General Care of the Pot Bellied Pig
GENERAL CARE OF THE POT-BELLIED PIG
Pot-bellied pigs can be very clean and intelligent animals, especially if they are brought up to be clean from birth. The adult pigs can weigh up to 60-110 pounds, 12-20 inches in height, and can live 15-20 years. Acquiring such a pet is similar to having a dog. Pot-bellied pigs can be house broken and/or trained to go in a litter box; we recommend starting at an early age to teach them to eliminate outside. Housetraining a pig to eliminate outside is similar to that for training a puppy; use rewards.
Your pig does not have to be kept indoors all the time. While outside you should provide your pig with a pen that has a shade from the sun, and protection from rain, wind and snow. Pigs like to lie on a bed in a dog house, relax in a shallow pool of water and dig in the dirt. Allowing pigs to become too hot can result in heat stroke. It is important to realize that swine can develop “salt toxicity” if they run out of water. Always provide fresh, clean water. Should you find that the water has run out, slowly add SMALL amounts of water every 30 minutes until the pigs have had their fill. It will take 4-6+ hours to rehydrate the pig, but a sudden addition of water may cause a serious brain problem to develop. Shade should always be available for all pigs.
Should you want to keep your pig in a pen while you are away, the space requirement will vary with the size and age of the pig. A single pig usually has enough pen space, but we do see problems when you have too many pigs in one pen. When the pigs are growing, calculate a minimum space of 3 square foot per piglet. From 40-100# body weight, increase the space to 4 sq. foot. For adults, estimate 6-8 square feet per pig. This is only a minimum space needed and you should add another 15% of space in hot weather. We prefer to see even more area provided per pig, as the incidence of fighting, biting and other problems are reduced. In the spring (and sometimes fall) outside pigs will naturally shed out their longer coats; similar to dogs “blowing their coat”. Inside the city limits the number of potbelly pigs we recommend is 1-2x per household.
The nutritional feeding of pigs will be determined by their age. The rations need to be adjusted for the various stages of growth. The exact specific requirements for the 10+ vitamins, 9+ minerals, 11+ amino acids and energy can be found for swine in the NRC requirements at the veterinary clinic, or other sources. The pot-bellied pig diet is not the same as the commercial swine foods, yet the commercial swine foods are adequate for temporary use. We do not recommend any homemade diets and prefer that you purchase the commercial pot-bellied pig diets that are available at some feed outlets. Growing pigs are different from most animals in that they eat “to meet their energy needs”. A low energy diet will have a greater consumption/pig/day than higher energy content feeds. One of the most common problems we see in adult pigs is obesity (being overweight), and this is why the potbelly diets are usually lower in calories. Once maturity has been reached, the pigs put on more weight as fat instead of muscle. If constipation is a problem during lactation, magnesium sulfate or potassium chloride can be added to the sow’s diet. We also have psyllium (Metamucil) products in a pelleted form for constipation.
It has been shown that in feeding growing pigs a ration with pellets or a coarsely ground diet you will have a better food utilization and less stomach ulcers than pigs fed a finely ground feed. If you should feed a commercial swine diet that has antibiotics, each antibiotic and each drug has a withdrawal time before sale, even for pot-bellied pigs. Carefully read the labels before medicating any animal. We do not recommend these medicated diets for pot-bellied pigs.
Vaccinations of the piglet start at 4-6 weeks of age. We recommend Atrophic Rhinitis, Erysipelothrix and other diseases that have been a problem in the area. For a pet pig a periodic vaccination for tetanus is advised as well as rabies; the latter vaccine is called extra-label vaccines since there is no USDA labeled vaccine for Rabies. For a breeding potbelly pig or a pig on a show type circuit they are vaccinated differently than a pig that stays at home. The vaccines for Haemophilus, E. coli, TGE, Rotovirus, porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV, corona virus), Leptospirosis, Parvovirus, Mycoplasma, Pasteurella, Salmonella and the Clostridial diseases may also be indicated. Some of these vaccines need to be boostered in a month. As with any potbelly or miniature pigs, the amount of traveling to shows and exposure to other pigs will determine the vaccines we will recommend; some core vaccines are important to even a single pig living at home. Pseudorabies is not longer a threat to domestic pigs, unless they are exposed to feral pigs. The feet of adult pigs need to be trimmed periodically, as needed. Periodically the upper canine teeth (tusks) need to be trimmed as well as the lower canine teeth in intact males. Similar to camelids the tusks are not removed due to many complications; periodic trimming is the best.
