About Small Breed Pigs-GENERAL INFORMATION
Many things contribute to a happy, healthy pig. The following article by Arlen Wilbers, D.V.M., is in no way exhaustive, but it is an attempt to touch on some common problems and offer some common sense guidelines to the potbellied pig owner or soon-to-be owner.
What are Miniature, Teacup, Micro, & Little Potbellied Pigs?
All of these are a type of potbellied pig that originated in the Orient centuries ago and have been bred down and genetically mutated to achieve a variety of smaller sizes, breeds, and colors. As with anything being genetically mutated, and from different types of genetics in general, there is always a slight risk of whatever it is, not being the exact size or color of the size and color to be expected. In other words, because of how all these different breeds originated, you cannot always rely on the size and color of the parents, grandparents, & great-grandparents to predict what color and sizes you may get. However, most of the time, relying on the family tree history is accurate. Any reputable breeder should be able to supply a family tree history (a.k.a. pedigree) of a minimum of two generations back on any pig they have upon request. Be advised in advance, if you want a copy of these, they do not come cheap! But also know, it does not cost you or the breeder anything to allow you to take a look at the history. So when in doubt, always ask! A picture text or email can always be sent!
Most of the more common breeds of the small breeds will range anywhere from 20-50lbs in weight, 9-18” in height, and 10-24” in length. Different breeds have different size qualifications and standards. All of the small breeds offer a very wide variety of color selection including, but not limited too black, black & white, white/pink, red, copper, chocolate, silver, and gray. The patterns of the colors are limitless. They can come in solids, spotted, speckled, patches, stripped, and blotches.
The most common eye color is black. However, there is also a wide variety of eye colors as well and both eyes will not always be the same color. The variety of colors include, but is not limited to brown, green, blue, almond, slate blue, and hazel.
Most of these pigs have short wrinkled noses, perky little ears, sway backs, straight tails (that wag like dogs’ tails), and, of course, pot belly pigs! But not will have these features. One of the favorite among small breeds is the Micro & Mini Juliana's or Painted Pig. They have longer perky ears, not as much of a sway in the back, straight tails, & no pot belly! Their features more resemble a ferrel or wild pig, less the size of course! Alot of breeders will cross the Juliana breed with one of the others that have more of the pot pelly pig appearence because people love the short snouts & spotted & blotched color patterns. These crosses tend to make a heartier & much more doscile pig.
Just remember that not all will have the actual pot belly or short wrinkled snouts. All, part or sometimes just one out of an entire litter may have the exact features each individual prefers. These are all forms genetics that are passed from family lineage and each pig can have different bellies, snout length, appearance, colors, size & temperaments.
These breeds are often referred to as the “Yuppie House Pet.” They are a unique breed of their own and are not bred from the familiar American farm pig. The Chinese house pig, the Vietnamese potbellied pig, the miniature teacup, micro potbellied pig, Juliana, Julian, micro, micro mini, nanno, teacup, toy, mini pig and the list continues. These are all names referring to the same type of pig, but sometimes different breeds, or breed crosses, sizes, shapes, characteristics, and features.
The standard sized Potbellied pigs, ranging from 75-225lbs, were introduced into the United States in 1985, and have captured the interest and hearts of millions.
At the present time, research has indicated that these little animals, the small breed pigs, with proper care, can live approximately up to twenty years. These pigs are docile, easy going and have virtually no body odor. Their intelligence has been compared to the dolphins, primates, & toddler aged children, thus making them one of the most intelligent house pets known.
All sizes of these pigs are truly a remarkable animal and a remarkable pet. They prefer a clean environment, will not scratch your furniture, and are not prone to getting fleas or ticks. Because pigs do not shed like a dog or a cat, they are the perfect pet for anyone who suffers from common pet allergies.
All sizes of these pigs are an exceptionally intelligent pet & for those of you who can give love and attention to a gentle and loyal companion, they will make a wonderful pet.
Because of the intelligence level of these animals, strict training, routine, activities, and stability is a must to ensure a healthy and wonderful relationship between them and their owner.
Just within the past few years, small breed pigs are being used more often for therapy animals in various fields for both adults and children. So far all of the stats reviewed have had an excellent turn out rate. Thus further proving that Pigs can make excellent companions for anyone, at any age, providing the proper training methods and structure.
How to Keep Your Pig Healthy
In the past several years, the smaller of this group of pigs, has become an increasingly popular companion animal. This is due to its relative intelligence and strong human bonding characteristics. This surge in ownership has led to many problems, including legal battles, human/pig conflicts, and general lack of health care knowledge among owners and veterinarians alike.
Many factors affect the physical health of your pig; however, one of the most common mistakes is feeding a poor quality food & overfeeding. Thus over’conditioning of smaller breed pigs is probably due to the concept we have entertained since childhood of a fat rounded pig who will eat anything. But remember the fate of that pig....
Healthy body condition does not include a pendoulous belly and fluctuant jowels. Ribs should not be visible, but should be easily felt. Jowels should not obscure the jaw and fat rolls on the face should be absent.
