How do you handle irresponsible stories about pet pigs? You educate. Recently, we were made aware of a story that aired on Fox news as well as shared to their many Facebook page feeds and added to their website. Naturally this story glamorized pigs and how small they stayed, the usual myths that are tossed around by uneducated people. I don't blame Fox news entirely, but I do place some of the blame on them for not checking facts before airing such a ridiculous story. Despite the wealth of information available to people, unfortunately, they will believe what they want to believe. They will take bits and pieces from different websites and groups and come up with their own conclusion about pigs and this mythical micro pig.
http://www.fox10phoenix.com/news/arizona-news/micropigs. They likely didn't mean to cause a riot, but I know I reached out to them privately as did several of my friends when we were alerted to this story. Thankfully, the news has reached out to several rescues and will be doing a story on the unwanted pigs across the US to counter the inaccurate story they already did. I am happy to report they did, in fact, do a story about rescue that can be seen by clicking the following link. (http://www.fox13news.com/news/news/pigrescuesoverwhelmed-story) It is stories like the first one that cause a surge of people to run out and get a pig on a whim. We are the ones left to network and find homes in a few months, once the novelty wears off. Rescues do not have any more room for any more pigs. People do not have any more room in their homes for any more pigs. Shelters aren't equipped to handle pigs, craigslist isn't a place that I would ever suggest a person to try and rehome their pig on. It has gotten so out of control, and this is only February, the pigs that were bought as Christmas gifts are about to start being rehomed in the next month or so too....stories like this do not help the already overpopulated pig problem. If you are considering getting a pig for you and your family, please go check out a pig rescue. Volunteer for a day. Get to see firsthand what having a pig is like. You may even see the big ball of fun that was destined to live with you right there at that rescue. But, don't believe the lies. Trust your science community who have come up with actual breeds of pigs. Trust your universities who have done extensive research to be sure you are fully informed about what you are getting yourself in to. Trust the pig rescues that bring these unwanted/unloved pigs to their homes when they "grow too big" or are much different than what these people expected when they brought these pigs home. (Click here to see a list of pig rescues all over the world) These are the people who KNOW the truth and have evidence to support their way of thinking. I would say the 2 main reasons why pigs are rehomed are 1. Pig outgrows expectations and 2. The pig grows up and isn't a cute little piglet anymore, so ultimately the novelty wears off. That is a shame. People should be ashamed of themselves when they "have" to "get rid of" their pig because it's growing up. I pray these same people who don't take the responsibility seriously will care for their children should they have any.
Anyone in pig world knows there is NO breed called teacup or micro or micro-mini. (Click here to read more about the teacup myth and how these annoying terms have fooled ALOT of people.) These terms are used to market these pigs and often mislead people into thinking they're getting something that they aren't. They're going to end up disappointed with what they find several years later, especially if they have unrealistic expectations. If you were to buy a BMW car only to find out in 5 years that it was a mini-van, you would probably be quite disappointed. Essentially telling people that these pigs will stay piglet size is doing just that. While we understand there are a few pigs out there that have stayed relatively small, they are the exception and not the rule. Let me add, the overall well-being of these pigs is also in question, especially after hearing the "expert" on the segment refer to these pigs as micro pigs, and the fact that you can see their bone structure indicates to me that they should weigh more than they do.
If the weight of a pet is the most important factor when choosing what type you want to add to your family, then you should reconsider getting a pig. Pigs come in all shapes and sizes. Some are tall, some are long, others are short. Some pigs are fat, some are healthy and some are, simply put, starved. Pigs come in all heights, lengths, colors and each of these pigs will have their own unique personality to go with it. What are some physical signs that a pig may be starving?
-Head is to large for their body (Often times bobble headed)
-Sunken (hallow) eyes (No brightness, very dull eyes)
-Gap under their chin (If you run your hand under their chin you will feel an indentation)
-Low energy or lethargy (No zoomies)
-Pigmentation of their skin is off
-Legs tend to bow (Malnutrition also effects the skeletal system)
-Resting their head on objects *this was a huge thing for me as that made me think, wait, MY pig does that! This doesn't convey when your pig does this occasionally, but when your pig can't stand or hold its' head up for long periods of time, this is a problem.
-Hair is thinner and rougher, typically dull
-Hair doesn't lie flat
-Poor skin and coat
-Pigs can also get super hairy when they're underweight too because the body is trying to compensate for the lack of body fat as well. So lack of hair or a lot of hair, both can point to a pig being underweight.
-Some pigs gait is staggered or unsteady-affected by the malnourishment and they're not able to walk straight, often falling or they have a walking disorder such as goose-stepping due to vitamin/nutritional deficiencies, some can't walk at all
-Eyes may have a glazed look or have a sadness to them
-Backbone tends to curve upwards leaving a hunched-over stance
-Bones visible through the skin. You should not be able to identify the skeletal structure from looking at a pig. This includes the facial structure. No, there shouldn't be excessive fat rolls, but you shouldn't be able to see the eye sockets and nasal bones either.