Treatments for external parasites and internal parasites are also variable, depending on the type of housing and problems previously encountered. Usually the sow is dewormed before breeding and 2 weeks before farrowing with products that are labeled for pregnant pigs. Expect to treat young pigs twice or more for internal parasites; especially if they are exposed to dirt or grass. We recommend a fecal (stool) sample for all pigs. You can bring this sample in for testing of the various parasites. Most commercial worming medicines do not deworm the pig for coccidiosis, tapeworms and other parasites that may be found on a fecal exam. The veterinary care of a miniature pig, a potbelly pig, a regular pig, etc is very similar, and the diets are very similar except that a lower calorie diet is needed for pet pigs.
To reduce aggression in pigs, do not rub their bellies. The dominant pig allows the submissive pigs to groom and scratch them. Male pigs should be castrated at an early age. The female animal is the dominant figure with some herd-type animals, including pigs. With any herd or flock there is a constant conflict of establishing the hierarchy. The house is his/her territory and naturally they will defend it. Allowing the pig the run of the household, doing as they wish, is a mistake. You may give them a pen outside during the day and a sleeping crate inside as their territory. Having more than one pig will reduce this human-pig hierarchy problem; the pigs will realize they are not humans. (A similar opposite effect is seen with parrots; birds make better pets if they are the only bird). Do you have friends with pot-bellied pigs, to provide social interaction with the pigs periodically (if you start having problems)?
For transportation into a different state, a health certificate and a test for pseudorabies, brucellosis and other diseases is usually required; especially if the pigs are to be used for breeding. Vaccination for Pseudorabies will interfere with the test. In order to keep your potbelly pig dehydrated during travel, we recommend carrying frozen slices of apples and/or to feed these to them right before airline travel (and not any food).
A pot-bellied pig is considered livestock by many government agencies. The Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture treat these miniature pigs the same as commercial swine, the laws governing their movement and required testing is the same. Some municipalities consider all pig breeds to be livestock, and it may be illegal to keep the pot-bellied pets inside the city limits of other municipalities.
We have information on the commercial breeding of swine, if you want to breed the pot-bellied pigs. For pets, we recommend castrating the males and spaying the females by 3-4 months of age. Their canine teeth can be removed during the neutering surgery.
The Staff at the Nelson Road Veterinary Clinic
Arthritis in Geriatric Pigs
All animals can get arthritis; the larger the animal species the more arthritis we usually see. The heavier the animal the higher the incidence of a problem with locomotion will occur; obesity is to be avoided in pot belly pigs.
The environmental causes of arthritis in pigs can be due to concrete flooring. Some pot belly pigs do develop elbow type of calluses due to laying on a hard surface, and if this occurs then a bed is recommended. Expect that pigs like to root and thus anything that you lay down will be disturbed. Any soft product placed in a pig’s environment may also be eaten, and thus you need to consider preventing impactions and toxic problems if the bedding is ingested.
The medical causes of arthritis in older pigs are obesity, and maybe a low thyroid. Over 1/3 of the adult pigs in a Swedish study had necropsy signs of arthritis. We recommend a low protein, low calorie diet for adult and geriatric pot belly pigs.
The infectious types of arthritis in pigs are mycoplasma (M. hyosynoviae), Erysipelothrix (E. rhusiopathiae), Haemophilus (H. parasuis), Aracanobacterium (A. pyogenes), PRRS, Staphylococcus, Streptococcus and many other infections which can be found in the body.
Aspirin is one of the first products that we may recommend, as well as the oral glucosamine supplements; preferably the chloride formulas. Meloxicam orally for pain and/or Adequin/glucosamine injections can also be attempted; yet these cannot be used in pigs that may end up for human consumption. Joint injections are possible, but rarely indicated.
Tylosin and lincosin are two antibiotics that we may start an arthritic pig on initially if they have arthritis; especially if there is a high body temperature. Long term tetracyclines can help some animals with a chronic form of arthritis. We rarely use oral steroids in pigs with arthritis.
If a pig has a “goose stepping” type of lameness we will recommend a B vitamin supplement that contains pantothenic acid. It will take a month for the symptoms to go away. If a feed is over 2 months of age some B vitamins, such as thiamine, will deteriorate and cause nerve type problems. Excess vitamin A, osteochondrosis (OCD) in pigs can also cause similar problems. At a temporary level we may recommend up to 18 grams of Pantothenic acid, 3 grams of Pyridoxine, 2.5 grams of Thiamine, 200 milligrams of Biotin, 3 grams of Niacin, 5 grams of Riboflavin, 700 grams of Choline, 300 milligrams of Folic acid, 5 M IU of vitamin A, 500,000 IU of vitamin D, 25,000 IU of vitamin E and/or 2 grams of vitamin K all per 1 ton of feed (2,000# = 910 kg). The average pig will eat about 4% of their body weight a day while growing; less as an adult. We have a separate handout on the NRC requirements for swine.
The Staff at the Nelson Road Veterinary Clinic