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.
It is common for humans to struggle with winter weight gain. Whether the struggle is in preventing it, or losing the weight after the fact, seasonal weight gain is a fact of life for a lot of animals that live in seasonal climates. With the onset of colder temperatures — a time when food items become scarce in the wild — activity levels drop, metabolism slows down, and hibernation mode sets in. This is not limited to animals in the wild, however. There is not always a plethora of seasonal vegetables available to some pig parents during the colder months. This makes it more difficult to find nutritious choices for your pigs diet. The fact that it gets darker earlier in the day makes feeding times one of the keys to prevention. As with people, eating right before you go to bed leaves unburned calories leading to weight gain. Changing the time you feed the last meal of the day can also allow your pig to have the opportunity to burn off those excess calories by means of playing, digging or just moving around after a meal. Darkness means bedtime. If it gets dark at 530pm, most pigs are ready for bed at 530pm. Feeding the last meal of the day a couple of hours before darkness sets in allows your pig the opportunity to burn off some of those calories versus eating a big meal and going right to bed a short time later. If this is possible for you to feed your pig an earlier dinner, and you haven’t been, try doing it 30 minutes earlier each day until you reach your desired time instead of feeding your pig 2 hours early one evening and their bellies telling them its time to eat much earlier the following morning. I personally feed at 6am and 3pm. These are times that work for me. Occasionally there are days that I am a few minutes late with dinner, and my pig lets me know. But overall, I believe allowing the time to burn off the calories does impact winter weight gain.
Even though we have devised ways to stay warm and active, and to stockpile plenty of food to get us through the winter months, our bodies still react with the age-old evolutionary methods for preservation. This is as true for humans as it is for our domesticated pets, and this is where that struggle lies. Luckily for us, pellets are available year round usually, but the selection of foods to add to these pellets are not. Determine what winter veggies are available to you beforehand and check the nutritional content to be sure you aren’t compounding the problem by adding high calorie or non-nutritious items to your pigs diet. We have added a link to our nutrition section to a search engine for ALL foods and this site can tell you the nutrition content of practically any food. This is a great tool for those of us who aren't nutrition experts and don't necessarily know which foods are best. Click here to view our pig nutrition page and look for the USDA.gov link for the nutrition link.
When a pig that is used to being outside all day digging in the yard is now only outside for speedy breaks, or a pig that is accustomed to a sunbathing outdoors is now reluctant to spend much time outdoors in the cold, it naturally follows that the food that has been consumed is not being burned as energy resulting in weight gain. Click here to see our recommended product page with a list of treat dispensers that can be used for feedings.
Meanwhile, we are eating more at home, making large meals for family get-togethers and I am sure there are some at the dinner table who may “accidentally” drop or even purposely slip a few human food items to your pig. NIP THIS IN THE BUD! Make sure you tell your guests that your pig is NOT to eat human food unless you have prepared some in special way just for him/her.
Prevention is Key
If you don’t start, you’ll never have to stop. This is a motto to live by. If you don’t gain weight, you won’t have to lose weight. If you never start feeding sugary treats, you will never have to find alternative treats for your pig, etc. If your pig is normally active and in good physical shape, create an exercise plan for the winter months so that he or she can continue to be active. This might be games with indoor rooting boxes, or other enrichment items, a romp through the snow in the backyard, once you have shoveled a path of course, and a brisk walk with your pig when the weather allows for it. Just be sure to get out as often as possible so that both your pig and you can work off the excess calories. Click here to see our enrichment page with ideas of things you can do to keep your pig busy or entertained. Enrichment is important for many reasons, but one of them is to prevent boredom and a second is to encourage activity.
If it is too difficult to maintain a regular exercise routine during the coldest months, consider cutting back on calorie intake to compensate for the lowered physical and metabolic activity. Fewer treats with a gradually decreased amount of feed being fed should cover the difference.
Weight Loss Plans
If your pig is already overweight, a bit more work is going to be required, since you will most likely need to maintain the current weight, even as it is over the ideal. Unless your veterinarian has advised a specific weight loss plan with indoor exercise, you will need to take care in how much you exercise your pig or decrease your pig’s meal intake. Treats should be eliminated, but food should not be cut back dramatically — again, unless your vet has specifically advised it as a course of action. Pigs do not lose weight from exercise; they can’t physically keep their heart rate in the desired “cardio” range to burn enough calories to actually lose weight. So you must be creative. You can use treat dispensers to feed your pig forcing them to move around to get their breakfast. If there isn’t snow on the ground, you can put their pellets directly on the ground so they have to find them. (I am not a big fan of putting food on the ground/dirt for any pet, but to encourage exercise, I find this to be appropriate)
Before embarking on any weight loss or exercise plan it is important to have your pig checked for underlying conditions that may be contributing to the weight gain. Only then can you and your veterinarian construct a sensible diet and structured, achievement oriented exercise program. We will try our best to give you individualized tips to help you on your journey to weight loss with your pig. We can tell you nutritious foods to add into the diet as well as appropriate amounts of pelleted feed to aid in the weight loss you desire. You must be consistent and you must be accurate. Click here to view our page regarding how to balance activity with the foods you chose to feed your pig. Please check your feed for any signs of spoilage as well. Winter months bring about a lot of moisture and with moisture comes mold. Sometimes mold is at the bottom of the feed and by the time you see it, the spores have been in ALL the feed and possibly have affected your pigs health. Click here to learn more about spoiled or bad feed.
Monitoring your pigs’ weight
If you are concerned about your pig gaining weight during the winter, schedule a visit with your veterinarian before the start of the winter season. Your doctor will record your pig’s weight so that it can be gauged with any further gains or losses.
Ask your veterinarian to show you how to check for certain landmarks signs that your pig is overweight or obese. The belly and neck are two of the spots on the body that are most likely to indicate abnormal weight gain, when it does occur. Your pigs belly shouldn’t be close to the ground. There should be plenty of clearance between the dirt and the “potbelly” your pig may have. Some pigs do not have that potbellied appearance at all, so in these pigs, a sudden increase in the size of the belly could indicate something more going on.
If your pig has a history of weight issues, it is also important that you measure him or her once-a-month to make sure the pounds/inches aren’t creeping up and that the current weight is being maintained as needed. You can click here to see how to measure a pig and use the farmer’s almanac method of estimating your pigs weight. This has been a fairly accurate tool to estimate weight.
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.