What foods are actually "toxic" to pigs?
We have all heard the horror stories, seen the panicked pig parents post, SOMEONE PLEASE HELP! My pig ate....
Toxic does not necessarily mean fatal. It usually refers to a substance which may cause a reaction in an individual pig (or person) ranging from a mild irritation to death. Let's be honest, if you do enough research about the foods you buy and eat for yourself as well as your pig, you will likely find something, somewhere saying there was exposure to a toxic substance, maybe a pesticide or component of the item, but nonetheless, now attached to being "toxic" when ingested.
Guess what? Your pig may have eaten something that you thought was toxic, but it may not be "deadly". Assuming you will use common sense, pigs can eat pretty much whatever people eat, there are a few exceptions though. Milk, fish, meat in general aren't advisable to feed to pigs. There are a lot of foods that you should avoid for one reason or another, but high carb, high sugar, obviously high sodium foods should be avoided. What are the reasons that certain foods are considered toxic? Well, that is the reason for this blog...to get to the truth. Scientific evidence to support anything we add to the list. What SHOULDN'T be fed versus what CAN'T be fed are two entirely different topics. A food that isn't good for them is much different than a food that is toxic to pigs.
What happens if your pig eats large amounts of one of the foods posted here on this blog? Your pig may not have any reaction or your pig could've eaten a small amount and had a massive reaction.
We would suggest calling the Pet Poison Hotline or your veterinarian for instructions if there are ever any questions about what a pig has eaten and if there are any reactions to the food item.
Apple and pear seeds and the inner stony pit (kernel) of apricots and peaches contain a naturally occurring substance called amygdalin which is a cyanogenic glycoside. Amygdalin can release hydrogen cyanide in the stomach causing discomfort or illness. It can sometimes be fatal. The age and size of your pig will impact the effectiveness of the seeds. It would likely take larges amounts of seeds to truly harm an older, bigger pig, but a lesser amount for a piglet or smaller framed/sized pig. A food fact that you may not know is that pesticides cling to the peel of an apple and can be absorbed into the flesh below, so be sure you always wash fruit before eating.
It is always better to be safe than sorry, if you can, remove the seeds from these foods before feeding them. If your pig ingests one single seed, odds are your pig will be ok, but if your pig shows signs of distress after eating this, that is an emergency and should be treated as such. My pig is around 140lbs and almost 4 years old, she used to get an apple a day, a whole uncut apple, she has survived. However, as you read, you can see the seeds are toxic, but again, usually in large amounts.
It would typically take a massive amount of seeds eaten over a short period of time to pose any health threat. If the seeds are swallowed whole, the risk of this toxin being absorbed is little to none, it is simply digested whole and excreted. If a pig is eating massive amounts of whole apples and chewing up the seeds, this is when there would be a potential problem. The same goes for most fruits with seeds unless otherwise noted on a specific food in this blog.
Cassava contains a substance similar to amygdalin, like apple and pear seeds, that releases cyanide. Cultures that regularly eat cassava, know they need to cook it, or process it in other ways, to destroy the toxin. But sometimes there's more toxin than normal, or they don't cook it long enough, and people get sick or die. This makes it an inappropriate food for pigs as well.
Commercially grown and sold mushrooms are safe.
However, the Death Cap Mushroom as well as the false parasol are deadly, poisonous introduced fungus that is highly toxic when ingested. In Australia, it is responsible for 90% of deaths of related to mushroom consumption. The death cap is commonly found near established oak trees and possibly some other trees, usually during later summer to early winter after good rain or heavy irrigation. This particular mushroom is also found across the USA.
One Mushroom contains enough poison to kill an adult. Cooking or peeling does not inactivate the toxin, and all parts are poisonous. Onset of symptoms occurs 6-24 hours or more after ingestion of mushrooms. Symptoms include violent stomach pains, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. Symptoms may subside for 1 to 2 days giving a false impression of recovery. However, by this stage the toxin will have already caused serious liver damage. Death from liver failure can occur many days after ingestion.
A person who suspects that they may have eaten poisonous mushrooms should seek immediate medical attention, and where possible take a whole mushroom sample for identification. The sooner the treatment begins the better the chances of survival. Medical assistance should be sought at a vet hospital or emergency veterinarian or by calling your local Poison Control Center.
For absolute safety avoid any wild mushrooms, unless definitely identified as non-poisonous.
All potatoes contain natural toxins called glycoalkaloids. Green parts of a potato aren't good for pigs or people to eat. The levels are usually low but higher levels are found in potato sprouts, and the peel of potatoes that taste bitter. The toxins are produced by the plant in response to stress such as from micro-organisms and UV light, and damage such as bruising. The amount of toxin depends on the type of potato and the growing conditions. Potato “eye” seeds are doused in pesticides to keep insects from eating the sprouts. Then, they’re sprayed with herbicides so no other plants grow near them. They’re basically exposed to chemicals every week for their entire growing season.
Severe stomach ache and even death from glycoalkaloid poisoning has been reported overseas, but is very unusual. Glycoalkaloids are not destroyed by cooking, so it is important to avoid eating the sprouts and to remove any green or damaged parts before cooking. Do not eat cooked potatoes that still taste bitter. If you come across a green potato crisp, it’s probably best not to eat it. Remember to store potatoes in a dark, cool and dry place. Pigs do not know that the "green" part of the potato can be dangerous for them to eat, so do not put your pig in a position to get poisoned by not putting these types of foods where they can get to them. Keep foods like this in a bin or up high on countertops.
Potatoes also contain solanine which destroys red blood cells and can cause diarrhea and heart failure. It is sometimes killed by cooking at high heats, however boiling won't reduce the solanine levels. Best to stay away from all parts of the white potato including the vines and leaves and skin. Leave are toxic and the skin contains trypsin which is an inhibitor to digesting proteins.
Kidney beans or Lima beans (raw)
Many types of beans contain toxins called lectins. The highest concentrations are found in kidney beans, especially red kidney beans, but also found in Lima beans. As few as four or five raw beans can cause severe stomach ache, vomiting and diarrhea.
To destroy the toxins, soak the beans for at least five hours and then boil them briskly in fresh water for at least 10 minutes. Do not cook beans at a low temperature, for example in a slow cooker, as it may not destroy the toxin. Improperly cooked beans can be more toxic than raw ones.
Rhubarb contains naturally occurring oxalic acid. The amount depends on the age of the plant, the season, the climate and the type of soil. Highest concentrations are in the leaves and these should not be eaten. The entire plant is toxic though. So avoiding this altogether would be best.
Oxalic acid poisoning can cause muscle twitching, cramps, decreased breathing and heart action, vomiting, pain, headache, convulsions and coma. These are HIGHLY toxic to pigs.
Vitamin A Poisoning
Excess vitamin A either in the diet or by injection can cause pathological changes in the pig. If oil based injections to excess are given at weaning time high levels may interfere with the growth of the embryo and fetus. This is one of the many reasons why we suggest a pelleted diet whereas the manufacturer went to great lengths to ensure the mineral/vitamin mix was best for our pigs. If you choose not to feed a pelleted diet, but instead elect a natural diet, this delicate balance can be of concern. Always consult with a nutrition expert before attempting to transition to an all natural diet, they can tell you what foods are best and the amounts you need to have in order to have a good, nutritious, well-balanced diet for your pig. (Honestly, the same can be said of most vitamins/minerals. When given in excess, most have a negative effect of some kind)
In older pigs exposure to more than 25,000 iu/kg in the feed causes growth plate changes.
A history of feeding high levels of vitamin A to both sows and growing pigs and shortened bent legs in piglets and weaned pigs would suggest poisoning.
The changes in the bones are irreversible.
Reduce the vitamin A levels in the diet.
To put it in perspective for you, here is a chart for humans with appropriate amounts of Vitamin A based on age and gender. 25000 iu/kg is a massive amount.
Currently, vitamin A is listed on food and supplement labels in international units (IUs) even
though nutrition scientists rarely use this measure. Conversion rates between mcg RAE and IU are as follows:
An RAE cannot be directly converted into an IU without knowing the source(s) of vitamin A.
Concentrations of preformed vitamin A are highest in liver and fish oils. Other sources of preformed vitamin A are milk and eggs, which also include some provitamin A. Most dietary provitamin A comes from leafy green vegetables, orange and yellow vegetables, tomato products, fruits, and some vegetable oils. The top food sources of vitamin A in the U.S. diet include dairy products, liver, fish, and fortified cereals; the top sources of provitamin A include carrots, broccoli, cantaloupe, and squash.
If you feed your pig a pelleted feed and add vegetables, the amount you are feeding will likely not exceed the maximum allowed amount to be considered "toxic". Just know that pigs will specific genetic issues or diseases involving the liver may be at a higher risk for this vitamin to build up to a toxic level causing the defects mentioned above or worsen the liver function to live failure.
Sweet Potato and Kumara
Sweet potato shows trypsin inhibitor activity. That means it contains an enzyme inhibitor that blocks the action of trypsin, an enzyme that digests proteins. The trypsin inhibitor prevents the digestion of protein. Sweet potatoes with higher protein levels have more of the trypsin inhibitor. This makes raw sweet potato difficult to digest. The trypsin inhibitor is deactivated by cooking.
