’m not thrilled that I’m putting so much money into a piglet who’s destined for the freezer, but I couldn’t not help him. If he’s survived this long, he deserves a chance. Most commercial pig producers probably would have put him down 3 weeks ago and cut their losses, but that’s not me. As it is, the vet said I saved his life by super gluing the incision closed, even if it didn’t heal correctly. So, we take a small loss and hope it all balances out in the end.
And that was all before lunch.