Pigs

Piglet Teeth – Everything You Need to Know

Do piglets have teeth?

You may wonder if pigs are born with teeth – and the answer to this question is yes. Piglets do have teeth just like any other animal, but you might not be able to notice them for a reason: It’s because they get their teeth clipped.

Allow us to elaborate on this matter to give you some further clarification – and to help you decide whether teeth clipping is right for your farm.

clip pig teeth

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Teeth Clipping Definition

clipping piglet teeth

It may seem self-explanatory as to what teeth clipping is, but there’s a reason why it is done for baby pigs when they are born.

According to Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), the purpose behind teeth clipping baby pigs is to lower injuries that can be caused while they are either nursing or playing. 

You’re probably asking why it would be necessary to put baby pigs through such a tough and strenuous process, and we’ll be happy to explain to you why.

Piglets Compete for the Best Teat

Piglets use their teeth to nurse from their sow when they are born, but the kicker is they actually compete for the best teat to get the best nursing experience. According to A Greener World, baby pigs grow eight teeth that are fully erupted and incredibly sharp. These are better known as needle teeth. 

After the first few hours of birth, the piglets decide a teat order. They will bite their littermates to try to get to the sow’s udder. If the teeth are not clipped before they begin this process, they could hurt either their littermates or their mother.

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What Will Happen to the Sow if She’s Injured?

There are some consequences that can come to fruition if the sow is bitten too harshly while she is nursing her piglets. The pain that the sow endures while her piglets are competing can cause her to get up and leave, preventing her piglets from feeding.

The cuts that the sow gets from her piglets can also spread germs that can infect the udder.

Even worse, it often causes a sow to roll on her piglets as she attempts to get free from their bites, something that can kill whole litters of piglets in one fell swoop.

Clipping piglets’ teeth will reduce these injuries, leading to a better and healthier feeding experience for all of them. 

Clipping Teeth on Piglets: Is it Necessary?

clipping piglet teeth

There has been an ongoing debate about whether teeth clipping piglets is really necessary. Ultimately, it depends on the method you choose to take. The piglets need to be able to nurse in a way that won’t be detrimental to the physical health of themselves or the sow.

We addressed the many benefits of clipping pig teeth above – but here are a few other things to consider.

The Cons of Clipping Piglets’ Teeth

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), there are also cons that come out of clipping baby pigs’ teeth. Take a look at the list of disadvantages below:

  • It can increase behavior that is discomforting (i.e. “chomping).
  • They can experience injuries to the tongue and/or gums.
  • Inflammation or abscesses of the teeth can occur.
  • All of these can potentially lead to infections.

It is important to know the possibilities from both a positive and negative aspect to know the risks that are being taken when considering clipping baby piglets’ teeth. Keeping this information in mind before the piglets are born can also leave you better prepared in your decision to clip their teeth.

Percentages of Injuries: Clipped Teeth Vs. No Clipped Teeth

Another way to help better decide on whether you should clip your piglets’ teeth or not is by understanding the effects of the piglets’ performance, whether their teeth are clipped or not.

In 2001, an experiment was conducted at The Tidewater Agricultural Research and Extension Center (TAREC) Swine Facility in Suffolk, VA, and Land of Promise Farms in Virginia Beach, VA. The purpose behind the study was to see the percentage of injuries that would occur between piglets with both clipped and unclipped teeth. There were piglets residing on a commercial farm and a university farm.

According to the Virginia Cooperative Extension, “On the commercial farm, the percentage of NO CLIP and CLIP pigs with facial injuries was similar (P > 0.05) on day 7 and day 21 (Figure 2). On the university farm, however, the percentage of pigs with facial injuries was greater (P < 0.01) in the NO CLIP compared to the CLIP group on both day 7 and on day 21.”

As the study displayed, injuries are still possible amongst piglets with cut teeth. 

Clip Their Teeth at a Later Age

If you’re not comfortable with clipping piglets’ teeth as soon as they’re born, you can always wait until they get to a later age. You can do routine clipping with them to save time and labor costs.

However, you’ll want to follow this method with breeds that are more placid (breeds that aren’t as energetic, upset, or excited).

Clipping the teeth of mature pigs can be extremely dangerous – and this is something you shouldn’t attempt unless you are highly experienced.

Can the Risk of Injuries Be Lower Without Clipping the Teeth?

One of the ways to lower the possibility of the piglets injuring one another or their sow is by breeding sows to produce smaller litters. According to CWIF, this can also contribute to reducing the amount of piglets that will starve (as long as the sow is fed correctly). 

Another way to reduce the amount of injuries is by breeds having higher levels of fat. This allows them to keep better levels of milk for them to feed their piglets. 

If you’re hesitant about clipping piglets’ teeth, you may want to consider this as an alternative for a safer feeding experience for the piglets.

