Shortcut To Useful Tips
- 1 What Are Some Of The “Pros” To Owning A Pig?
- 2 What Are Some Of The “Cons” To Owning A Pig?
- 3 Do Potbellied Pigs Make Good Pets?
- 4 How Big Do Miniature Pigs Get?
- 5 How Long Do Miniature Pigs Live?
- 6 Can You Housebreak Miniature Pigs?
- 7 Can You Own A Pig In Town?
- 8 Can You Train Them To A Lead And Halter? If So, Where Can I Go To Get The Right Kind?
- 9 I Have Heard That Pigs Can Be Aggressive. Is This True?
- 10 What Do Potbellied Pigs Eat?
- 11 Should A Pet Pig Be Vaccinated?
- 12 What Other Maintenance Requirements Will A Pig Require?
- 13 Which Makes A Better Pet-males Or Females Pigs?
- 14 What Should I Do Before I Get A Pig?
- 15 I Have Decided To Get A Pig. Where Should I Go?
What Are Some Of The “Pros” To Owning A Pig?
Miniature pigs are social, hardy, and intelligent animals. They bond readily with humans and other animals. They are not susceptible to a large number of diseases. Because of their thick skins, they seldom get ticks or fleas. Because they have hair instead of fur, people allergic to animal fur are usually not bothered by pig hair.
They are a relative “low-maintenance” animal, requiring only one or two vet visits a year. They are relatively inexpensive to feed as they actually eat very little food if properly maintained. Pigs are very affectionate animals and love belly rubs, butt scratching, and other forms of affection and grooming. They are naturally clean animals and can easily be trained to use a litter box or go only when outdoors. Pigs have no odor due, in part, to the fact that they have no sweat glands.
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What Are Some Of The “Cons” To Owning A Pig?
We have previously discussed the many problems with trying to keep a pig in the house on a full-time basis. It is often very difficult to find a competent and knowledgeable veterinarian for a potbellied pig. Transporting a full-grown pig to the vets can be a real challenge and very few vets make house calls. Pigs can be a challenge as they are very manipulative animals and often become fairly aggressive as they mature-generally around the 18-month to 2-year mark. Zoning often puts the unwary potbellied pig owner at odds with local authorities. Most jurisdictions classify miniature pigs as swine or livestock and do not allow them in residential or non-agriculturally zoned areas.
Pigs kept in the house can become very destructive. When bored or trying to engage in normal pig behavior, they often turn over furniture, root up carpets or vinyl flooring, eat holes in sheetrock, tear up bedclothes, etc…
The pig’s very longevity can be a “con” if the unwary owner is not fully prepared to accept a 20-year or more commitment to his/her pig. There is no medically approved rabies vaccine for pigs. Finding a “pig sitter” or place to board your pig can be a real challenge when it comes time for vacations or trips. Pigs often do not get along well with other family pets. Most specifically, potbellied pigs and already established mature dogs often have conflicts, which generally result in catastrophic or fatal injuries to the pig.
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Do Potbellied Pigs Make Good Pets?
This is without a doubt the most frequently asked question we receive. It is a loaded question and one for which there is no one single answer. To be sure there is a lot to recommend the potbelly as a pet….but only for the right person(s) and under the right set of circumstances. Owning a potbellied pig is radically different from owning any other type of animal.
They are unique animals with very unique needs and care requirements. Let us state unequivocally and in no uncertain terms that we do NOT condone nor endorse the keeping of any pig as a full-time house pet. Pigs are social creatures with a definite herd mentality. Virtually every miniature pig in a shelter or sanctuary began life as a “pet” pig.
While there are certainly exceptions to this statement, the fact of the matter is that the majority of pet pig relationships do not work out when the pig is kept as a full-time house pet. The three most common reasons given for people surrendering their pet pig are size, aggression, and zoning conflicts. Pigs that are deprived of the social companionship of other pigs, and further deprived of the ability to be outdoors and engage in normal “pig-type” behaviors often do poorly as pets.
