Last updated: August 24. 2013 6:04PM - 2909 Views

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By Dr. Sara Smith “Miss Piggy” came in for a visit the other day. Her name is Coco, and she is a very cute, 10-week-old potbellied pig with an attitude. I gave her a good physical examination, much to her dislike, then proceeded to give her an injection to rid her of possible scabies, the most common parasite among her kind. She happily allowed me to administer the injection as I fed her what I had in my exam room — a dog treat. It’s true. Pigs really can eat just about anything.My fondness for these interesting creatures has grown along with my knowledge of them, once again proving that we do not stop learning when we graduate veterinary school. If you are considering owning a pot-bellied pig (or miniature pig), make sure that you are able to provide adequate housing, nutrition and activity for your pet. Be prepared to handle their size. A 10-week-old pig is a cuddly 10 to 15 pounds, but a 1-year-old pig is more than 50 pounds. Mini pigs can be indoor, outdoor, or both, but cannot tolerate temperature extremes. It is best to have them indoors if the outdoor temperature is over 85 degrees. Some indoor pigs prefer to seek out “sun spots” so they probably are not keen on the cold, either. Make an area for your mini pig to call its own, with a feeding and watering station, litterbox, and sleeping area. Yes, pigs can be litterbox trained. It needs to be an uncovered box with a wide entrance, and plenty of room to turn around and root. Dirt-like materials, straw or wood chips make good substrates. Make sure the material is easy for you to shovel out and safe for piggy to eat if he gets a little curious. With all this said, do not expect that you won’t have the occasional accident around the house.One of the most common health conditions among miniature pigs is obesity. They need a diet that is tailored to their needs — mini pig food is commercially available, and you should look at the bag as as a starting point when deciding how much to feed. Give supplements in moderation, such as fruits, and crunchy or leafy vegetables. Pigs are omnivores and can handle most anything we can. Do not risk giving bones, rawhides or fruit pits. If you would not want a large or sharp object coursing through your digestive tract, chances are your pig should not have it, either. Use a harness to take your pig on walks, and have a fenced in area to encourage exercise. Ask your veterinarian what an ideal weight would be for your pet while he or she is still young. At rest, mini pigs enjoy rooting, just as their farm animal counterparts do. Provide them with several blankets in their sleeping and relaxing areas. Water intake is very essential to a healthy pig lifestyle, as bladder stones are another common medical problem. If you are concerned your pig does not drink much water, discuss ways to increase intake with your veterinarian, such as adding a small amount of no sugar added fruit juice. Other health concerns with mini pigs include: lameness (due to their conformation, fractures, muscle pulls, and ligament tears are common); enterocolitis (a digestive tract upset that results from eating garbage or fecal material); generalized bacterial infections; overgrown hooves; overheating (pigs do not sweat); and salt toxicity (a possibly fatal condition that occurs when pigs drink very little water).Spaying and neutering surgeries are important in making mini pigs better pets. Males should be neutered around 8 to 12 weeks of age, and females spayed between 4 and 6 months. Both sexes can become very aggressive under the influence of their hormones. Nobody wants a 50 pound house pet charging and biting at him! Just as dogs require maintenance, so do our mini pigs. For Miss Piggy, it’s not easy being beautiful! She might need to have her canine teeth trimmed once a year, and her hooves more often than that. These procedures are likely to require sedation, plus physical restraint. Did I mention that ear plugs are a must-have around an unwilling pig? (By the way, NO pig is willing to have his hooves trimmed, or to be touched by a veterinarian in general). Routine vaccinations are not required for potbellied pigs, but a tetanus shot is a good idea following an injury.As with any pet, having a good relationship with your veterinarian is a hallmark in potbellied pig care. I am looking forward to seeing more lovely pampered piggies.Dr. Sara Smith is an associate veterinarian at Delphos Animal Hospital.



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