Miniature & Pot-Bellied Pigs

 

Miniature pigs (especially Vietnamese Pot-Bellied Pigs) are becoming common household pets. These animals can range in size from 40 to nearly 200 lbs. Vietnamese Pot-Bellied Pigs (VPBPs) were first domesticated in Southeast Asia around six thousand years ago. Recently, they have become quite popular due their intelligence, friendliness, and small size. However, there is a significant amount of false information on the internet with regard to care of miniature pigs. This article explores important things to know in order to keep your mini-pig happy and healthy.

 

Diet

Obesity is a common problem with VPBPs. Overweight pigs are prone to joint problems, metabolic disease, and “fat-blindness”, which occurs when the fat pads over the eyes become over-large and impair the pig’s vision. It is important to feed your pig feed that has been specially formulated for miniature pigs. These feeds have moderate levels of protein and low fat content. Purina Mazuri Mini-Pig Feed is easily obtainable at your local feed store, and is properly formulated for miniature pigs. Most Pot-Bellied Pigs (PBPs) need only ½ to 1 cup of food per day (approximately 2% of their body weight). If your pig is “food-crazed”, it may be helpful to supplement their diet with fresh vegetables that are high in fiber but low in carbohydrates, such as lettuce, carrots, or celery. Fruit and starchy foods such as potatoes should be fed only in limited amounts due to their high sugar and starch content. Plain cheerios and air-popped popcorn without butter or salt make excellent treats and training tools. As with any animal, it is important to make sure that your pig always has access to fresh water.

Due to the shape of their snouts, pigs prefer shallow dishes. Plastic Frisbees placed upside down or aluminum pie pans make excellent food dishes.

 

Housing & Handling

Before considering adopting or buying a miniature pig, it is imperative that you check your county ordinances with regards to zoning requirements for owning pigs. Miniature pigs are classified as farm/production animals and are in the same category as production pigs; they are therefore not permitted in all residential areas.

Mini-pigs can be housed indoors, outdoors, or in a combination of the two. Indoor pigs need a space to call their own with a bed of blankets, food and water, and a litter pan. When you are not home, it is recommended that you confine your pig to a room or to a gated-off part of the house. These animals are intelligent and curious, and can easily get into trouble when you are away. Outdoor miniature pigs need a shed with straw bedding. Make sure that your shed has a ramped entryway; as pigs age, they sometimes become reluctant to climb steps and may resist entering the shed. Outdoor areas should be enclosed with fencing at least three feet tall.

Pigs require regular exercise. It is recommended that you train your pig to use a harness and be walked on-leash. This will help facilitate walks outside, trips to the feed store or veterinary office, etc.

 

Training

Pet pigs are relatively easy to train. They will generally not urinate or defecate where they sleep, which makes them amenable to crate training just like you would a puppy. You can train your pet pig to use the bathroom outside. When they are young, they should be taken out at least five or six times a day, and left outside for at least ten minutes to do their business. Taking them out first thing in the morning and right before bedtime is a must. Mini-pigs can also be litter box-trained. A shallow pan such as the pan found at the bottom of a dog crate makes an excellent litter box. Pine shavings are an ideal litter for pigs. Do not use cedar shavings or kitty litter. The oils in cedar shavings can irritate a pig’s skin, and pigs will eat kitty litter, which can lead to digestive problems.

Pigs are very food-motivated. Treats can be used to help train your pig, but be careful not to overfeed your mini-pig by giving them copious amounts of treats.

 

Veterinary Care

We recommend yearly veterinary visits for wellness checks, vaccines, and other basic needs such as hoof and tusk trimming. If your pet pig is not transportable, many ambulatory veterinarians, including Deepwood, will make house calls.

At Deepwood, we recommend the following vaccines for pet pigs:

  1. Rhinishield: A respiratory vaccine that helps prevent contraction of bordetella (kennel cough, which can be spread from dogs) and other respiratory infections.
  2. Leptoshield: This vaccine protects against Leptospirosis, a bacterium found in the environment that can cause liver and kidney failure.
  3. Rabies: Although pigs are fairly resistant to the rabies virus, we recommend vaccinating them for rabies due to potential contact with dogs. Keeping them vaccinated will also help protect your pig from local animal control authorities in the event that the pig bites a person.

Other routine care your mini-pig may need includes hoof trimming and tusk trimming. We prefer to perform this service under sedation, as it is far less stressful for the pig, and is far safer for both the veterinarian and for your pet. Some pigs may need their hooves trimmed twice yearly, depending upon how quickly they grow and how quickly they wear them down.

We also recommend that all PBPs be spayed or neutered. Male pigs should ideally be neutered prior to three or four months of age. This will help eliminate any residual “boar taint”, and will help prevent aggressive behavior. Female mini-pigs should be spayed prior to eight months of age. We recommend spaying females for multiple reasons; the primary reasons are reduction of aggression during heat cycles, elimination of life-threatening uterine tumors, and elimination of endometrial hyperplasia (thickening of the uterine lining). The spay procedure is similar to that performed in dogs and cats, but there is a greater risk of blood loss. This risk grows as the pig ages, so it is important to have your pig spayed before she is eight months of age.

Miniature pigs are fairly resilient animals. They do, however, sometimes get sick. The first, most cardinal sign of illness is often loss of appetite. A pig that will not eat is a sick pig, and requires an immediate call to your veterinarian. Pigs are prone to both constipation and diarrhea. In young pigs, diarrhea is often due to intestinal parasites and/or bacterial, and should be treated after a fecal examination with an appropriate dewormer and/or antibiotic. In adult pigs (and young pigs), diarrhea is often secondary to eating something inappropriate (garbage, carpet, etc.). These episodes are often self-limiting; however, any bout of diarrhea that lasts longer than 48 hours necessitates a veterinary call.

Older pigs often develop arthritis. This condition is progressive and cannot be cured. It is, however, manageable with joint supplements and anti-inflammatory medications that can be prescribed by your veterinarian.

 

Miniature pigs are intelligent, independent animals that can be a joy to own. We recommend consulting with your veterinarian prior to purchasing a pig, to make sure that it is the right fit for your and your family.

Laurel Marley, DVM

  • Deepwood Veterinary Clinic

    Deepwood Veterinary Clinic
    7300 Ordway Rd.
    Centreville, VA 20121
    (703) 631-9133
    email: deepwoodvet@gmail.com
  • Office Hours

    Open 7 Days a Week, 8am - 8pm
    Monday - Saturday by Appointment
    Sunday for urgent/emergency care

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