Many successful potbellied pig owners have recognized these facts and have modified their lifestyles and the environment to accommodate the needs of their pigs. They buy/adopt more than one pig. They afford the pig ample quality outdoor time. They allow the pig(s) adequate room to graze, root in the dirt, make mudholes, and, generally, engage in normal pig behavior. Many offer their pig access to the indoors for limited and controlled periods of time. Many of these pigs seem to do rather well as “pets”. It is our observation that indoor-only pet pigs do poorly.
They tend to have more health problems as well as a great deal more behavioral problems. We also believe that many of them have severely shortened lifespans. In summary, miniature pigs can and do make excellent pets if the natural needs of the pig are met by the pig’s owner and the pig is provided a natural and normal pig environment and the company of other pigs. Pigs do not make good full-time house pets.
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How Big Do Miniature Pigs Get?
They don’t come with a guarantee and if any breeder, rescuer, or sanctuary owner guarantees the size, don’t buy into it. They grow until they are over 3 years old and the average weight is between 90 and 150 pounds at maturity. The only way to know the true size is to adopt or buy a mature pig over 4 years old.
This picture demonstrates the size disparity between a farm hog (~600 lbs.), a mature potbellied pig (~ 90 lbs.), and a potbellied piglet (~ 10 lbs.) Remember, the AVERAGE weight of a mature potbellied pig is between 90 and 150 pounds!
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How Long Do Miniature Pigs Live?
Keep in mind that the potbellied pig has only been in this country since 1985. We are still learning a lot about these unique little animals. Scientific estimates on their longevity range from 12 to 30 plus years. The truth of the matter is that nobody knows for certain.
Given the hardy nature of these pigs and with regular competent veterinary care, a good diet, and a healthy and stress-free environment, we believe that these pigs can routinely live 20 years or more. Our original pig is 14 years old and is very active and healthy. She shows no signs of deterioration or aging. This is a serious consideration for anyone contemplating a potbellied pig as a pet. It is, quite literally, a lifelong commitment given the obvious longevity of these animals.
When the first pigs were brought over it was believed they would live to be between 20 and 30 years. According to one of our local veterinarians, they are now re-thinking that and believe that the average life span is closer to that of dogs with an average of 9 to 14 years with some living longer and some shorter.
The oldest one we found on record lived to be 17 years old. Most die before then, but with science being the way it is and with scientists constantly working on good nutrition for them, who knows what the future holds?
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Can You Housebreak Miniature Pigs?
Yes, they can be housebroken and usually easier than it is to housebreak a dog but it takes consistency. You can housebreak to litter boxes (white shavings preferably) or go outdoors. You should start them in a small confined area with a litter box or by taking them outside every couple of hours and telling the pig to “go potty” and rewarding him with a treat and lots of praise when he does.
You should not bring him back inside until he potties. Remember that baby piglets don’t have strong bladders until they are about six months of age, so you must take them out regularly. If they have an accident in the house, you will need to eliminate all odor. It’s best to mop or suck it up with paper towels and clean and then apply straight white vinegar (about 1/4 cup) straight onto the spot and let it air dry.
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Can You Own A Pig In Town?
Some towns and cities allow for the miniature pig. But always check with the zoning first and make sure you get it in writing. Don’t leave it to chance or you might lose the pet you love.
Can You Train Them To A Lead And Halter? If So, Where Can I Go To Get The Right Kind?
Yes, and they should be halter and lead trained. They make special harnesses for pigs and they can be ordered from several places.
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I Have Heard That Pigs Can Be Aggressive. Is This True?
Yes. Aggressiveness in pet pigs is probably the second most common reason given for pig owners giving up their pigs. Consider the pig in the wild. They live in small social herds, usually run by an older, alpha (dominant) female. Social standing in the herd is critically important for a pig. This position in the herd is determined by fighting. Piglets and younger pigs generally have a free run of the herd until about 18-months to 2-years of age.
At that point, they must claim and establish their position in the herd. This is accomplished by fighting and is characterized by a great deal of posturing, jaw snapping, foaming at the mouth, swiping with tusks, biting, slamming their head into their adversary’s sides in an attempt to knock him/her over or lift him/her off their feet.