Obesity predisposes tendon determinates in the legs, poor foot wear and entropion which may progress to mechanical blindness. Obesity also puts your pet into a bad surgical risk category should emergency surgery be necessary, not to mention long–term head problems and other organ failures.
How much to feed depends on your pig’s condition and activity level and must be adjusted as needed; there is no formula on calculating the amout to feed each pig, as it can vary per pig. Diet should consist of a high quality, all natural, grain & soybean free or less than 10% grain & soybean content, food with a lot of vegetables & lean meats, grazing time, and small fruit & yogurt treats.
A high quality food can be difficult to find, and is also alot less cost efficent than the foods that can be found at your local farm store. The better brands of foods for the small breeds usually have to be ordered online or from a vet or breeder. The main things to look for when purchasing a high quality food is the main ingredients. These should NOT include any grains, soybeans, or corn, as these are the main ingredients in pig foods fed to grow the farm & show hogs that are usually someones dinner. All these ingredients have natural growth enhancers in them, to enhance over all, fast growth. Over all meaning, growing from the inside out, including bone structure, organs, and fat. Foods with these as the main ingredints also contain alot of filler, that will will cause loose & excessive bowel movements. All of which you absolutley want to avoid with the small breed pigs.
The main ingredients of high quality pig foods should consist of vegetables & fish or chicken, along with coconut or fish oil, berries, and flaxseed in the top 10 ingredients. These ingredients should all be "natural" foods & the labels should have the grain content listed and that should be 10% or less. Some foods will not show the grain contents, so be on the lookout for soybean, wheat, wheat protein, & corn in the first 10 ingredients. If any of those are listed in the first 10, you will want to avoid that food.
Dog and cat food are too rich in protein and calories and are not balanced for pigs. Most fruits have sugar in them and tend to increase weight gain. All berries are great for them & low in sugar and can be fed often. Supplement vitamins are highly recommended. A child’s vitamin, once a day works well. You will need to dose according to weight. Contact your breeder or veterinarian for correct dosage amounts and concerning your pig’s condition and diet.
Selecting a Veterinarian
One of the most important decisions you will make in the health of your pig is which veterinarian you will use. Most veterinarians are either farm animal or companion animal oriented. Companion animal veterinarians in general are unfamiliar with pig diseases, medicines, vaccines, general well being, and physiology of pigs and are uncomfortable handling ones that can be quite vocal and disrupt their practice environment.
Farm animal veterinarians are far more familiar with pigs, but not in a companion form and may find it difficult to incorporate pet animal mentality into their practice. However, a vet that is not necessarily as gentle as you would like, but is knowlegable of pigs, is much better than one that lacks knowlege & vital information to their health. Also, farm vets are no longer available in many areas, so choosing a vet can sometimes become a serious dilemma in inner city & and highly populated areas. However, pigs are not prone to sickness and health issues, & do not require annual vet visits, so as long as you can have a vet on hand or someone that has vet access, that is willing to give advice, assist in diagnosis if something is wrong, give correct medication information & doseages, prescribe needed or wanted vaccines & prescribe & fill medications if needed, you will be set.
Most breeders work very closely with their vets and if they are an established and reputable breeder you should be able to go through them to get assistance with all the above mentioned issues since they were the vet that seen your pig in the beginning.
When looking to purchase a pig, make sure you ask the breeders if they can accomodate you with this and follow up with others that have purchased from them to make sure what they are telling you is true. Sometimes they will tell you what they think you want to hear, to be able to get your money & later when you attempt to contact them, you will not be able to get in touch with them.
A small breed pig, regardless of the size or weight is NOT an exotic animal. Some vets will attempt to convince you otherwise so they can charge extra for handling an exotic animal. Do not allow this to happen.
Some recommendations may help in choosing a vet if you decide to go with one in your area where you can take your pig into the office. First, make sure the practitioner is willing to learn, has a personable manner, and is willing to say, "I don’t know." Ask about their experience with small breed pigs. Talk with other pig owners who use that veterinarian and listen to their opinions and experiences. Find out about vaccinations uses and routine care practiced by the veterinarian.
Vaccinations (SUGGESTED, BUT NOT REQUIRED BY FL LAW)
Vaccinations should include Erysipelas, and Pasturella on a yearly basis after an initial booster doses, if the pig could be coming in contact with other pigs, wild pigs especially. The Pneumonia & flu vaccine is highly recommended for pigs less than 14 weeks. An initial booster dose, then another, 2 weeks later. Tetanus should be given on a yearly basis if the pig will have contact with other pigs and the public. Leptospirosis 5 way and Parvovirus are recommended for breeding stock, and if you have other pets in the home. Be careful, reactions to lepto vaccinations are fairly common, but normally nothing untreatable. Rabies is NOT approved in pigs. Pigs are resistant to rabies and are very unlikely to contract this disease & the vaccine against could make your pig sick. If you come in contact with a vet that recommends your pig get vaccinated for rabies, you should defiently reconsider using that vet because obviously they lack a great deal of knowlege about pigs and vets that lack the common knowlege of pigs are normally the ones that will unintentionally miss inform you or treat with medications that are not approved for pigs. This could lead to several dollars down the drain, a sicker pig than what you started with, or even worse.
