JULY 31, 2013
Bringing home Babe: What you need to know before bringing home your first pig
When most people think of their ideal pet a certain breed of dog or cat instantly comes to mind. However, for those that love more exotic pets and are willing to put in a little more time and effort a pot-bellied pig can be an ideal choice.
“Pot-bellied pigs, including mini and micro pigs, can make good indoor and outdoor pets,” said Philippa Sprake, Clinical Assistant Professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM). “Pigs are social animals and each has their own personality.” While pigs are unbelievably intelligent and undeniably adorable, as seen here, there are a few things pet-owners should know before bringing little Wilbur home to stay.
The first thing future owners should do is check with their local homeowners association as well as their home’s zoning regulations to ensure that pigs can be kept on the property. Pigs can be extremely noisy, especially when adapting to a new environment and the last thing any new pet owner wants is an angry neighbor or landlord trying to have the pet removed.
“When it comes to deciding on a piglet, it is very important to choose one that is at least 8 weeks old, weaned, and comes from a reputable breeder to ensure that it is healthy,” said Sprake. “Also, even though they are called miniature, micro pigs can still grow to around 40 pounds and full size or traditional pot belly pigs can reach 100 pounds or more so it is important to see the parents of the pig you are planning on taking home to evaluate your piglet’s potential adult size.”
When it comes to training your new pot-bellied pig it is important to remember that pigs can be as intensive a pet as dogs, and as such they need exercise and social interaction or they may develop health and behavioral problems. Pigs can be trained very similarly to dogs using positive reinforcement techniques such as clicker training. They are also highly food motivated so it is important to make sure that their treats are low in calories, such as fresh fruits or vegetables, in order to prevent obesity.
“When it comes to feed, young pigs should be fed a youth mini-pig feed until they reach around two years of age,” said Sprake. “After this they can be fed adult or senior foods which are high in fiber and relatively low calorie to help curb obesity. Pigs should also have access to fresh water at all times, and should never be fed human food as the high salt content can cause salt toxicity.”
When it comes to deciding where to place your pig’s bedding, the first thing a pet-owner must decide is if they want to keep their new pet inside or out. Regardless, all pigs need access to the outside so they can root, which is an instinctive behavior where the pig digs in the ground with their snout searching for food and obtaining iron from the soil, which is vital to prevent anemia.
“Pigs are sensitive to both hot and cold temperature extremes,” said Sprake. “Therefore they need shelter from the sun, wind and rain. If kept outside in Texas, for example, they will need fans to compensate for the hot summer months as well as a kiddie pool or shallow pond to wallow in and cool off. Pigs can also be kept inside as they are easily housetrained or litter-box trained.”
Pet pigs, like their livestock counterparts, should be checked regularly by a veterinarian to ensure that they are healthy as possible.
“Pet pigs initially need to be vaccinated to avoid several diseases, and should be spayed or neutered to prevent behavioral issues, unwanted litters, and other health problems,” said Sprake. “Pigs should also be wormed several times a year and need their feet trimmed regularly. The biggest problems veterinarians see in pet pigs usually comes from owners providing an inappropriate diet.”
Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the Web at vetmed.tamu.edu/pettalk.