One way the raw food diet helps people is by supplying food enzymes. Food enzymes do part of the work of digesting the raw food. Enzyme inhibitors increase the amount of work that your body needs to do to digest foods. Enzyme inhibitors force your body to produce more digestive enzymes. This uses up resources that could be used to produce detoxifying enzymes. When animals are regularly fed enzyme inhibitors in research, they become sick. Sweet potato should not be eaten raw.
Kumara is from the sweet potato family- Fungi, bacteria, viruses, nematodes and phytoplasma are known to attack sweet potato. Pathogenic bacteria, although not very common, are responsible for important economic losses. They affect vascular tissue as well as storage and fibrous roots, thus causing vine wilting and rots. Fungal pathogens are classified according to the type of disease they cause, such as foliar, stem, storage root and post harvest diseases. Even though the specific management practices have not been developed for various sweet potato diseases since the crop is propagated through vine cuttings, most of the viral and fungal diseases could be avoided by selecting healthy planting materials and sanitation. In the present chapter, an attempt has been made to review the worldwide diseases of sweet potato and the available management practices.
Parsnips, celery, celery root, and parsley commonly contain a group of natural toxins known as furocoumarins. These are probably produced as a way of protecting the plant when it has been stressed. The concentration of the toxin is usually highest in the peel or surface layer of the plant or around any damaged areas.
One of the furocoumarin toxins can cause stomach ache and may also cause a painful skin reaction when contact with the parsnip plant is combined with UV rays from sunlight. Psoralens can cause phytophotodermatitis. That means sensitivity to sunlight, caused by contact with a plant. Handling these plants & sunbathing can lead to bad sunburn, rashes, blisters, and skin discoloration. Photosensitivity from eating these vegetables can happen, but it's very unusual.
It is important to peel the parsnip before cooking and remove any damaged parts. The levels of toxin drop when the parsnip is cooked by baking, microwaving or boiling. Discard any cooking water. While these foods may not be "toxic", they can lead to photosensitivity which can cause severe burns on pigs who eat large amounts.
The entire plant is toxic. The castor bean also includes a deadly toxin called ricin. When ricin enters the body it prevents the cells from producing the proteins they need. Without these specific proteins the cells cannot function and they die. If this cell death is wide spread enough it can lead to the organism dying.
The toxin is released when the beans are chewed or crushed. If the beans are ingested it can lead to pain of the skin and eyes, profuse vomiting, diarrhea, severe dehydration, weakness, fever, myalgia, arthralgia, hallucinations, seizures, hematuria, hypotension, hypovolemic shock, multiply system organ failure and death!! It is said that three seeds contain enough ricin to kill a child and that 7 seeds can kill an adult.
Tomato leaves and vine
The major glycoalkaloid in the tomato plant is tomatine. (To put it simply, a glycoalkaloid is an alkaloid bonded with a sugar.)
Tomatine exists in all green parts of the plant, including the stems, leaves, and green tomatoes. (For the sake of clarity, whenever I mention “green tomatoes” in this post, I’m referring to the immature, unripened green tomatoes — and not the varieties of naturally green tomatoes.) A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that the highest concentrations of tomatine were found in senescent leaves, followed by the stems, fresh leaves, calyxes, green fruits, and finally, roots (which had the lowest concentrations).
The difference in concentration between the fresh leaves and green fruits is negligible, so one isn’t necessarily “safer” to consume than the other. While tomatoes do show a decline in tomatine content as they mature and ripen, no one has ever thought twice about devouring a heaping of fried green tomatoes or pickled green tomatoes!
Glycoalkaloids are also poorly absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract of mammals, and will pass through quickly to the urine or feces. In people who are sensitive to these compounds, stomach irritation may occur but they would have to ingest an unrealistic amount of green tomatoes or tomato leaves to experience ill effects.
So what’s the deal? Are tomato leaves toxic or not? According to this food safety study (which compared the potential toxicity of glycoalkaloids found in tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplants), tomatine is a relatively benign glycoalkaloid. It resulted in no significant changes to liver weight or body weight when fed to mice, and is not considered adverse to human health. I would still be cautious about feeding these parts to your pig, it is not worth the risk.
What’s most surprising is the discovery of tomatine as a cancer inhibitor. The glycoalkaloid has been found to effectively kill or suppress the growth of human breast, colon, liver, and stomach cancer cells. This study suggests that consumers could benefit from eating high-tomatine green tomatoes, and that there may be a “need” to develop high-tomatine red tomatoes as well (for the treatment of cancer and/or the study of tomatine as an anti-carcinogenic and anti-viral agent).
Read more at http://www.gardenbetty.com/tomato-leaves-the-toxic
Rape, Cabbage, Turnips, Broccoli, Kale, Cauliflower, Mustard (roots and seeds)
(Brassica spp., Thlaspi spp. and Lepidium spp.)
Key descriptive characteristics
Collectively, the mustards have a pungent sulfurous odor. They tend to produce a basal rosette of leaves, and later produce alternate leaves along their stems. Most mustards have yellow flowers with four petals. Some of the common species in Missouri are wild mustard, field pennycress, tansy mustard, yellow rocket and Virginia pepperweed.
Fields, waste ground, pastures, rocky glades and rights-of-way.
Throughout the US.
All parts of the brassica oleracea, especially seeds contain isoallyl thiocyanates, irritant oils, and under some conditions, nitrates. Roots and seeds from all of the derivatives (green leafy vegetables).
Oral and gastrointestinal irritation is most common leading to head shaking, salivating, colic, abdominal pain, vomiting and possibly diarrhea. Generally, for problems to occur, large quantities have to be consumed over a period of time.
Other pet foods...
Specifically dog food, cat food and chicken scratch. These pet foods contain a much higher amount of sodium and when combined with lack of fresh water, this can end in tragedy. Yes it is true some uneducated people feed their pigs only dog food, yes it is true these pigs have survived years like this, but no, it is not true that this is ok. It is NOT ok to feed pigs just any kind of food.
The reason we suggest feeding pigs "mini pig specific" food is because this food was designed to provide pigs with all the essential nutrients and vitamins that a pig needs to build strong immunity, healthy bones and organs and allow them to thrive and grow at a nice steady pace. When fed correctly and given proper amounts of "extras" all balanced with their activity levels, your pig should lead a long and healthy life nutrition wise.
When pigs are fed diets designed for other species of animals, they are not getting what pigs need in the way of nutrition, they're getting food that was created to keep a dog healthy or a cat healthy. As you know, a cat and a pig are 2 totally different animals and each one has their own nutritional needs. A pigs needs are NOT met using a type of food made for another species. There are extreme cases when a vet will "prescribe" wet dog food for a sick pig, but this is not the norm. This should only be fed as directed by your vet, if needed.
Fava beans, Vicia faba, are a common human food in the Mediterranean regions of Europe. Their potential as a protein supplement for livestock is being explored in the U.S. and Canada. However, fava beans contain the glycosides vicine and covicine. These glycosides hamper the development of fava beans as a worldwide food and feed crop because they cause a disease called favism in people who have an inherited absence of the enzyme glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) in their red blood cells.
In people who lack G6PD, divicine, the aglycone of vicine, and isouramil, the aglycone of covicine, cause acute hemolytic anemia either by direct action on the red cell membranes or by producing hydrogen peroxide which in turn breaks down red cell membranes.
The incidence of this genetic deficiency is as high as 50% in some populations. So, again, better to be safe than sorry. With 1/2 chance of this causing these kinds of reactions in pigs, I prefer to steer clear of it.
It is probably strange to see lead poisoning on this list...but there is a reason. This article provides information on lead poisioning in humans as well as domestic animal populations. Sections include sources of lead in houses and barns, environmental contaminationand some of its' causes, toxic levels in children and animals, symptoms of toxicity and links to related sites of information.
With the relatively recent restrictions on the use of lead based paints, one of the largest sources of lead poisioning has been greatly reduced. These paints are still present in houses, garages, barns, on fences and furniture. The prevalence of lead in the world around us is still a significant health hazard, especially to certain "at risk" portions of human and animal populations. Although adults are susceptible to lead poisoning, children and newborns are most susceptible because of lower tolerance levels and the tendency to introduce foreign objects into the body.
Sources In the Home
Although lead paint chips are still the most common source of acute lead poisoning, candy wrappers and food packaging are of particular concern because they are in direct contact with immediately consumed items. It is important to keep these items from being consumed, chewed or licked. We know pigs will eat paper or wrapper, so you will need to take special precautions with regard to your pig having access to certain items that have known lead particles.
Toxic Levels In Animals
Symptoms of Toxicity
The general symptoms of lead poisoning are universal although more informaton is available on poisoning in humans. The first symptoms of lead toxicity are very general and nonspecific. These include nausea, sluggishness, vomiting, painful gastrointestinal irritation, diarrhea, loss of appetite, colic, weakness and dehydration. These symptoms are common to many disorders and can often lead to inaccurate diagnosis.