Put Your Sow in a High-Welfare Farrowing System

Another alternative to take instead of clipping baby piglets’ teeth is to put the sow in a farrowing system.  According to the CWIF, research that was conducted in Denmark showed that sows ate more food than those that were in crates. This allowed them to produce more milk for their piglets.

Because the sow had a better experience with eating and producing more milk using this system, the piglets grew bigger and were heavier at weaning than those who were born in crates.

Farrowing systems offer more space and enhancement for the piglets, which also played a contributing factor in the reduction of injuries. So if you’re looking for an option that is more frugal in space and enrichments, you might want to consider putting your sow in a farrowing system.

All of these options can be a great way to provide a better feeding experience for the piglets and the mother. Knowing this information is beneficial and can come in handy when it’s time to begin the feeding process.

Teeth Clipping Pigs: Is it Controversial?

clipping piglet teeth

Due to concerns with animal welfare, teeth clipping pigs can be viewed as controversial in several ways. The practice of cutting piglets’ teeth has even been prohibited by The Animal Welfare Approved Program. Under their list of standards for pigs, the rule for clipping piglets’ teeth reads as follows:

“4.8.14 Clipping, grinding or filing of the needle teeth of piglets is prohibited.”

The rules that have been established by this program are meant for the purpose of protecting farm animals so they can adapt in an environment that is natural and safe.

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Does Clipping Pigs Teeth Hurt?

Teeth reduction methods like grinding or clipping can cause pain to the teeth of piglets, though it is of course only temporary (much like dental procedures you may have undergone in your days). When done incorrectly or in unsanitary conditions, it can cause infection and can increase the risk factor for antibiotic overuse. 

Other Health Factors When Clipping Piglets’ Teeth

When clipping piglets’ teeth, there are other complications that can occur during the process. According to the RSPCA, the teeth clipping procedure is typically done without any kind of pain relief or anesthesia, making the experience for them even more uncomfortable. 

The piglets are even more overwhelmed after the process. They’ll begin to show signs of physical distress, and sometimes they’ll even begin “chomping”  as well.

Remember that these health factors do not happen with every piglet after the procedure. When done correctly and when care is taken to stress the pigs as little as possible, it is safe and ethical.

However, this is information that is useful to keep in mind nonetheless. 

Cutting Piglets’ Teeth: How to Do It

clipping piglet teeth

Now that you are aware of the logistics and potential outcomes of cutting piglets teeth, it’s time to walk you through the steps of actually doing it. It may seem like a simple process, but there is more to it than meets the eye.

What You Will Need to Cut Piglets Teeth

The first step to successfully cutting a baby piglet’s teeth is by having the right tool. All you need is a piglet teeth cutter like this.

The procedure of cutting piglets’ teeth can be an overwhelming and stressful feeling for them, so it’s important that you get them as comfortable as you possibly can.

When You Should Start Cutting Piglets Teeth

Believe it or not, knowing when you should cut the piglet’s teeth is another key factor that you should be aware of. The best time to start cutting down on their teeth is when they are just a few days old.

While you can do it as soon as they are born, it’s not a great idea to separate them from their mother for too long.

Wait until they are a few days old to prevent any injury and so you are able to work with the piglets when they are young. Separate them from the sow and work in a clean, dry, and warm area. Make sure it is well-lit, too.

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Step-by-Step Process of Cutting Piglet Teeth

Now that you know the tools that you’ll need, it’s time to begin cutting the teeth. We will break down each step one by one for a better understanding so you can perform the task successfully.

  • The first step before cutting the piglets teeth is to separate the sow from the piglets. Remember that a sow with a litter can be dangerous, so it is recommended to have her in a separate pen until the procedure is complete. 
  • The next step is to back the pigs up in a corner so they don’t try to run. If this proves to be a bit of a challenge, you can also place them in a box.
  • Hold the piglets’ head and press the corner of their mouth so it will open.
  • Place the clippers on either side of their teeth. Make sure that their tongue is out of the way first!
  • After clipping their teeth, tilt their head so that the teeth can fall from their mouths.
  • When cutting their teeth, make sure that the clippers are close to the gums.
  • Clean the clippers before using them on the next piglet. Use iodine or a similar disinfectant.
  • Continue to follow the same steps with all of the piglets.
  • Keep the piglets warm after the procedure and put them back with their sow as soon as you’re finished. 

Sometimes in order to better understand how performing any task works, it’s better to actually see it for yourself. Take a look at this tutorial to get a better idea of how to properly cut piglets’ teeth.

Piglets Have Teeth-That’s the Long and Short of It!

clipping piglet teeth

Let’s take a moment to recap.

What you need to know is this – pigs do have teeth.

If you decide that clipping these teeth is right for you, do so wisely. Make sure you follow the steps detailed above carefully to provide a better experience for the piglets.

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Do you clip your piglets’ teeth? Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Want to learn more about farming? Be sure to take a look at these other articles.

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Author: Anna B

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