-Lack of engagement. (These pigs seem to have ADD- they're often too tired and starving to pay attention or follow commands)
-Bloated or distended belly. (It is the same thing that happens to humans when they have very little to eat, the belly fills with gas giving a "bloated" look. There are other medical reasons for this as well, but combined with other symptoms from above, it points to a malnourished pig.)
-Often times people know they're starving these pigs and will keep clothing on them to cover the bones. We are NOT saying all pigs that wear clothes are starving. We ARE saying that people will try to hide it though.
-Aggression can be a result of a starving pig. Pigs that are hungry can also be angry. A starving pig may try to fight for more food. This is LIFE or DEATH for them!
-Pigs that eat ANYTHING in sight. A starving pig will eat anything to try and fill their belly. Some pigs have nutritional deficiencies and eat odd things, like drywall. But a starving pig will eat carpet, drywall, toys, flooring, anything they can fit in their mouths and swallow. Pigs have a natural curiosity that usually results in them "tasting" many things (including the list above) but they're not desperately looking for food. YOU know whether or not your pig is starving and YOUR pig is the one who will suffer and pay the ultimate price with their life if you continue to do this to them.
These aren't the only signs, but these are clear identifiable signs that a pig is being starved. Starving pigs is a cruel way to stunt the growth. They may not show immediate signs of being starved, but eventually they will. There are no healthy, fully mature pigs under 50 pounds that I am aware of to date. There are no breeders that can consistently produce pigs that stay small. There may be breeders who claim they do, they may even have a pig or two that have a smaller stature and that is typically what they focus on...those particular pigs. Be extremely wary of breeders who tell you that in order for your pig to stay small, you need to buy the food THEY manufacture. Seriously? What's in this "feed"? Is there a label? Is this food nutritionally sound? Are the key ingredients tested routinely to be sure their vitamin/mineral's relatively remain consistent? I wouldn't buy some unknown brand of food for my pig with no identification for ANY reason. There are major brands of feed that we KNOW are healthy. These same companies have feed recommendations that you can follow to ensure your pig stays healthy from a nutrition standpoint.
Do you know why people with these smaller pigs are discussed with such passion from those in the pig community? Because the pigs do NOT look healthy. I don't care what your vet has said, I don't care what you might think, when you can see the bones in the face, that pig is starved. Most pigs that are moderately starved will start to have behavioral issues, attacking or acting aggressive due to not getting enough to eat. This is a fairly common reaction. People who have to fight for food are the same, they'll do whatever they can in order to secure nourishment for their body. Some of these pigs are so starved, I highly doubt they have the energy to attack anyone.
Are smaller pigs somehow better than bigger pigs? I don't think so. Having a pig that is smaller can certainly have its' benefits, but an angry, sad and starving pig? I just don't see the glamour in that. Having a small pig isn't worth the toll it takes on my pigs body. There is a huge gray area where body scoring is concerned. Fat pigs aren't any fun either, but a fat pig at least has the joy of eating, obviously these starving pigs have been denied that pleasure. When a pig doesn't get the appropriate amount of nutrition, there is a domino effect. The body can't grow like its supposed to leaving growth that is significantly stunted. The bones need nutrients found in correct amounts of feed, when this is not being given, these bones are weak and can become easily deformed. Sometimes these bones aren't strong enough to support the weight or begin to bow leaving disfigured legs or backbones and taking the ability to walk away from these pigs. These pigs suffer from broken bones or easily fracture their extremities. The lack of proper nutrition also takes a toll on the lymphatic system rendering the immune system worthless. These pigs will likely get sick often or won't be able to fight off common viruses or bacteria that other pigs can carry and never suffer effects from. These same illnesses can claim the life of starved pigs. The organs contained within the pigs body rely on nutrition to help them perform their duties within the body and although they will take the nutrients they can get, eventually, the capacity to function as they're supposed to will diminish.
Starvation is one of the most deadly conditions on the planet; according to some studies, the effects of starvation play a major role in between one-third and one-half of all worldwide deaths of children under the age of five. The same rule applies to pigs. By depriving the body of nutrition, starvation slowly allows the body to devour its own reserves, including muscle, fat, and organs, up to the point of complete system shut-down and death. Understanding how starvation affects the body is important to recognizing the signs of malnutrition and preventing a growing nutrition-based problem from worsening beyond repair.
The body is an effective storage device for fats, nutrients, and other important components. These stores are regulated by nutrition in the form of food, beverages, and vitamin and mineral supplements. When lack of nutrition occurs, the body quite quickly turns to stored reserves, beginning with glycogen, in order to keep vital functions up to par. As the body begins to devour more and more stored components to keep running, the physical effects of starvation become apparent.
One of the first effects of starvation to occur is a drop in metabolism. In order to maximize efficiency, the body protects its insulating fat stores by consuming muscle stores instead, using these reserves to make up for the lack of calorie intake. Dropping metabolism can lead to feelings of fatigue, decreased capacity for activity, and mental sluggishness. This often results in staggering gait or neuro-like symptoms as well. This is sometimes visible early on, but sometimes the long term effects are not immediately identified.