Some symptoms more specific to human poisoning include discoloration of the lips and skin attributed mild secondary anemia, a lead line on the gums, developmental disorders, sterility and abortion. There have also been some prelimiunary reports indicating that chronic lead poisoning can also lead to chronic nephritis and premature development of arteriosclerosis. As you can see, it isn't often that pigs are effected by this, but definitely something to consider and keep in mind.
More severe cases of poisoning can produce symptoms including convulsions,"wrist drop" or external limb paralysis, coma and ultimately death.
Immature plants have higher cyanide levels than mature plants or ripe seeds. Linseed cake should not be fed in large amounts to hungry animals. Large amounts fed for a long time can build up cyanide over time. LARGE amounts, typically this is hungry pigs with unlimited access to areas where this is grown, not adding a teaspoon a day to your pigs feed. If you are feeding small amounts daily, this is NOT going to pose any health problems.
Is it the avocado leaves, the pit or the skin that was toxic? Or is it toxic at all?
This much is true: Parts of an avocado contain an oil-soluble toxin called persin. Specifically, the fruit’s seed, bark and leaves are composed of this toxic, fatty acid derivative.
“Dogs and cats don’t seem to be affected by persin,” explains Lee. “However, birds and large animals (such as horses, pigs and cattle) have issues with persin toxicity, as it can be deadly in these species.
“The bigger risk to some animals is the foreign body obstruction that can occur when the avocado seed is ingested—it’s a large seed and can get stuck in the esophagus, stomach or intestinal tract.”
Oak Leaves And Acorns
Whilst ruminants are more susceptible to acorn poisoning, outdoor pigs may be affected occasionally. Young oak leaves or green acorns are the major sources and signs are seen two to three days after ingestion. These include abdominal pain and constipation followed by haemorrhagic diarrhea. The kidneys may also be affected.
I had a pig that was diagnosed with acorn toxicity. His urine was brown in color and according to the blood tests, the liver enzymes were elevated. He was removed from the acorn source and when his urine was clear again (about 2 weeks after the acorns were removed), the blood was drawn again and lab results revealed a downward trend and was on the way to returning back to normal.
It's a lot easier to simply pick up the acorns than nurse a sick pig back to health. Some say acorns are not toxic to pigs, I disagree. The toxins in oak are called gallotoxins and are converted in the body to tannic acid, gallic acid and pyrogallol, all of which are very toxic to the kidney. It is the resulting kidney failure that causes the clinical signs. Typically, a significant amount of oak needs to be consumed over a period of time before clinical signs appear. Signs can develop over 2 to 14 days, or signs may be present with the animals becoming progressively worse over many weeks.
You can click here to read more about this on our website.
NEVER feed pigs any nuts in a shell with the exception of unsalted peanuts. That is the only acceptable type of nut that should be fed still in a shell. ALL other nuts in a shell can be dangerous because these shells are hard and can tear any part of the GI tract as they're chewed up and swallowed.
Raw Almonds- Almonds are actually the seed of a fruit from the almond tree. Much like other fruits, this fruit has a seed that contains cyanide which when eaten in large quantities, can build up to a toxic level and cause problems. Store bought almonds have been heat treated and do not post a threat. This is raw almonds that can pose a health problem.
Raw Cashews- The true fruit of the cashew tree is a kidney or boxing-glove shaped drupe that grows at the end of the cashew apple. The drupe develops first on the tree, and then the pedicel expands to become the cashew apple. Within the true fruit is a single seed, which is often considered a nut, in the culinary sense. The seed is surrounded by a double shell containing an allergenic phenolic resin, anacardic acid, a potent skin irritant chemically related to the better-known allergenic oil urushiol which is also a toxin found in the related poison ivy. Properly roasting cashews destroys the toxin, but it must be done outdoors as the smoke (not unlike that from burning poison ivy) contains urushiol droplets which can cause severe, sometimes life-threatening, reactions by irritating the lungs.
The store bought versions of these nuts are NOT dangerous to the health and they've been treated through the heating process that destroys the toxin. However, if you choose to add nuts into your pigs diet, you will need to be sure they're unsalted and not in a shell.
In 1983, there was a report in California that several people became acutely ill after drinking juice served at a religious event. It all stemmed from elderberry poisoning. For this specific occurrence, bunches of berries were crushed with their leaves and branches in a stainless-steel press and left overnight for the following day.
The editorial note written in the same CDC warning. "The berries are juicy and edible when mature. The cooked berries are commonly eaten in pies and jams, and berry juice can be fermented into wine. The fresh leaves, flowers, bark, young buds, and roots contain a bitter alkaloid and also a glucoside that, under certain conditions, can produce hydrocyanic acid. The amount of acid produced is usually greatest in young leaves. There may be other toxic constituents in this plant. The root is probably the most poisonous and may be responsible for occasional pig deaths; cattle and sheep have died after eating leaves and young shoots."
Moldy foods of any kind
The term mycotoxin means “poison from a fungi.” Only about 60 of the 200,000 known species of molds have been shown to harm humans or livestock. These fungi grow on virtually all of the small grains, including wheat, oats, barley and, of course, corn, the main source of pig feed. Grains such as corn, wheat, and barley may be easily contaminated with molds. Mycotoxicosis refers to poisoning due to the ingestion of mycotoxins. This condition can cause lower resistance to diseases, increased sensitivity to stress, and damage to vital organs, such as the liver and kidney. Ultimately, this may lead to mortalities and poor production performance.
Moldy or damaged grain
You can feed livestock moldy or damaged grain that is not acceptable for human food. Evaluate these feeds on a case-by-case basis, following some general guidelines:
In the small amounts needed for seasoning food, you can safely add nutmeg to dishes and drinks, but unpleasant side effects occur if you eat just 1 tbsp. of the ground nut powder on an empty stomach, according to the Utah Poison Control Center. Nutmeg poisoning became more common from the 1960s onward as drug enthusiasts sought cheap legal hallucinogenics.
From 1 to 3 tbsp. of nutmeg powder, or 1 to 3 whole nutmeg seeds, causes illness in most people.The drug's effects begin 2 to 6 hours after ingestion, and the delay causes some users to take an extra dose.
Raw Bread Dough:
Raw bread dough made with yeast poses mechanical and biochemical hazards when ingested, including gastric distention, metabolic acidosis, and CNS depression. Although any species is susceptible, dogs are most commonly involved because of their indiscriminate eating habits. We all know pigs will also not discriminate foods and will sample them equally.
With recent ingestions in asymptomatic animals, emesis may be attempted, although the glutinous nature of bread dough may make removal via emesis difficult. In animals in which emesis (whether induced or spontaneous) has been unsuccessful, gastric lavage may be attempted. Cold water introduced into the stomach may slow the rate of yeast fermentation and aid in dough removal. In rare cases, surgical removal of the dough mass may be required. Animals presenting with signs of alcohol toxicosis should be stabilized and any life-threatening conditions corrected before attempts to remove the dough are made.
Foods that shouldn't be fed to pigs. Some of these foods have been labeled "toxic" to pigs, but are not truly "toxic". Here are the reasons why they should not be fed to pigs.
Onions: It has been said that onions shouldn't be fed to pigs due to possibly tainting the meat of a pig due to be slaughtered, since potbelly pigs aren't used as a food source, onions aren't truly toxic to them. For other species, like horses, goats/sheep, cattle, cats and dogs, we can see ingestion of large volumes of onion (ALLIUM sp.) can be toxic. In these species, onions can induce a hemolytic anemia. And this can give us signs of anorexia, lethargy, GI upset (vomiting/diarrhea), elevated heart rates, respiratory difficulties bluish gums and collapse. For pigs specifically? Possibly GI upset and maybe gas.
Chocolate: Chocolate is NOT toxic to pigs as it is to dogs. Pigs can process the theobromine in chocolate since their GI system is much like a humans'. So although we do not encourage feeding your pig sugary foods or stimulants, chocolate will not hurt them if eaten accidentally.
Salt: Salt in itself is not toxic to pigs. Pigs need a certain amount of sodium in the body for normal function.It is the after effect and water deprivation that causes the reaction. When pigs eat sodium rich foods and there is no fresh water available, once it is offered or available, pigs tend to drink too much causing a systemic reaction leading to parts of the brain swelling and causing neurological problems. When hydrated properly, or having fresh water available, typically pigs do not have any issue. It is discouraged to purposely give pigs foods high in sodium just to be on the safe side though. Click here to read more about salt toxicity/water deprivation.
Bones of any kind: Bones can splinter and cause lacerations anywhere in the GI tract. Cooked or not, bones should never be fed to your pig.
Meat and meat products: In some countries, it is illegal to feed meat to pigs. These types of food are linked to diseases such as foot and mouth (FMD). Granted this is more of a problem in production pigs, miniature pigs could also contract these diseases. The last outbreak of FMD was 1929. Here is the quote "The US saw its latest FMD outbreak in Montebello, California in 1929. This outbreak originated in hogs that had eaten infected meat scraps from a tourist steamship that had stocked meat in Argentina....".
Fatty foods: Fatty foods can cause pancreatitis. This study done using pigs fed a low protein diet showed there were effects on the liver. Had the study continued, I am certain some degree of liver insufficiency or failure would have been identified.
