If you’ve been by our clinic in Jarrell lately, you probably noticed a blue, 76’ square-body Chevy pickup with a vet box in the parking lot. I’ve always loved those square body pickups—the simple lines of the truck; no computers; it’s rugged and dependable, and if I treat it right, it’ll probably be rolling down the road long after I’m gone.
I rode out to a client’s house in that pickup last week. The suspension is tight and the old bench seat is full of springs that launch you into the ceiling if you take a bump too hard. Kaitlin, our practice manager, and I rumbled down the driveway bouncing and jostling around the cab like kernels in a popcorn bag. We were there to vaccinate a couple of show pigs for a student in the high school FFA. The easiest way to vaccinate a pig is to put them in a squeeze and then give them the shots; the next “easiest” way is to grab their front legs, pick them up and turn them over onto their backs and squeeze their shoulders between your feet. They hate it and scream like crazy, but if you keep them that way for a minute or so they stop struggling and you can give those shots. Since we had no squeeze, we commenced to flipping hogs around and giving shots. After our hearing returned, we said our good-byes and went back to the office.
Why give pigs vaccines? Pig breeders give them shots at weaning, so why go through all this?
There are some changes that have occurred lately that have made vaccinating even more important. There are new federal rules about medicated feed that prevent the use of feeds with antibiotics without the prescription of a vet. For years, medicated feeds prevented disease outbreaks of Erysipelas, but without the medicated feeds, we are seeing this disease come back.
Show pigs are brought together from all over which means they are exposed to infectious agents constantly. Vaccines can help prevent or reduce the symptoms seen in a disease process. Also, a sick pig with a weakened immune system will be more likely to contract other diseases like the flu which can further compromise the animal, or allow for re-assortment of viral DNA or RNA into new combinations that can affect people. Pigs can actually be infected with human, avian, and swine influenza viruses to make an antigenic shift to a new influenza A subtype that can infect people. So, like riding in an old pickup, giving pigs shots is not fun, but it is important for the health of the animal and the people around them.
Dr. Carlton served four years in the United States Army as a Veterinary Corps Officer. He honed his clinical skill set working on these unique animal populations, and brings that special knowledge to the community at Jarrell Animal Hospital. Dr. Carlton is a member of the American Association of Bovine Practitioners, American Association of Equine Practitioners, Texas Veterinary Medical Association, and he continues to serve in the United States Army Reserve.
Jarrell Animal Hospital
191 Town Center Blvd. Jarrell
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