Once one of the pigs gives way, the fighting generally ceases and a new hierarchy has been established. When a new pig is introduced to an established herd, the fighting starts all over again with the newcomer fighting to establish his/her position and all the other herd members fighting to maintain their respective positions. To the uninitiated, it can be a scary scene to behold and it occurs every time we introduce a newly rescued pig into his/her new herd.
With the pet pig, the family has become the pig’s surrogate herd. When the time is right, the pet pig will do what is natural-he/she will attempt to find their niche in the social order of the herd. To do this, he/she engages in what is normal pig behavior and begins to get aggressive with other family members. This phenomenon often takes family members by surprise when their loving and affectionate little pig suddenly becomes “the pig from hell”. In some cases, it is a passing phase and the pig finds his/her place relatively easily and all returns to normal. In many other cases, it can escalate until the family is forced to get rid of the pig.
A related type of aggression is also very common in the pet pig. Every time a visitor comes to the house or a new member is added to the family (i.e.: a new baby), the pet pigs see this event as a new member joining the herd and attempt to ensure his/her established position by becoming aggressive with the visitor or newcomer. Again, the pig is only engaging in normal pig behavior and can not understand why he/she is disciplined or banished to a basement or spare bedroom when company arrives. Interestingly, when an “aggressive” pig is placed in a herd of other pigs, the aggressiveness invariably disappears within 48-72 hours.
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What Do Potbellied Pigs Eat?
Keeping a pig from becoming overweight is one of the hardest challenges for a pig owner. Pigs are fairly indiscriminate eaters and, if left to their own devices, will literally “make pigs of themselves. There are several commercially available miniature pig feeds available, including Mazuri, which is marketed by Purina. Generally sold in 25-pound bags, these feeds are nutritionally designed for miniature pigs and should be their predominant feed.
Mature potbellies with normal levels of exercise should get two daily feedings of no more than one cup of feed each. Supplemental foods can include most low acid fruits and vegetables. Fruits should be fed sparingly due to the high natural sugar content. A good rule of thumb is “no people food”. Potbellies need a low protein, low-fat diet. The important thing is to not overfeed your pig. You must show restraint in feeding your pig because the pig certainly has none when it comes to eating. If quality grass is available, pigs can be allowed to graze, but feed amounts may have to be adjusted downward if your pig grazes a great deal. Pigs are ungulates (they have only one stomach).
They prefer alfalfa hay or a mix of alfalfa with other grasses and, during the winter or periods of drought, should have some hay as a supplement for roughage. Many people use Cheerios or some similar non-sugar, grain-based cereals for snacks, treats, or training. Chocolate is very bad for pigs, just as it is for many other animals. It should go without saying that pigs will investigate and taste virtually anything they find in their environment-natural or manmade.
Therefore, you must ensure that any and all plants, chemicals, cleaning supplies, antifreeze, etc….that may be bad for your pig are well out of reach. We have found that pigs are pretty good about leaving “bad” plants and bushes alone on their own. They seem to have an instinct about natural poisons. However, they are not programmed by nature to recognize dangerous and deadly manmade poisons and are much more likely to eat rat poison, antifreeze, and other chemicals found around the typical American household. You must ensure that you “pig-proof” your house and yard before you get a pig and regularly thereafter.
An important point: Pigs need a constant source of fresh, clean water at all times. Pigs, especially in hot weather, may drink as much as 10-15% of their body weight in water daily. In hot weather, your pig must have either a mud hole or some other source of water in which he can immerse himself to help keep his body temperature down. Inexpensive “kiddy pools” are a good and inexpensive option and are disposable when your pig finally destroys it. Without the ability to sweat it is very easy for a pig to become overheated and become stressed or go into heatstroke. Even in cooler weather, pigs drink a prodigious amount of water compared to other animals.
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Should A Pet Pig Be Vaccinated?
We recommend that all pigs be vaccinated when piglets. At a minimum, we recommend vaccination for brucellosis, erysipelas, pseudorabies, parvo, and tetanus. Your vet may recommend other vaccinations based on swine diseases that may be prevalent in your area. There are mixed opinions among the pig community as to whether annual vaccinations are necessary.