Artifical sweetners: While these are not considered to be "toxic", you should limit the amount of artifical sweeteners you feed your pig for a number of reasons. Known facts about artificial sweeteners. Just because it’s on the shelf does not mean it’s been studied or should be presumed to be non-toxic. We know that sugar is toxic, but what about the popular sugar alternative, Splenda? Turns out it was FDA approved based on 110 studies, two of which were in humans, with one of those two only spanning four days and being run by the manufacturer. When we don’t objectively assess safety (including placebo-controlled, medium, and long-term trials), consumers become the subjects. Here are the results of a recent reportcondemning this toxin:
Chewing gum: Aspartame in gum is absorbed by the buccal mucosa of the mouth, gums, and the tongue. According to research, because aspartame is absorbed this way, it makes aspartame a far worse poisoning than if given or injected intravenously. The aspartame goes directly into the brain by passing the spinal cord and the blood-brain barrier when it is absorbed in the mouth. The smallest amount of aspartame (like what is contained in a piece of gum) is very dangerous and damaging to the health of the body.
When aspartame is ingested into the digestive tract, it breaks down into numerous other poisons. The intact Aspartame molecule and its diketopiperazine form are vastly worse poisonings than any of the other poisonings which arise from it during digestion, and liver processing of the digestive blood, which is delivered directly to the liver via the portal vein. The other poisonings, as mentioned, are indeed horrendous but Aspartame from gum is far worse, making even the smaller amounts contained in chewing gum strikingly dangerous and damaging.
Aspartame, via ingestion into the digestive tract, is made into some ten other poisonings by the digestive processes, and then excepting that which is delivered directly to the pancreas, they are transported straight to the liver via the portal vein, where they then are very partially dealt with, and partially reprocessed. Afterwards, they are sent in somewhat lesser concentration to the entire body, lessening the amount which eventually goes to the brain. The amount getting to the brain from either source is devastating to it in many ways. Aspartame is most certainly devastatingly toxic when ingested, but a like amount is immensely worse when obtained from chewing gum.
If you'd like to avoid aspartame, please keep in mind that it's not only in chewing gum. It is a common ingredient in many packaged foods and beverages, particularly those that are marketed as being sugar-free or low in calories. Examples include sugar-free or low calorie:
Sugary foods or high in sugar should be avoided for obvious reasons. Pigs aren't known for their ability to lose massive amounts of weight by exercise, they're known more for animals that gain weight super easy and hard to diet. Weight loss takes MONTHS. It is best not to put your pig in a position to gain massive amounts of weight because it is so hard for them to lose it.
Caffine is a stimulant. However, it appears like caffeine given to pigs affects reproductive ability and also triggers PSS (porcine stress syndrome) in pigs who are susceptible to that genetic disorder.
Read more about the effects of caffeine in this research study by clicking here.
To read more about what these foods can do, you can read more by clicking these links below:
Coffee and the effects on pigs: http://www.scielo.br/scielo.phpcaffine
I promise to love and care for you until the day you die and then I promise to honor your memory. If I should die first, I promise that I will ensure you have a safe and loving home to go to.
I promise to do my research before I bring you home. I realize I do not "know it all" and I promise to keep researching and learning even after you are here.
I promise to make sure you’re allowed in my city, before I bring you home. However, if there comes a time that I need to, I promise to fight to keep you at home.
I promise to pig proof my home so you don’t have the opportunity to get sick or hurt because I failed to keep those things away from you.
I promise to treat you like any other member of our family.
I promise not to send you away when you reach a weight I wasn’t expecting, but I also promise to make accommodations for you to live comfortably.
I promise you will always be treated with dignity and respect.
I promise to make time for you and not decide one day that you need more time than I can give. I understand that you need love and socialization and have dedicated time to spend with you.
I promise that even though I may not be prepared for the challenges that will arise once you get here, I will work hard at finding a solution to make it work.
I promise not to move and leave you behind.
I promise if something goes wrong, I will do my best to make it right.
I promise if you get sick, I will do whatever I can to help you get better. I also promise that if it is late at night or a holiday, I will find someone to help you.
I promise to be prepared for emergencies and have basic supplies on hand.
I promise if I decide to have a baby, you will be a big brother or sister, you will not have to leave.
I promise you will not be confused by hormones because I will spay or neuter you.
I promise to not misrepresent you and to educate others about pigs.
I promise not to give you as a gift for someone who doesn’t know anything about you because I know that isn’t fair to you.
I promise that I will not get upset because you destroy things in my home, I realize that you are likely bored and I promise to make sure you have activities and toys to keep you occupied.
I promise if someone hurts you, I will hunt them down and will not stop until they have been punished. But, I also promise to try my best at not putting you in a position for that to happen.
I promise not to get mad at you for digging up the brand new sod because I understand you are a pig.
I promise not to hit you because I know you do not understand that type of discipline, but I promise I will seek help on how to teach you right from wrong.
I promise to help you learn and not to get mad at you because I failed to train you.
I promise to keep you free from harm and safe from predators while you play outside in the yard. I also promise to give you a yard so you can dig, root and be a pig.
I promise to watch your diet and try my best to keep you from getting crippling arthritis or becoming fat blind due to my lack of understanding regarding proper pig nutrition and allowed you to get overweight. In the same realm, I also promise that you will not go hungry and I will not limit your food in a pathetic attempt to keep you piglet sized because I know by doing this, I am shortening your life by years and even worse, that is abusive.
I promise that you will not be cold on chilly nights and you will always have a warm place to lay your head at night. I also promise that you will have a way to cool down on those hot summer days and a place to go where it is cooler or shaded.
I promise not to just leave you outside and never come to talk to you, I know you need interaction and understand you need me as much as I need you.
Since we are making promises...I promise to have a fresh box of Cheerios every 2 weeks and plenty of other treats because I know you love them. And I promise to try and be on time for meals.
I cannot promise everything will be perfect, but I can promise I will try my best to give you a great life.
While you were reading this, it's more than likely at least 2 people have already broken at least 1 of these promises. Keep your promises. If you cannot make these promises an keep them, you should not get a pig.
I do not want to add much to this story shared by one of our piggy friends, it's absolutely amazing as it is, but I do want to stress adoption. Adopting a pig in need of a home is admirable. Ultimately, the pigs you see being advertised for thousands of dollars are the same unwanted pigs being advertised for free in some places. Since the media has come to love piglets and often use them in movies and commercials, the pet pig trend isn't going anywhere and the sheer number of unwanted pigs outnumbers the number of homes desiring to add a pig to the family by the hundreds. This is Lindsey Grambley's sad story about the loss of her first pig and the happy ending with her unplanned adoption of a pig that was in need of a new home. Don't discount a pig because someone else didn't want them, remember, most of the time, it's a matter of no longer wanting the responsibility or the lack of knowledge on how to care for a pig that leads someone to look for a new home. Pigs are misunderstood and end up paying the price for that. Phin is one of the lucky pigs who has found a great home with an educated family!
" I just adopted my first pig, and I just wanted to share our story! I hope more pigs are able to find their forever homes too and people are able to see the value in adopting.
I wanted a pet pig for years. Literally YEARS. I did the responsible thing and waited until the timing was right, just as I would have done had I decided to get a dog or any other animal. When I decided the time had finally come, the idea of adopting never crossed my mind, and I went to a breeder to find him. After I brought this cute little baby pig home, I quickly learned that I had no idea what I was doing. After this realization, I set out to learn as much as possible so that Ernie would not only have a great life, but also so Seth and I would not go insane! I joined a lot of “pig groups” on Facebook, where I learned a lot of invaluable information and advice regarding how to properly raise Ernie and how to handle certain behaviors. During this research, I also learned that there is a serious “pig” epidemic. In my area alone, there are literally hundreds of pigs that are constantly being abandoned or given up for adoption. This usually happens because people do not know how to properly prepare for such a big undertaking, or even worse, their pig ends up being much larger than the advertised “teacup” size they were promised and once the “cuteness factor” wears off, people abandon these sweet, intelligent, and very emotional little babies. I guess you can say Seth and I “got lucky” because Ernie did not end up being a 250 pound pig - but even if he had- there is no way I could have EVER given him up.
Once I realized the real graveness of the pig abandonment situation, I vowed, that when we moved to our new house, I would find Ernie a brother or sister and eventually help foster and rescue pigs (and other animals too). Unfortunately, Ernie had health issues (that I contribute to irresponsible breeding) and we lost him after only a few years. Ernie was the biggest pain in the butt because he was spoiled rotten, but he had so much personality and he absolutely loved the life we gave him. Losing him was literally like losing a piece of myself. Ernie was my baby, my sidekick, and my best friend. Seth doesn’t like to admit it publicly, but he felt the same way. I am even crying as I write this because I miss him so much! Even during this heartache, I knew one day I would get another pig when the timing was right, and I would hold true to my vow that I would adopt, rather than buying a baby through a breeder, simply because of the number of pigs that are in need of true forever homes. Seth and I agreed that we would wait, not only because we were so heartbroken, but also because we thought it would be best until we moved to our new house.
