The Miniature Potbellied Pig
Originating in Vietnam and Thailand in the 60's, new owners are seeking the micro-mini in hopes that their new family member will remain small. Unfortunately whether you buy a micro, mini, or Juliana they are all basically interchangeable. Some grow to 30lbs. while others grow to 150lbs.; but the amount you feed and what you feed them is largely to blame. Some breeds like Kunekune, Tamworth, and Gloucestershire Old Spot have been cross bred to make smaller pigs. The number one reason most pigs are rehomed is their size. Pigs even mini pigs were developed as food, so their genetics have them gain weight quickly with little food. Overweight pigs just like people develop arthritis, diabetes, heart disease and even entropion (where their eyelids roll the lashes into their eyes.) Additionally, most small animal veterinarians will not treat your pig. I have even had owners tell me their pigs were turned away from emergency rooms. It is always recommended to do your homework and avoid the impulse buy; especially with a pet that can live 15 - 20 years. Finally, most pigs are STUBBORN, and sweet and smart and stubborn!
The Following are suggestions I feel Parents should know before getting a Pig:
- Basic Training: Pigs are food motivated, so basic commands are easily learned; but don't forget they're stubborn and smart. They also naturally like to nest and root. Thus damage to carpets, furniture, lawns, even walls can occur. Many owners litterbox train their pigs, which I recommend. There will be times when they don't want to go out in the rain or they want to go out and eat the acorns which can be toxic in excess, etc. They do have a natural desire to eliminate in one area. This helps with potty training. Because they like to root in the soil and eat what they discover; they are prone to intestinal parasites. It is recommended to remove their feces to prevent soil contamination, as well as routinely deworm them. It is also recommended to get them use to riding in the car while they are small. We have clients who must rent a uhaul to bring their pet in. Forcing a stubborn 100lb. pig in a car can be challenging.
- Safety: If a pig escapes, it can be very difficult to catch. We strongly recommend a harness, and teaching your new pig to walk on a leash while they are young. It is important to watch and adjust the harness size as they grow as sores are a common. Care needs to be exercised with young children and dogs. Some pigs bite, and they can easily remove a child's finger. Lots of pigs are great with dogs, but we've seen terrible wounds on both pigs and dogs when they didn't get along. Care should also be taken around horses. For some reason horses will often kick or stomp the unsuspecting pig.
- Housing: In Pinellas county pigs are classified as farm animals, pet status is extended only when they are housed indoors. Additionally, you are only allowed one pot-bellied pig per address. If allowed outdoors unsupervised, pig panels should extend well below the ground, as I've seen holes over a foot deep, which pigs used to escape. Pigs are susceptible to sunburn and skin cancer as well as over heating and hypothermia. They need shady areas and raised platforms with bedding. Many enjoy playing in a kiddie pool kinda like mud. They need space to roll in the dirt and play. Indoors they need a bed and blankets they can burrow in. Toys are important to stimulate play and their minds, as well keeping things you don't want chewed, put up. Hardwood floors and tile can be slippery and throw rugs help with traction.
- Nutrition: All pigs need specific mini-pig food like Mazuri, Lil red, or Ross Mills. Never use commercial pig food as its formulated for maximum growth or dog food. The mini-pig food is formulated from vegetables and has added ingredients to help prevent kidney stones. It's very hard to get a pig to diet and just like us; it's easier to just avoid the weight gain. I recommend small juvenile pigs be fed 1/4 cup of pellets twice daily. Along with the pellets, I recommend vegetables such as: celery, cucumbers, peppers, romaine, kale, spinach, broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, peas, squash, zucchini and green beans. Other beans need to be cooked. Pigs love treats and most beg and complain that they need more. I recommend fruits be used for treats, because you must be careful about the carbs or sugars. An apple slice or a core is better than an entire apple. You can give kiwi, pears, peaches, melons, grapes or raisins. They all make great rewards for training. They like bananas, including the peel. For that matter they like most of the parts we throw away. Cheerios work well but I recommend limiting to 10 per day. They like peanuts and peanut butter we often hide medications in. Many owners cook treats for their pigs or freeze fruits. Owners should avoid Citrus, Dog or Cat foods, meats, alcohol, dairy, chocolate, sweets, chips and acorns. Not every pig will eat everything, but remember they will go for what they think tastes best, not what is nutritious. So as with our kids we must help guide them in their diet choices. Finally they always need access to plenty of fresh water.
- Care: If you do not regularly take your pig for walks on hard surfaces like sidewalks; their hooves will need to be trimmed every 4-6mos. Overgrown hooves quickly become misshapen and make walking difficult. Severely overgrown hooves can become so deformed, that we cannot correct them. Most males have tusks that we trim periodically when they are sedated to have their hooves trimmed. Microchips are generally placed behind the left ear. Spaying and neutering is recommended at 2 mos. of age as they mature quickly and can become aggressive. We recommend all pigs be vaccinated with Parapleuroshield a multivalent vaccination. Parasites like sarcoptic mange are common and transmissible to people and other pets. All these parts of basic care are individually tailored to your pet and his lifestyle.