Our view on the issue is that it doesn’t hurt, but if you own a single pig, it is probably not necessary. Most of the serious and potentially deadly diseases pigs contract they get from contact with other pigs. In a closed herd or for a pig that has virtually no exposure to other pigs, the chances of disease transmission are minimal. There are a few zoonotic diseases out there, but none that seem to be of great danger to the majority of pigs. A zoonotic disease is one that can be contracted from another species.
If your pig is in contact with other pigs or a large number of other animals, it is probably wise to have the pig vaccinated regularly. We do, however, recommend biannual worming of all pigs. It is an inexpensive precaution against a host of parasites and can be done orally, by injection, or by using a topical (pour-on) antiparasitic.
It is not necessary to have a vet accomplish this procedure-especially if you use an oral or topical agent. Ivomec (Ivomectrin) seems to be the antiparasitic of choice among pig owners, but we recently switched to Dectomax at our vet’s suggestion and have been very satisfied with the results as it is a broader spectrum antiparasitic than is Ivomec.
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What Other Maintenance Requirements Will A Pig Require?
We always recommend at least an annual checkup by a qualified veterinarian. Hooves and tusks may need attention on an annual basis depending on the age, sex, and level of physical activity of the pig. Some pigs require more frequent attention to hooves and dentition. In many cases, the pig will have to be anesthetized to perform these procedures.
You should always try to find a vet who uses Isoflourine gas to anesthetize a pig. Pigs often do very poorly with injectable anesthesia and the risk of complications and even death are significantly higher with the use of injectable anesthesia-especially if your vet is not a “pig expert”.
You will need to learn and become educated on what is normal for your pig. As creatures of habit, you will soon be able to tell when your pig is not acting normally. Not every abnormal behavior is caused by rushing to the vets, but there are certain signs and symptoms that will tell you that your pig needs immediate medical attention. If in doubt, call your vet or some other knowledgeable pig resource that you trust. Do not procrastinate and do not try to treat the pig yourself.
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Which Makes A Better Pet-males Or Females Pigs?
If spayed/neutered we find no difference in the quality of either sex as a pet. Unneutered male pigs are called boars. They are obnoxious little fellows with a pungent odor and a libido the size of Texas. They grow tusks (canine teeth) at a very rapid rate and develop heavy slabs of muscles-especially on their front shoulder blades-called armor that they use when they fight with other boars. Boars can become sexually active as early as three months of age and are usually neutered between one month and two months of age.
It is a relatively simple and inexpensive procedure when done by a competent vet. Once neutered, they have gentle dispositions, no odor, and lose all their huge libidos. A neutered male is called a barrow. Unspayed females are called either gilts (never had a litter of piglets) or a sow (has had one or more litters). Unspayed females have a monthly menstrual cycle and can become quite obnoxious for 3-5 days about every 27 days. They can become sexually active as early as 5 or 6 months of age. Spaying a female is much more involved than neutering a boar and is, essentially, a complete hysterectomy.
Once spayed, the female no longer has a monthly cycle and becomes very docile. One word of caution: Many vets do not like to spay an adult female potbellied pig as the surgery is too involved and the risk of death is significantly higher. Most, however, prefer to wait until the pig is several months old before doing this surgery and some even prefer that the pig has completed at least one menstrual cycle before spaying. Check with your vet to see what he/she prefers. Once neutered, both males and females make equally good companions.
What Should I Do Before I Get A Pig?
In a word: GET EDUCATED. We can not urge the prospective pig owner enough to learn about these animals first-hand before getting one. Education is not only the key to ensuring that you are not getting in over your head but it is the main ingredient in reducing the number of abused, abandoned, and neglected pigs needing rescue. Contact a sanctuary. If there is no one near you, find one on the Internet.
They can more than likely put you in touch with some pig rescue organization or potbellied pig service group in your area that can provide you with detailed information. Virtually every sanctuary we know of is more than happy to spend time with a prospective pig owner and provide a first-hand education about potbellied pigs. At the risk of infuriating breeders, we strongly recommend you do not go only to a breeder for your education. Remember, the breeder is in business to sell pigs.
While there are some very reputable breeders out there, it has been our experience in talking to many pig owners that truth in advertising is not always a breeder’s long suit. There is a wide selection of books and literature available which discuss potbellied pigs in great detail. Some of it is good and some of it is very misleading. There is no substitute for getting a solid, first-hand education.
If your pig purchase does not work out, these little animals are very difficult to place in other homes. Don’t be surprised or disappointed if you discover that owning a pet pig is not for you. Many people find, after education, that getting a pig is a bad decision. Better to find out before you invest the time, money, and energy in a pig only to find out that you are not zoned for a pig or that a pig was a bad choice as a pet.
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I Have Decided To Get A Pig. Where Should I Go?
There are three main sources where you can get a pig: a pet shop, a breeder, a sanctuary/shelter. We can not recommend strongly enough: DO NOT BUY A PIG FROM A PET SHOP. As with many other animals sold in pet stores, these animals are frequently improperly bred, not properly weaned, vaccinated, or wormed, and often sickly. In many cases a potbellied pig will be bred to another pig breed-even a farm pig-to produce quick, large litters to maximize the store’s profits. You will be forced to pay an outrageous price for a “pig in a poke”.
Breeders fall into one of two categories: reputable and “backyard” breeders. Unfortunately, the distinction is often arbitrary and very subjective. Even amongst breeders themselves, there is disagreement on who is reputable and who is not. Just remember that the motivation behind a breeder is profit.
We have seen some wonderful and healthy pigs purchased from breeders, but we have also seen just as many horror stories of sick or defective pigs that came from supposedly reputable breeders. Do your homework carefully. Buying a “registered pig” does not guarantee the pig is healthy or sound. Ensure the piglet has been weaned properly, vaccinated, wormed, and spayed or neutered as appropriate.
Ask to see both the sow and the boar that the piglets came from. The size of the parents is not always an ironclad guarantee that the offspring will be that size. Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing how closely bred or inbred/crossbred your prospective pig is.
Some breeders are very conscientious with their crossbreeding and inbreeding, but many are not. When you closely breed any animal in an attempt to get desirable traits, you also breed in many undesirable traits at the same time. We will never recommend buying a pig or piglet sight unseen.
Once again, education is all-important BEFORE you buy. Contracts with breeders can be sound legal documents or they can be so much printed garbage. Not too many people will go to the trouble and expense to take a breeder to court if conditions of the contract are not fulfilled by the breeder.
Sanctuaries often have rescued pigs or piglets for adoption for little to no expense. It is common practice for a sanctuary to ask for a donation to cover the costs of rescuing and treating a pig or piglet. In the case of piglets born on the sanctuary to rescued sows, at least the mother is available for you to see. The boar may or may not be available depending on the circumstances of the rescue. You, the prospective owner, should still approach a sanctuary adoption with healthy skepticism.
While not motivated by profit, the sanctuary is much more likely simply to be looking for a good home for the pig or piglet. A reputable sanctuary will normally not put a “problem” pig up for adoption. As insurance, the sanctuary should still have a contract available that guarantees the pig to be in good health, current on vaccinations, and free of defects to the best of the sanctuary’s knowledge.
Our adoption contract specifically states that we will take the pig back from the owner at any time and for any reason as long as the pig is alive…no questions asked, should the adoption not work out. In many cases the sanctuary director will be able to put you in contact with the former owner of the pig should you want to ask any questions before adoption.
Most reputable sanctuaries will screen you more closely than any pet shop, breeder, or animal shelter before they even consider allowing you to adopt a pig from their sanctuary. They should also ensure that you are fully knowledgeable and comfortable with owning a pig and that the pig is going to a good and sound environment.
It is to the sanctuary director’s benefit to do so as he/she has not only a cost invested in the pig but an emotional investment as well. The sanctuary prefers to only have to rescue a pig one time and if the adoption does not work out the sanctuary must recover the pig and the pig is put through the trauma of another upheaval. You will get a good feel for the quality of the sanctuary when you visit, and your gut feelings about the sanctuary and the quality of care they afford the rescued animals are probably very valid.
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