October 3, 2014; Kennett Square, PA] Veterinarians at Penn Vet’s New Bolton Center performed emergency surgery on a 500-pound pig found at a Chester County animal sanctuary with a hunting arrow embedded in its chest.
The five-year-old pig, named Bette, went through an advanced diagnostic evaluation to determine the extent of injury before a two-hour surgery on Wednesday. Dr. Marie-Eve Fecteau, Assistant Professor of Food Animal Medicine and Surgery at New Bolton Center, removed the metal arrowhead from the right side of Bette’s upper chest and repaired a second arrow wound on the left side of her belly.
Bette is recovering at New Bolton Center, currently treated with intravenous antibiotics and pain medications. The Duroc pig, a breed characterized by its reddish color, is standing up, moving around, and eating. On Friday afternoon, Bette was steadily improving – now fever-free – and doing well, Dr. Fecteau said.
“I think her prognosis is fair,” Dr. Fecteau said. “The biggest concern is infection. We have to wait and see if antibiotics are going to get on top of it.”
Bette has spent most of her life at the non-profit Chenoa Manor animal sanctuary in Avondale, where she went after she was rescued as an abandoned piglet. Executive Director Dr. Robert Teti brought her to New Bolton Center, with the help of Dr. Curtis Beidel from New Bolton’s Field Service. It was Dr. Teti, a veterinarian, who found Bette with the arrow in her side at dinnertime on Tuesday night.
“I called her and she came over and I saw the arrow,” Dr. Teti said, a very surprising discovery, because no animal had previously been injured by an arrow. About 230 animals of many species live at the sanctuary, including six pigs.
Dr. Teti called the state police and local law enforcement, but no one knows who shot the arrows. Thousands are following the case through posts on Chenoa Manor’s Facebook page. An anonymous donor has offered a reward.
The arrowhead, about one inch long, is made of several razor-sharp metal pieces. The arrow shaft was about two feet long, but broke off before the pig arrived at New Bolton Center.
The New Bolton Center team used a unique CT scanner from Neuroligica to evaluate Bette. Now in a month-long test period at New Bolton Center, the “computed tomography” scanner enables diagnostic evaluation of animals that previously could not be accomplished.
The scanner provides three-dimensional computer images, which were important in this case, Dr. Fecteau said. In fact, the scans made it possible to avoid opening the pig’s abdomen to assess the extent of her injuries.
“It was really, really informative,” Dr. Fecteau said. “We could see from the scan that there was no internal damage.”
Usually the veterinarians would have used radiographs, which provide a two-dimensional image, but would not have allowed them to investigate fully how far the arrow penetrated the internal organs.
Tissue was protruding from the hole on the pig’s left side, Dr. Fecteau said, but the CT scan showed there was no sign of perforation of the stomach or intestine. As a result, she was able to simply ligate and remove the protruding tissue, and repair that wound.
The CT scan showed where the arrow was lodged in the upper part of the chest, and made clear that the area did not puncture a lung, and that there was no internal bleeding.
“The scan showed the exact location of the arrow,” Dr. Fecteau said. “We could see the arrow had fractured the very top of a thoracic vertebra, but the spine itself was intact.”
Dr. Fecteau performed surgery to remove the arrow, as well as clean and repair the wounds. A temporary surgical drain was inserted so fluid from the infection can drain out.
Dr. Fecteau said she does not yet know when Bette will be able to return to her home at the sanctuary. “We are on a day-to-day basis,” she said.
About Penn Vet
Penn Vet is a global leader in veterinary medicine education, research, and clinical care. Founded in 1884, Penn Vet is the only veterinary school developed in association with a medical school. The school is a proud member of the One Health Initiative, linking human, animal, and environmental health.
Penn Vet serves a diverse population of animals at its two campuses, which include extensive diagnostic and research laboratories. Ryan Hospital in Philadelphia provides care for dogs, cats, and other domestic/companion animals, handling more than 31,000 patient visits a year. New Bolton Center, Penn Vet’s large-animal hospital on nearly 700 acres in rural Kennett Square, PA, cares for horses and livestock/farm animals. The hospital handles more than 4,000 patient visits a year, while the Field Service treats nearly 36,000 patients on local farms. In addition, New Bolton Center’s campus includes a swine center, working dairy, and poultry unit that provide valuable research for the agriculture industry.
For more information, visit www.vet.upenn.edu.