I guess you can say, that last part didn’t exactly go as planned…
Everybody- meet Phineas, or as we will call him “Phin”. Phin officially joined our family yesterday, and he traveled all the way from Virginia to be with us. I saw a posting for Phin on Pre-Loved Pigs, and I instantly knew that I wanted to give him his forever home. Phin is 4 1/2 years old and was abandoned by his previous owner. He had previously been to educational events, nursing homes and petting zoos so he is very socialized, and I think he will really like all the adventures that we have in store for him. I’m not quite sure if he is potty trained, but so far he hasn’t had an accident and is loving all the clover in our yard. He is the most gentle pig I have EVER met, very well behaved, and even though he is still settling into his new home, I can tell he is happy! This morning, he started to let his personality shine and he even greeted me with some “hot panting”, which is a sign of fondness and a way of saying hello. He loves to be scratched, especially behind his ears and under his chin. If I stop scratching, he will nudge me and encourage me to continue. It’s beyond adorable. It will take him a little bit of time to adjust, and I need to work with him on few things such as training him how to use the stairs and getting him into a routine, but I cannot wait for everybody to meet this sweet boy. I am eagerly anticipating the day where he wants to cuddle next to me. Ernie can never be replaced and his memory will forever live on with us, but my heart is happy and I am honored to finally bring home Ernie’s brother and give this guy the forever home that he deserves."
Story written by Lindsey Grambley
Sleep apnea in pigs
There have been studies done using Yucatan pigs to demonstrate sleep apnea, or the absence of breathing during the sleep cycle. Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by blockage of the upper respiratory airways in which the throat muscles collapse, the tongue falls back into the airway, or enlarged tonsils and/or adenoids impede airflow. When your airway becomes cutoff, the brain has to wake itself to signal the respiratory system to kick back into gear. This often leads to breathing resuming with loud gasps, snorts, or body jerks that may wake you from your slumber and disrupt your sleep. When a person or animal is waked multiple times through the night, the body and mind don't get the rest they need to function, leaving them tired and drained during the daytime. This theory has not been tested in other breeds of pigs though that i am able to find. So, is it possible that other breeds suffer from obstructive sleep apnea? I think so, but I am neither a doctor or a pulmonologist.....
The study done was conducted using many different sized pigs, but ONLY the obese pigs were found to have positive sleep studies for sleep apnea. In humans, a doctor would suggest a bipap or CPAP apparatus/machine to be used during sleep to help deliver and perfuse the oxygen throughout the body. During an apnea event (pause in breathing) the oxygen levels in your blood drop significantly. When this happens your brain partially wakes from sleep to send signals to the nervous system to constrict the blood vessels (tighten up) in order to increase the flow of oxygen to your heart and brain.
Unfortunately, the increased blood pressure experienced during sleep often begins to overlap into periods of wakefulness. Even though the blood pressure only needs to be increased at night when requiring extra respiratory effort to get oxygen, many people, and presumably animals with sleep apnea end up with increased blood pressure at all times. The chronic sleep deprivation that comes with sleep apnea results in daytime sleepiness, slow reflexes, poor concentration, and an increased risk of accidents. Sleep apnea can also lead to serious health problems over time, including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and weight gain. But with treatment, it can control the symptoms, get sleep back on track, and start enjoying being refreshed and alert every day. With pigs, this may be very difficult though. To find an organization willing to test and treat would likely be impossible. Besides overall exhaustion, in people, its been proven to be the cause of behavioral issues and inability to concentrate as well, possibly as a result of being overtired, but nonetheless, this can be avoided by controlling the weight in overweight pigs.
It makes sense that that these giant pink creatures that spend most of their rotund lives on their sides also have sleep apnea, but the truth is that only one species of pig is scientifically known to have sleep apnea – the Yucatan miniature pig. However, they only get sleep apnea when they become morbidly obese, which is apparently quite easy for them to do, because they have no idea how to regulate their feeding patterns. Surprisingly, these little pigs are the smallest species of pig in the world. Originally, Yucatan miniature pigs were used for medical research in Europe, but over the last decade they have made their way into the hearts of the American people, because it turns out that they make great pets and they are extremely smart – just don’t let them eat too much. (Last paragraph from CPAPtimes.com)
There are 3 types of sleep apnea:
When your blood pressure increases at night to keep oxygen flowing to your heart and brain, it causes high blood pressure during sleep. Most people's blood pressure drops ten to twenty percent during sleep, but many patients with sleep apnea show an increase in blood pressure of 10-20%. They haven't done studies in pigs to see if or how this is affected. But going by that theory, if a pig has sleep apnea and is already obese, your pig would be at risk for CVA (cerebral vascular accident or stroke) due to high blood pressure as well.
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, heart attack, and many other medical problems, and sleep apnea is a major risk for high blood pressure.
Here is the actual research study done with pigs proving that obese pigs are at risk. Overall, the take away message is to control obesity. It is highly unlikely that a pig will tolerate a CPAP mask at night to ensure the body is getting the appropriate oxygenation it needs to function appropriately. If your pig is overweight, put your pig on a diet and help to lessen the chances of an early death. This isn't likely anything to be too concerned about, but something to be aware of.
The take away from this blog? Keep your pig at a healthy size. Too small and they can suffer from malnutrition and deformities, too fat and they can become fat blind, deaf and possibly suffer from chronic forms of hypoxia which can lead to much worse conditions. This is all opinion based, of course. There are no studies (that I have been able to find) that have been done on the potbellied pig/mini pig, but I assume, based on my medical background, that it could happen. Click here to see what healthy versus unhealthy pigs look like and for the body scoring charts that are used as a standard.
What would your pig say if he or she could talk in order to pick up a pig of the opposite sex? We thought these were amusing.
We asked some of our followers how it came to be that they added a pig to their family and we will be featuring these stories as guest bloggers. This is Erica's story about Herman, the pig that changed her life. Let me add, this is one amazing family. Although they knew nothing about pigs when they got Herman Julian, they vowed to learn about the care of pigs. Herman is one of the lucky ones that bypassed his first birthday and stayed in his home. Bypassed his second and third birthday and stayed in his home. Erica is also a "don't bottle feed piglet" advocate and shares her terrifying story when others are suggesting that it's ok to get a 2 week old pig. Thank you for all you do Erica!
I wanted a pig since I was a young kid. I collected EVERYTHING pig oriented. 30 years later I heard a pet store, about an hour from me, had them. I HAD to go see them. Upon entering the store I saw 4 of them in a gated enclosure. They all seemed bigger than I imagined they would be. I was under the false understanding, like most, that these pigs would stay small. I decided that I would have to think things over and come back. I knew I still wanted one, but it made me realize I needed to learn a lot more about them.
After my friend and I left the store we stopped for gas. On entering the store a young man was holding the tiniest little pig. I thought this was a sign. I went and talked to him for a while, and held the baby in my arms. I fell in love! He told me the story of his pig. There was a local "zoo" that had them for sale. He told me that most of them passed away due to malnutrition and the mother not taking care of them. He gave me directions to this "zoo" and my friend and I were on our way.
As we pulled up to the place, I was horrified. It was a dilapidated barn with the roof caving in, and an old farmhouse. We proceeded with caution. Right away I saw him! Just him... in a small rabbit cage turned upside down. No food, no water. Only the ground underneath him. I proceeded to get him out. I had to! My friend told me to stop, and he'd look for the person who ran the place. There were cats and chickens everywhere roaming around. My friend proceeded to the farmhouse porch, when a large coonhound ran at him barking and showing his teeth. It almost seemed like a nightmare. All of a sudden an old man came from the house. He called his dog off and came to talk with us. He told me the story of Herman and his brothers and sisters. Only Herm and 2 of his sisters made it. He told me Herm was 6 weeks old and ready to go. He walked us around the horrifying zoo. Animals everywhere, from huge tortoises to coatimundi. They all looked so sad. Small cages. I tried to hide my tears. The man saw and explained to me that he was getting older, and the zoo was getting harder. His kids used to help, but all moved away. He wanted to give up the zoo business, so he was selling what he had left. He asked if we wanted to take a ride on his tractor to see the rest of the animals. I had to decline. There was no way I could see any more animals in that condition. We discussed Herman and how much he cost. I explained that I did not have cash, and the man made a deal with me. He said I could take him for the night. If I wasn't satisfied, I could return him the next day. If I decided to keep him, I could bring him $50 the next day.
I already knew I was keeping him no matter what, but agreed that I would do that. The first night... well actually month was HELL. He would scream all night. He didn't eat. I thought it was because he was scared, and I planned to do research the next day. When we returned the next day to give the man the payment I decided to wait in the car with Herman. I couldn't stand to see anymore of the zoo. When my friend returned he told me the man was very gracious that we returned to give him money. He said he assumed we wouldn't. He also let me know that Herman was in fact 2 weeks old, and not 6 like the man told us the day before! I started my research the moment I got home. My first lesson was learning Herm shouldn't have even left his mom. He wouldn't eat. For a whole week, Herm wouldn't eat! I tried everything, even a bottle. Which now learning from our pig group could have been his death sentence. He was so small, and would just lay in his bed, or mine and scream constantly. It finally came the time where I thought he wasn't going to make it. I knew I had to do something. I made a combination of baby rice cereal and goats milk. It was like Herman already knew that it would be delicious. He jumped up and gobbled it up! It made me so happy!!!