Cat and dog vaccinations are unacceptable for pigs and could damage or be fatal. Lymes vaccine is not approved in pigs. Remember, vaccinations are expensive and if they are doubtful in value, should be avoided, especially since occasional reactions do occur.
Worming Vaccinations, Wormer, & Parasite Prevention
A worming vaccine that covers both internal and external parasites (combo wormer or endo/ecto parasite prevention) should be used in injectable form (#1 Recommended) or topical form, rather than an oral form, although the oral form is the most preferred & is effective, just not as effective as the other two available. Pigs should receive their first vaccine of this, at 2 – 3 weeks, then every 10-14 days they should receive an additional until 12 to 16 weeks. This is usually determined by the vet depending on the area the pig comes from & the area he/she will be going to, as heat & humidity play a big role in effectivness & how often they should receive the medication. From then, once a month (every 28 days) is recommended indefiently.
To vaccinate against internal parasites (worms) is usually is only needed once every 3 mo and may be given in any form (if using a combo wormer or endo/ecto parasite prevention, you will not need to worry about this because it is covered with it). However the internal parasites is not your main concern. Most of the time an internal parasite will not be fatal unless it goes several months unnoticed.
External parasites is a very big concern and problem amongst small breed pigs. These can be fatal, and most of the time, by the time you start seeing signs of external parasites, it is too late to treat. External parasites are similar to a flea infestation in puppies or kittens. The parasites feed off blood & reproduce massively, just as fleas do and with the pigs being so small, they do not have a large supply of blood to start with. So what happens is the parasites take so much blood away, the pig will start becoming anemic and organs will begin shutting down.
A parasitic infestation is treatable and the parasites pigs will contract will not effect humans or other animals, as the strains they contract only effect pigs, however by the time your pig starts showing signs of an infestation, there is so many already on them, it is usually too late to treat because your pig has already lost to much blood. Using a prevention on the vet recommended schedule will eliminate the possibilities of your pig becoming infested.
You cannot use a shampoo or medications for animals besides pigs to get rid of external parasites because the strain of these parasites only effect pigs.
Several injections of a medication that treats swine specific strains have to be given over a period of 3-6 wks, along with a round of potent antibiotics to treat and get rid of the parasites. It is much better and more cost efficient to use a monthly prevention.
This medication needs to be the one specifically for the small breed pigs, as the ones for large pigs are intended for pigs that 100 plus pounds and cause adverse reactions to the small breeds. You can get this medication from your vet or possibly the breeder that you purchased the pig from. Dosages on this medication is measured by weight, so make sure to consult with a vet or breeder that has knowledge of this drug, before administering it, as overdoses can be fatal.
Anesthesia–technique, use and type are extremely important and could greatly affect the health of your pig. Inhalant anesthesia, using Isofluorane and no pre’anesthesia such as atropine or glycopyrilate is probably the safest, easiest and best, but is expensive. Quick recovery and few side effects are expected.
Halothane should be safe as well since the malignant hyperthermia gene is not present in mini–pigs. Indictable anesthesia is seldom a viable alternative. Injection sites in pigs are difficult to reliably know if the dose was administered to fat, muscle, or blood, which in each case can have a widely different effect on the level of anesthesia and recovery time. Violent recoveries are the norm. If IV catheters are present, indictable anesthetics are much cheaper and more effective.
Anesthesia should not be used for castration, as a numbing agent is just as effective and has a much lesser risk. However spaying, or any major surgery that cannot be avoided, anesthesia is recommended. Anesthesia is not necessary for hoof trimming, vaccinations, or the trimming of small tusks.
In general, less anesthesia, less risk.
Proper environment is also important in maintaining health. Another common problem is irregular foot wear and lack of exercise leading to dropped patterns. As was said earlier, weight is a big contributor to this problem. Foot trimming has become necessary in companion pigs due to the surface they live on. Carpets, hardwood floors, grass and linoleum do not wear feet enough to keep up with nail growth. Tile floors usually will.
Allowing the nail to become long shifts weight back on to the padded heel and stretches the flexor tendons over time, which in turn causes less exercise and an acceleration of this condition. This can be avoided by keeping weight off your pet and exercising on a granular surface such as concrete. If this is not possible, frequent trimming will be necessary.
It is a good idea to begin hoof trimming early in life by filing the hooves instead of trimming them to get them used to the process so they will not stress when it comes time to actually trim. If you begin this process early, it is not a big ordeal at all and is something you can do yourself at home where your pig is content.
When to Call a Vet
Knowing when to call a vet is very important. Time can sometimes be critical in rare and odd situations. A general rule is when in doubt, call. But here are some things to look for: