Pig back home in Palm Bay after successful surgery at UF

Donald, Bass Pro pig

Donald, fondly known as Donny, is shown back in his exhibit at the Palm Bay Bass Pro Shops following successful surgery at UF’s large animal hospital in April. (Photo courtesy of Bass Pro Shops)

A 350-pound feral pig named Donny is home rolling in the mud at the Bass Pro Shops live exhibit in Palm Bay after emergency surgery performed March 29 at the University of Florida’s Large Animal Hospital to relieve a urinary blockage.

When Donny arrived at UF about 9 p.m., he was met by members of UF’s large animal internal medicine team. Through ultrasound, bloodwork and the patient’s history, the team confirmed the referring veterinarian’s suspicion that Donny had a urinary blockage and recommended that abdominal surgery be performed immediately to save his life.

“He was acting painful and had been unable to urinate,” said Anje Bauck, D.V.M.,  large animal surgery senior resident. Bauck performed a procedure known as a tube cystotomy, a procedure which diverts urine away from the blocked urethra and allows it to drain from a catheter placed into the bladder and out through his body wall.

The type of urinary blockage that Donny had can potentially result in a ruptured bladder, but that had not happened yet in his case, Bauck said.

“The stones are often in the urethra and it is not always possible to remove these stones immediately,” she said.

The catheter provides a sort of temporary bypass, allowing the urethra to relax and the inflammation and swelling to decrease, allowing the stone to pass on its own.

Donny remained at UF for a month, recuperating under close observation by UF veterinarians until they were convinced his blockage had been completely relieved and it was time to remove the temporary catheter. He was discharged on April 28, allowed a week for his catheter incision to heal, and went back on exhibit at Bass Pro on May 5.

The availability of board-certified veterinary anesthesiologists who are experienced at administering anesthesia to pigs—a challenging task because of their anatomy — was key to UF’s ability to successfully treat Donny, Bauck said.

“Dr. Tiffany Granone was the faculty anesthesiologist who worked on Donny’s case,” Bauck said. “She is very knowledgeable about working with pigs, which are always challenging. Donny did really well, no complications.”

Donny’s medical problem was one commonly seen in pet goats as well as in pet pigs, and often results from animals being fed improper diets, UF veterinarians said. Although Donny had been fed a nutritionist-approved diet, his pellet food was supplemented by fresh vegetables, including spinach and kale, which contain calcium, and, unbeknownst to his caretakers, this may have been a factor in the development of stones.

“The proportions of mineral components in a pig’s diet are very important,” said Ali Morton, D.V.M., chief of the hospital’s large animal surgery service. “Donny’s caretakers were very knowledgeable in general, but problems often arise when non-farm animals consume food other than what is formulated for them, such as snacks or human foods. Unfortunately, there is also a lot of misinformation out there when it comes to pig diets. Also, like in people, we also suspect that there may be a heritable component to development of these stones, too.”

Despite his obvious initial discomfort, Donny was a very well-behaved pig and a good patient to work with, especially for his size, Morton added.

“He has a great personality and the people at Bass Pro Shops have done a wonderful job training and handling him,” she said.

Mike Daniel, owner of Marine Aquatic Services and Technology and lead aquarist for Bass Pro Shops’ Palm Bay location, said he deeply appreciated the UF team’s efforts.

“Seeing the team jump into action with such skill, speed and care was truly impressive,” Daniel said.

Debbi Crain, Bass Pro Shops Live Exhibits manager, who is based at their corporate office in Springfield, Missouri, said the organization’s live exhibit division has worked with UF aquatics experts for years but that this was their first experience at the University’s Large Animal Hospital.

“It was obvious without that care, he would not have survived,” Crain said. “He does have a following at the store and was missed while he was gone.”

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