It has been heaven and hell with Herman, but I love him. He is my family. We have gone through so much together, and I wouldn't trade him for anything. I wish I would have known all that I know now; so he would have had a better start. I am just happy he made it through. About a month ago I drove past that old zoo. It still looks like hell, but I don't see as many of the animals as he had before. I hope he retired from that career! I'm just happy that he brought Herman and me together.
Written by: Erica Kaufman
Like a cat's whiskers, a pig's snout provides the animal with heightened senses to navigate and interact with the environment, and is especially designed for rooting in the ground in search of food. Under natural conditions, pigs may spend 75% of their daily activity engaged in rooting and foraging for up to 6-8 hours a day. Maybe some of your pigs do not get to spend that amount of time outdoors being a "pig", if not, you may notice some rooting activity going on INSIDE the home.
Pigs also have 3-4 times more tastebuds than humans: "The pig differs, however, from most mammals in the number of taste buds, which exceeds most species, including the human... The discrepancy between the human taste apparatus and that of the pig becomes even more evident when one compares the 1600 human fungiform taste budswith the 5000 found in pig. As a result of this, the pig tongue has three tofour times more taste buds than the human tongue (J. Anim. Physiol. a. Anim. Nutr. 82 (1999), 8–24 Receipt of Ms.: 12. 10. 1998© 1999 Blackwell Wissenschafts-Verlag, BerlinISSN 0931–2439)." Pig owners should keep in mind that mouthy/biting behavior in pigs, especially young pigs, goes right along with rooting/nosing behavior and isn't necessarily related to aggression. Toddlers explore with their hands- pigs explore with their mouths and snouts!
If your pig isn't getting the appropriate amount of time outdoors to root around and be a pig, you may notice areas INSIDE that your pig is treating as their own rooting ground. They have the need to satisfy this desire to root, if they cannot go outside and dig in the dirt, they will find other ways to root.
Pigs will root and dig **PLEASE DO NOT PUT A RING IN YOUR PIG'S SNOUT!!!!! If you want a pristine yard, do NOT get a pig! Part of being a pig parent is understanding that they NEED outside time and WILL dig and create holes in the yard. If you need to, create a space for your pig to dig, but do NOT punish your pig for acting like a pig.
Nutrition and Feeding
Good nutrition is essential for a healthy pig. Nutrients in pig foods should provide what is needed for metabolic body processes and should help fight off disease and provide the body with what it needs to function properly.
Proper feeding habits with nutritious food on a regular schedule can prevent:
Improper feeding habits can cause or contribute to:
Many animals die each year from such diseases. Avoid table scraps, high fat foods, and foods that cause choking. Your pets should be offered foods developed for them or recommended by your veterinarian. Please see our nutrition section for pig appropriate foods by clicking here.
Provide Plenty of Clean Water
All animals, especially the very young and the very old, are susceptible to dehydration and kidney disease if deprived of water, quickly leading to serious complications. Water deprivation has claimed many pigs’ lives over the last several years. ALWAYS be sure to have a fresh water source for your pig. Click here to read more about water deprivation and treat should this occur.
Nutritious food and clean, fresh water are important to your pig's health!
Avoid Vigorous Exercise after Meals
Vigorous exercise after meals can lead to a life-threatening condition called bloat, which can technically happen to many different species of animals. With early and aggressive medical and surgical treatment, 80% or more of these patients survive this horrible condition. I have heard of this in other animals, especially larger breed dogs, but given the pigs anatomy and sudden hyperactivity they sometimes have, I thought it was important to at least mention this here as a possibility so you are aware.
Unsafe situations may occur in your pig's surroundings, even with animals that are confined to the house or an outside run. A responsible pet owner should always have control of their pig and their pig's environment. Injury or death after being hit by a car or being attacked by another animal can be prevented if your pig is properly controlled and/or properly contained. Your pig may be injured or shot if allowed to wander unrestricted. Controlling your pig and providing a safe home can eliminate several dangerous situations. Remember, dogs are natural enemies to pigs. Click here to read more about the dangers of dogs and pigs.
Animals usually have more problems in hot environments than in cold. Pigs can suffer heat prostration and die in a short period of time, even minutes, under severe conditions. Good ventilation is vital. Animals typically cool themselves by panting, which becomes inefficient in extreme heat, poor ventilation, or when dehydration causes a lack of moisture on the tongue. Panting is NOT how pigs cool off. Pigs need an area that is shaded and/or a fresh water source like a kiddie pool to cool off in. Some pigs will stay inside the poorly ventilated house outdoors because they feel safe in there, so be sure to check up on your pig often in extreme weather. If it is absolutely necessary to leave your pet in the car, even for a short time, keep the windows partially open. In the summer, the car's interior can quickly rise to over 150°F, and your pet's body temperature may rise to 110°F or more, causing irreversible brain damage and/or death within minutes. It is NOT advisable to leave your pig in the car for any amount of time unsupervised. Click here to read more about seasonal safety and pigs and the importance of cooling systems and providing an outlet for your pig to cool down.
Your pig(s) need room to move around safely to get exercise. Provide an area with adequate room, shelter, and bedding that can be cleaned. Lots of space to exercise, some toys, and clean, comfortable bedding are some simple things that can add years to your pig's life. Outdoor time is especially important so your pig has the opportunity to be a pig. Pigs need to root and play in the dirt and when pigs are not given this opportunity, they tend to have behavioral problems and have been known to be quite destructive. Click here to read more about enrichment ideas for pigs.
Confinement created by a harness getting stuck on something can potentially lead to your pig being choked by the leash or poorly fitted harness. Do NOT leave harnesses on pigs and let them out for the day. Don’t put a harness on a pig and leave the pig in your home for the day. If there will not be someone home, take the harness off. Click here to find a pig specific harness to avoid ill-fitting harnesses.
Remember to have ID on your animal; people will usually return your pet if your phone number is provided. Also, if your animal is injured and transported to a veterinarian by someone else, the doctor can reach you for medical decisions.
Proper identification tags and/or microchips will help you recover your pet if he wanders off.
Electric cords should be inaccessible to pets, especially in piglets, which tend to chew on anything. A bite through the insulation can result in a serious burn, fluid accumulation in the lungs, or death.
Dangling electric cords are an irresistible (but dangerous) temptation to a playful piglet. Make sure all cords are inaccessible!
Many common household items can cause your pet to choke:
These items should be kept away from pets, as ingesting them may cause foreign body blockages or injuries to the esophagus, stomach or small intestine. Make sure that small household items are kept in a place that your pig(s) can't reach! Click here to read about how to potentially save your pigs life in an emergency situation like this by clicking here.
This is not optional, this is a must for a pig parent. Intact pigs can be unpredictable, males tend to smell, both usually have some form of behavioral problems and both sexes are at risk for developing potentially life threatening tumors in the reproductive organs. Spay and/or neuter while they're young. You'll be glad you did it. To read more about these procedures, click here to see our page dedicated to answering any questions about these life altering procedures.
Accidental poisonings can be tragic. Guard against ingestion of:
Ask a professional before administering drugs of any kind to your pet. Do NOT give activated charcoal or induce vomiting without first consulting a vet or pet poison control center for instructions. Click here for a more complete list of pig toxicities as well a information about activated charcoal, mineral oil, the use of medications to induce vomiting, etc.
Animals must be contained while riding in a car or truck. Pigs should be contained in such a way that he/she isn’t given free roam of the vehicle. This is not only for your safety, but also your pigs safety. Click here to read more about traveling with your pig and the regulations you MUST follow when crossing state lines.
What happens if you should need to slam on the breaks? Your pig will fly out of the seat onto the floor or even worse, through the windshield if not contained. We recommend that pigs not ride in the back of trucks. In some states it is illegal for a animal to ride in the back of a pick-up truck. Besides the risk of injury from a fall, the pig may be killed in traffic. Even crated pigs have a risk of being hit with highway debris riding in the back of uncovered trucks.
Regular Veterinary Check-Ups
Regular veterinary examinations will help avoid some preventable disease problems and permit early detection of others, thus facilitating treatment. Your veterinarian should see your pet at least once a year. During the check-up regular vaccinations are given and the animal is given a physical exam, a dental check-up, and teeth cleaning. Now is also a good time to discuss pet insurance. There are a couple of insurance providers that will cover pigs. These policies typically cover wellness check ups and sometimes even spays and neuters! Click here to be directed to the known companies that will cover mini pigs. You should also discuss dental care and hoof care during these wellness check up visits. You can click here to read more about hoof maintenance.
Your pet's annual physical examination is vital for continued good health.
Parasite control needs to be done routinely, every 6 months is a good schedule for regular deworming and parasite treatment. Click here to read more about parasite control. (Remember, this should be done using BOTH medications, Fenbendazole and Ivermectin to truly cover all the potential parasites)
Many dangerous infectious diseases can be prevented or lessened in severity with a proper vaccination program. No vaccine is 100% effective, but regular vaccinations are the most effective way to prevent such diseases. Click here to read our page dedicated to discuss vaccinations.
