Basic Care: Potbelly Pigs
Potbellied pigs remain a popular pet, several decades after their introduction into the United States. New breeds or types of miniature pigs now exist, with breeders aiming to create smaller pet pigs. Breeding for micro mini or teacup sized pigs does not always result in tiny adult pigs! Before acquiring any potbellied or miniature pig, you will need to be prepared for a pet that may weigh 60 to 120 pounds or more as an adult. The best way to predict how big your pig will grow is to see how big both parents are at maturity. Much of your pig's growth will occur in the first 9 to 12 months of age but it will continue to grow until it is at least two or three years old. Do not be surprised if your 40 pound yearling pig ultimately grows up to be an 80 pound adult.
Pet pigs can adapt to a variety of housing situations, as long as they are provided with shelter from weather extremes. They are social animals and enjoy spending time in close proximity to other pigs, human family members, and even friendly dogs. The most basic housing requirements for your pig are access to an outdoor yard for exercise (preferably with grass for grazing) and a roomy shelter for your pig to escape the elements (such as a large doghouse). It is also extremely important to have a smaller yard or sturdy kennel in which you can confine and isolate your pig when necessary.
Many pig owners enjoy having their pet pig spend time inside the house, especially while the pig is young and small. It is important to ensure than any indoor area your pig has access to is safe and free of breakable objects. Small pigs can easily jump up on a coffee table or knock over potted plants.
Pigs must have a comfortable bed to sleep on, especially in their senior years. A small mattress or large dog bed may work indoors, while a thick layer of straw or shavings may more suitable in an outdoor shelter.
Pigs are monogastric (single stomached) omnivores, like humans. They are also hindgut fermenters, like horses, which allows them to digest grasses and other forage plants. Pet pigs require a combination of a fortified pelleted ration and access to grass or grass hay (such as timothy or Bermuda). It is important to feed your pet pig a commercial pelleted feed that is designed for miniature pigs, not for raising large hogs! A quality pelleted feed, such as Mazuri Mini Pig, provides all the essential vitamins, minerals, protein, and other nutrients necessary for your pig. Different formulas are available based on your pig’s age or life stage (Growth, Adult, Senior). Daily access to grass for grazing or quality grass hay (not alfalfa) provides the additional fiber necessary to keep your pig healthy throughout his or her lifetime.
Newborn piglets will develop iron deficiency if they are not allowed to root around in dirt daily. An iron supplement may be needed, and some piglets will need an injection of iron within a few days of birth if their moms were not getting enough access to dirt.
Most pet pig owners want to give treats to their pigs, but it important to your pig’s health that you give treats sparingly. Very small amounts of fresh fruits, vegetables, dog biscuits, or other treats can be given to aid in training your pig. A good rule of thumb is that treats should never make up more than 5% of your pet’s daily diet. A common cause of obesity in pet pigs is that they receive too many treats. Obesity in pet pigs is a very common problem with severe health consequences. Remember that your pet pig is not a garbage disposal for your leftovers! If you are looking for a way to bond with your pet pig, consider a giving a good belly rub instead of a treat!
All pet pigs should receive a yearly wellness exam from a veterinarian. The veterinarian will examine your pig for early signs of illness, and will be able to answer any questions you have regarding your pig’s care. Your pig’s respiration rate, heart rate, and body temperature will be recorded. Body condition will be assessed to determine if your pig is underweight, overweight, or ideal. Dietary suggestions can be made if you are unsure how to keep your pig at an ideal weight. Your pig’s skin, eyes, teeth (including tusks), and hooves will be examined. The veterinarian may recommend dental cleaning, tusk trimming, or hoof trimming if necessary. The veterinarian may observe your pig walking and examine his or her legs and joints if arthritis is a concern. The veterinarian may palpate your pig’s abdomen to feel for any abnormal internal issues. Routine blood testing can be very helpful for catching internal issues early, especially in the case of older pigs or those taking NSAIDs.
A wellness exam for your pet pig should include a fecal test. Intestinal parasites, such as roundworms, are common in pet pigs. Even piglets that have been dewormed by their breeder may still have parasites months later. Some intestinal parasites can be transmitted to humans or to other pets. It is important to have a veterinarian check a fecal sample from your pig at least yearly. Any new pig should have its feces checked for parasites within a week or so of arriving at your home.
Vaccinations help prevent serious infectious diseases. Since the types of diseases vary from state to state, it is important to follow your local veterinarian's recommendations. Your veterinarian may recommend vaccinations even if your pig never has contact with other pigs.
Spaying female pigs is important to prevent diseases of the reproductive system as your pig ages, such as uterine tumors and mammary gland tumors. It is best to spay at an early age since this procedure is more difficult on older sows, especially ones that are overweight. We recommend spaying female pigs between 2 to 6 months of age.
Neutering male pigs is highly recommended to reduce the risk of testicular tumors. Neutering will also make your male pig more calm and trainable, as well as less smelly! We recommend neutering male pigs between 2 and 6 months of age. If you wait too long to neuter a boar, he may develop unwanted behaviors such as spraying urine and mounting other animals.
No matter how small your miniature pig may grow up to be, pigs are incredibly strong animals for their size. It is very difficult to force a 120 pound pig to do something he is afraid to do! It is extremely important to train all pet pigs to accept handling and restraint from a young age, and continue to reaffirm this training throughout the pig’s lifetime. It is also necessary to teach your pig the rules of your household, and how to behave around humans and other pets. Pet pigs can be housebroken and should be trained to walk on a leash.