Approved vaccines are available for the following diseases: (Talk to your vet about what would be appropriate for your pig)
With so many formerly deadly diseases now preventable by vaccination, you owe it to your pig to make sure she is up on her booster shots. Consult your veterinarian for the vaccines needed in your area and a proper vaccination schedule.
Dental problems that go untreated not only cause problems in the teeth and gums, but the effects may extend to other areas of the body. Click here to read more about dental care and pigs.
Good oral hygiene and regular veterinary examination and treatment can eliminate dental problems.
Dental health and good overall health go hand in hand.
Prevention: A Final Note
Seek professional veterinary help immediately if your pet suffers an accident or illness. Getting help early prevents complications and more suffering. Waiting can only result in undue worry, serious deterioration of conditions, and make recovery more difficult. To find a vet that will see your pig, please reference our vet list with more than 1,000 vets that will see pigs as patients. you can access that list by clicking here.
There are a few laws that affect pet pigs and you may have heard of some of them, but likely were not thinking outside the box to realize there are several more that may apply. You don't have to be a professor at a big University that teaches law to know that you have rules and regulations, as well as laws, if applicable. We have selected a few laws that may apply to you when you have an unconventional pet, such as a pet pig.
1. Wills and Estates Law
There was a case in NY several years back about a dog and the dog parent leaving ALL of her estate to the dog. Although contested, the family was quite shocked to find out that her will was legal and enforceable. The family contested, of course, and although they did win a portion, the bulk of her estate did, in fact, go to her dog. (If I am remembering all the facts correctly). This is an issue for a number of reasons...First, be sure to include your pig in any last will and testament you may have on file, including designation to who will care for your pig once you are no longer here to do so yourself. If you have assets, leave financial support for the care of your beloved porcine friend. Second part is to keep this document updated. It will do no good to name someone who is no longer with us. This is important for anyone who has a pet pig, but probably more-so for the rescue community who have large numbers of pigs that will need to be cared for long after they're gone. Always have back up plans for back up plans.
2. Travel Laws
We have said it before and now saying it again, you MUST check with the state you are traveling into to see what laws/regulations are in effect for pigs in that state. Some states require visible identification, some require blood tests such as brucellosis and pseudorabies before they will permit a pig to cross the state lines, others may simply require a CVI (certificate of veterinary inspection) also referred to as a health certificate. Whatever the regulations are, be sure you follow them. Click here to be directed to the USDA travel guidelines. The reason for these rules and regulations is actually to protect YOUR pig as well as other pigs from disease that can be carried over by an infected pig. This is also why the penalties are so steep for violations of these rules.
3. Zoning Restrictions
Each state is different in their ordinances regarding keeping pigs within city limits. Each county may have conflicting ordinances within the same state, but you MUST follow YOUR city/county/town ordinance. Many people have waged wars with their cities to try and have the ordinance amended to allow pigs to reside within the city limits. Some people have successfully had the ordinance changed or amended and some have not been successful. It is not worth the fight if you can find out beforehand or try and have the ordinance changed BEFORE you add a pig to your family. There is a lot of disappointment and heartbreak when you get a pig, find out the city doesn't allow pigs in the city and then have to find a new home for your beloved pet. Click here to read more about how to check and see if you're zoned to have a pig and also how you can work to change the city ordinance. All it takes is one jerk person to call and "report" you in order to get the wheels of justice moving. Do not get a pig if you have to hide it. That isn't good for you, your family or your pig.
HOA (homeowners associations) can also impact whether or not you are "allowed" to have a pig. Do not sign HOA paperwork that isn't clear on what is traditional and what is not. Sometimes the wording doesn't include or exclude pigs, but you need to be sure of what is included so you can avoid a court case to try and fight to keep your pig.
4. Divorce Law
Pigs are like our children and we will fight to protect them as such. If there are 2 loving pig parents and the possibility y'all will not live happily ever after, try to come to some kind of agreement prior to the nastiness of a divorce to determine who will retain custody of the pig(s). Pets have been included in prenuptial agreements in the past, although typically this refers to cats and dogs, we are pig people, so we encourage you to take in consideration your pigs thoughts and feelings too. Of course, neither kids nor pets can be split into pieces and distributed between the disagreeing parties to a divorce. Therefore, judges are being presented with, and many are approving, shared animal custody or visitation rights for husbands and wives, domestic partners and even roommates when they are faced with pet custody disputes.
5. Corporate Law
It can be big local news when a farmer is caught neglecting or abusing his farm animals. The local humane organizations and the animal control officer might show up and take the cattle, horses or sheep to a rehabilitator or foster home, but there usually isn’t a great deal of money involved. The situation is different, however, when some Fortune 500 company is accused of the same — that’s national news.
At one time, virtually no one had the resources to challenge a big company such as a billion-dollar, publicly held fast-food chain if one of these companies was caught treating food animals in an inhumane way. But now, very well-funded humane organizations and animal rights groups are pursuing (and winning) animal cruelty cases against these very large defendants.
And now that big-money cases and large potential jury awards have begun to revolve around animals, you can be sure that corporate attorneys are generally paying much closer attention to the precise meaning of animal-protection legislation. They want to know every nuance of these laws’ applicability to the millions of food animals under the control of their corporate clients. We see this mainly in the farming community, but there has been abuse/neglect/fraud in the pet pig world too.
6. Bailment Law
This is a legal concept that basically means that when the property of another person is placed in your hands, you have a duty to care for it and return it to its owner undamaged. For example, a "bailment" is created when a valet parks your car or when you check your luggage at the airline counter.
So, in the world of animals, what happens when Mr. Smith drops piggyy off to be groomed one morning at the local pet groomer and Mrs. Smith picks piggy up in the afternoon? There was never a problem when this happened for piggy’s first few grooming appointments.
This time, though, the pet groomer had no idea that the Smiths have become legally separated. Imagine the horror when Mr. Smith comes in to collect piggy and his pet is no longer there! The grooming business owner might not care that the Smiths are tied up in a terrible legal battle. What she should be concerned about is if she doesn’t carry bailment insurance and now has to defend herself and her business in a lawsuit lodged by Mr. Smith for his “suffering and anguish” attributable to her having relinquished his property - piggy - to someone not authorized to possess the pig. Same thing applies to boarding an animal. When you drop off your pig to be boarded for a week, you expect to return to a healthy and happy pig, what happens if thats not the case? What happens if your boarding facility neglects your pig resulting in your pigs death? They are liable.
7. Personal Injury Law
You may have the Best. Pig. Ever. BUT, if your pig is at a community event and gets agitated because some kid keeps putting their hands in its' face, your pig may headswipe or even bite...are you responsible? Of course you are.
First, be sure your pig is vaccinated against any disease that can be passed via an animal bite, like rabies to lessen the chances of something bad happening to your pig because of an accidental or even purposeful bite. Second, if your pig tends to bite, do NOT do community events! Do not set your pig up for failure by placing him/her in an environment with a lot of people if your pig is socially standoffish. Third, do stand there with your animal and remove your pig from the premises if you can see your pig is frustrated. Place signs on your pigs area cautioning people that your pig will bite if provoked. Do NOT let young children handle your pig without you being present or literally holding the pig while they gently pet the back or leg while your have a firm grip.
However, again, if your pig is not trained and socially inept, do NOT take your pig to events like "kiss the pig" or similar situations where your pig is expected to preform a service or act in a certain way for an audience. If your pig is not used to dealing with the public and seems a bit skittish, you will need to work more with your pig before having expectations of your pig being in the spotlight and being successful.
8. Property Damage
If you are a renter, this may be applicable to you. ALWAYS take pictures and do an inspection before you move in noting any areas of concern. Be sure your landlord knows you have a pig and you have written permission to have a pet pig in a rental home. There may be preexisting damage that your pig didn't do, that you are being blamed for. Pigs dig, pigs root, pigs will tear up walls and floors. Pigs will accidentally break doors where food is stored. Pigs will accidentally remove flooring when they're bored. Just know these things can happen with a pet pig and if you're visiting someone or renting a home, you may be on the line for damages as a result of your pig being in that home.
Always keep an eye on your pig in unfamiliar areas and provide enrichment to bored pigs. This will lessen the chances of destruction caused by YOUR pig and hopefully, in turn, reduce your liability in regards to damage that could be caused by your pig. Always do a routine inspection of the area inside and outside of your house to easily identify possible toxins and removal of these potentially hazardous items from your pigs environment. See our blog from last week that discusses bored pig problems and solutions by clicking here.
We’ve just touched on a few of the basic areas where animals impact the law and vice versa, but there are many others. The message here is that, in a legal sense, owning, caring for or even just interacting with animals has become increasingly complicated in recent years. It pays to be aware of the laws and what your risks and rights are depending on your role and always err on the side of caution when it comes to you and your pig. Always know what the laws are in YOUR area, protect your pig.
We have all been there...you get home from work only to find that your pig discovered that the fridge DOES open...or those spectacular flowers you spend 6 hours planting? Gone.
Did you know pigs can be destructive when they're bored? A lot of pigs tend to get into some mischief when they have nothing better to do or nothing to keep their little minds occupied. So, what is the solution? Enrichment activities for your pig(s)!!
First let's see some destructive behavior from pigs that had too much time on their hands. (Or too much freedom)
We call this "hoarder corner" at my house. Anytime someone is missing something, they automatically know to check hoarder corner.
For some reason, pig love to hear the ripping sound made from fabric as well as paper.
Dirt + pigs will always equal a mess. Maybe there was some kind of treasure in there or maybe he was just curious...nonetheless, those bags were there and within reach, so they were fair game.
So, how do you avoid this?
You will hear many different answers to that question. Probably the most important and common factor, as in these situations pictured above, is that they all occurred indoors. Pigs NEED outdoor time. Not only do they need sunlight to aid in the absorption of essential vitamins/minerals, they need to have a place where they're not penalized for acting like a pig. Pigs like to dig, they like to look for things you may not have known were even there. Pigs have an incredible sense of smell and they use it to their advantage. I assume everyone has heard of pigs being used to hunt for truffles. This dates back to the 15th century and they were able to identify these fungal investments that were 3 feet deep! It was thought that natural sex hormones of the male pig are similar to the smell of the truffles and others said pigs simply love digging for food making them a great source to find the truffles so many were eager to get their hands on. Some have argued that their particular taste for truffles leads to a more devoted beast and ultimately, countries began to prohibit pigs from truffle hunting because they weren't careful diggers and caused damage to actual truffle while digging for it creating a drop in their production rate. Pigs love to dig, that is all there is to it. Taking that ability away from them by not allowing them to have time to root and investigate can lead to behavioral issues and/or destruction in the home.
Make sure your pig has an appropriate outdoor space. If you like having a nice yard, then a pig isn't the right pet for you, unless you can dedicate some separate space for your pig to be a pig. A secure fenced in area is ideal for a pet pig. Plenty of room to run around in and plenty of dirt to dig in is the type of environment a pig will thrive in.
Another important factor is providing a stimulation type activity for your pig. This can be indoors or outdoors. Some love treat dispensers, but some pigs get frustrated and quickly lose interest in them. However, to encourage exercise, as well as positive reinforcement, treat balls are often recommended to help curb a bored pigs mojo. The Kong, Busy ball and Bobalot treat dispensers seem to be a big hit for pigs. (All can be bought on Amazon.com)
Another suggestion heard frequently is puzzle type treat dispensers. These can range from fairly simple to rather complicated. Most treat puzzles are easily mastered by pigs. So, you may not want to invest in super expensive treat puzzles in case your pig quickly catches on rendering that puzzle useless. (Although, old toys can be "new" again if put away for a period of time and reintroduced later on)
Balls seem to make a lot of pigs happy as well. Big balls, bowling balls, sports balls, such as basketballs or soccer balls are all good choices. I will warn you, if you get a plastic ball that can easily be punctured or has a flimsy surface, your pig will likely poke a hole in it and it will deflate. This can cause a potential choking hazard, so be careful to choose a ball that is pet friendly. The example below is a horse product called Horseman's Pride Jolly mega ball and is 30" in size. Pet specific balls can cost little more, but they're made for them specifically and are usually a safer choice. The one below is around 29.99 on Amazon.com.
Oddly enough, one of my pigs favorite things to do is rip through a phone book. These aren't even delivered in my area anymore, so I let her have junk mail and newspaper instead sometimes. But phone books or thin paper can be a way to keep your pig from being bored. They love to hear the ripping of pages and will chew on the paper for a little bit, but they do not typically "eat" it. To be sure, watch your pig and make sure they're not swallowing excessive amounts of paper so there are no complications from letting them participate in this kind of activity. Overall, my pig LOVES this though and would prefer ripping paper to any toy I have purchased for her.
Probably the most important thing you can do is train your pig. Pigs love social interaction, but they only know what YOU teach them. Working with your pig to teach them basic tricks or how to stay using positive reinforcement will take you a lot further than ANY toy or treat dispenser. This is a basic need for pigs and shouldn't be overlooked. Neglecting to train your pig often leads to a pig that displays undesirable behavior. This is NOT your pigs fault, this is YOUR fault. Your interaction with them teaches them manners and respect as well as positive behaviors get rewarded whereas negative behaviors do not. Sit and spin are typically the simplest tricks for pigs to master. Soon enough, your pig will greet you by spinning in circles or sitting because they know they get treats for this type of positive behavior normally. This particular pig, in the video below, had some aggression issues for months prior to him being able to be trained. So once he was neutered and his hormone level normalized, he was obviously a much different pig than he was while we waited for his surgery date. Once trained, he turned out to be one of the best behaved pigs and well-mannered pigs I have ever seen and made a very good pet. To date, according to his pig mom, he is still well mannered and behaved and a "joy" to be around. (FYI, if your pig is intact, sometimes the trouble is based on the fact that they're trying to find a suitable mate. They don't realize that there are no other pigs within that vicinity, so they leave "hints" for others, just in case. Please spay or neuter your pigs!! Click here to read more about those procedures)
Or perhaps work on the command "stay"....this pig knows what she has to do before she gets dinner. This is much more advanced training. It requires a lot of patience since pigs are extremely food motivated to begin with. You must first build the foundation with your pig realizing you are to be respected and what you say goes. Do NOT give in, not even once, because your pig will remember that and continue to test the boundaries hoping that you will just let them eat and won't enforce the rule.
You can work with your pig on very specific skills such as painting pictures. You can then hang these in your home or even donate them to various pig rescues who can auction off one of a kind pieces and help your pig community. This is fairly easy to accomplish. Using non-toxic after based paint and a flat canvas, any pig can be an artist!! Combined with positive reinforcement, your pig will love to paint as much as you love their paintings. I have been doing this with my pig for a couple of years now and although her technique changes with each painting, her art is always a masterpiece.
Creating activities for your pig isn't as hard as it sounds. I have used baby toys as a training tool as well as other child electronics to teach my pig the concept of positive reinforcement. Again, they can quickly master these toys, so you may have to step it up a notch fairly quick after starting your training. My pig learned that the end result was a treat, so she would push the button, twist the button, press the button and slide the button to get a treat. For the easy ones? She would close the pop up pieces and reopen them again and expected her treat, after all, she did it again. The one I used was similar to the one pictured below.
Using household objects or household products to create an activity can be just as good for your pig. PVC pipe are often the product of choice because of their durability. Drilling holes big enough for a treat to fall out of and hanging that from something sturdy can provide hours of entertainment for your pig. This particular picture is from The California Potbellied Pig Association's website. http://www.cppa4pigs.org
Summertime can bring a host of other problems, but one way to keep your pig cooled off and hydrated is to freeze water, with or without other items added in for them to find. But since hydration is so important, using a frozen treat in the heat does create an additional water source for your pig during the hot months. (again, photo is from The California Potbellied Pig Association's website linked above)
An outside agility course can promote exercise as well as disciplined behavior. Agility courses can be homemade or bought as a set from a store, such as this set from Amazon.com. This particular course is around 200.00, but provides you everything you need to set up a working agility course right in your backyard!
Using food as motivation typically works....as long as your pig can actually eat it. This is Harley Swan's video she shared with us last year with a brilliant idea for apples. This was an easier task for one than it was for the other, but nonetheless, a great idea and way to keep your pig busy!
Pigs can bowl, its an activity that they learn the end result is what you're after, so when I was training my pig to "bowl", she would run to the end of the room and knock the pins down with her snout before the ball ever made it down there. Still fun to watch though. A cheap set of children bowling toys are less than 20.00 and can be found at most toy stores or Walmart.
We have a section of the website dedicated to enrichment for pigs. It is available, but will be updated soon, so check back often to see updated ideas and products that you can use to help your pig stay entertained. You can visit that section by clicking here. Sometimes a pig that tends to get in trouble isn't because of boredom at all, but rather persistence. These are the group of pigs that pig proofing was made for. If your pig has plenty of outside time, plenty of "enrichment" to keep him/her occupied but still tends to get into things? Well, your pig knows there is food in that cabinet, or is flat out being defiant. Again, something you can work on using training to teach respect and exactly who is in charge, but you should be sure to keep anything your pig may be tempted to "get into" out of reach or locked away.
Whatever method or technique you decide to use, just do it with consistency. Your pig is likely used to a routine (or would like to be), so taking the time to train and making it a part of your routine will give your pig something to look forward to. Pigs love to learn and explore, give them an avenue to satisfy that craving. If you have additional ideas for enriching your pigs life, we would love to hear about them or see examples. Feel free to send us pictures and/or stories and we can get them added to the website/blog.
Our names are Brittany Sawyer and Nicole Cox and we are pig parents, pig advocates and also the authors of the "Dear Pig Whisperer" blog. Follow our blog that will feature topics to help you become the best pig parent you can be...along with some other fun things. We will also feature guest bloggers from time to time who want to share their life experience or knowledge with anyone who is interested in learning.
All information was collected and/or written by the creators of the website unless otherwise noted. If you have any questions or would like to reach out to us, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or via our Facebook page by clicking here. Feel free to share the links to the website, that is why it was created. This website does NOT take the place of your veterinarian's advice. Please seek emergency veterinarian care if your pig is sick or injured!!
© COPYRIGHT 2015. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.