Since the body is busy keeping vital systems going, many non-vital functions slow or cease. Hormone production is often disrupted, Intact pigs may stop menstruating entirely, or experience erratic heat cycles. Malnutrition and starvation, therefore, can have serious developmental effects, even after recovery (if this is rectified), as normal hormonal functions may be temporarily or permanently thrown off track.
The effects of starvation on the brain cause a lack of concentration, loss of motor skills, and increased likelihood of anxiety and depression. As the condition progresses, brain function decreases, leaving the victim, in this case, a pig, in a state of fatigue or torpor. Apathy continues to increase, until the pig may no longer be able to attempt to find food or survive.
Initial weight loss will quickly turn to emaciation because of the effects of starvation. The limbs become extremely thin as muscle and fat stores are depleted, while the eyes and face begin to appear sunken. Lack of vital proteins can lead to the loss of hair, poor skin condition or development of edemas, which appear as large swollen areas. The stomach may protrude enormously, as part of a syndrome known as kwashiorkor. This can present as a bloated belly and even mimic the appearance of a large belly in general. (See the video below for examples)
Starvation is frequently a result of uneducated people who have chosen to do this on purpose, but there have been times people have been told to feed extremely restricted diets by the very person who told them there was such a thing as a "micro" pig. While the effects can often be reversed up to a point, acute starvation can cause serious organ damage and often leads to long-term health conditions including cardiovascular problems. If a pig, particularly a piglet, is exhibiting signs of starvation, it is important to try and intervene. Perhaps this person doesn't know the long term effects of malnutrition? Maybe they do and have chosen this as a way to attempt to keep a pig at a particular size, but that is called abuse. Unattended, starvation leads inexorably towards death. Not necessarily immediate death, but the effects from long term starvation WILL ultimately lead to death. Educate, educate, educate. Anything can be said tactfully without a hostile undertone. There may even be circumstances you're not aware of, such as a pig being recently rescued from horrific situations, so be sure to ask and not accuse if you are truly trying to help. Do NOT jump all over someone because their pig is skinny, instead, take that opportunity to educate them. Once you lose your temper and get nasty with your comments, that person isn't going to listen to anything you have to say. Stay kind, be kind with your verbiage. Some of these people who have these pigs honestly do not know, they're listening to someone they feel is an expert, although we know otherwise, this person may not, even despite articles like this that are available online. You don't know the circumstances unless you ask. Some of these pigs may actually have recently been rescued, please keep that in mind as you're in conversations with people. NEVER assume. Keep your words sweet in case you have to eat them later.
Starving pigs is causing psychological harm, although the degree of severity can be hard to truly determine. A pig trusts its human caretaker. By taking away the one things pigs love...food...essentially you have robbed them of their one achievable desire. What kinds of psychological harm do animals suffer?
Rejecting: an active refusal to provide emotional support
Terrorizing: the creation of a “climate of fear” or an unpredictable threat or hostility, preventing the victim from experiencing a sense of security.
Taunting: teasing, provoking, harassing.
Isolating: active prevention of social interactions and companionship.
Abandonment: desertion and termination of care.
Over-pressuring: placing excessive demands or pressure to perform and achieve.
Starving a pig can fall into many of these categories. It may not be based on the descriptions above, but terrorizing and taunting comes to mind right off the bat. Knowingly limiting the amount of food your pig is able to eat in a way to "keep your pig small" is not only ignorant, but also abuse. DO NOT LIMIT YOUR PIGS FEED TO A TEASPOON OF FOOD BECAUSE SOMEONE IGNORANT TOLD YOU TO!!!!
Here are a few pictures of pigs that we know of that were starved.
You may or may not know the story of Sophie. Sophie was a pig that was not only starved, but also made to live in a bathtub her entire short life. When she was finally rescued, she was found to be malnourished and had multiple broken bones, likely as a result of starvation, but also due to her attempts to escape her horrible living situation. Very sad. The worst part of this? Her owners didn't see a problem with it. Sophie wasn't able to survive her injuries, but we are hopeful her story is enough to show others what starving a pig can ultimately do. Rest in paradise sweet girl.
This unfortunate pig was saved and rehabbed by a friend. What was thought to be an issue with the spine was later discovered to be a result of malnutrition. This particular pig was also found to be pregnant in this picture, sadly enough. She did recover and was returned to her owner who "didn't know" about nutrition and is being carefully monitored by the friend who took her in and got her healthy.
This is Frankie the pig. Obviously starved and full of mange, he was thankfully saved and is living a happy and healthy life!!
These pigs were at a pig rescue (that is no longer around). Obviously malnourished and starved, they too, were saved and taken to a good rescue where they have recovered and are thriving in their new healthy life.
These charts are NOT intended for piglets, but more for pigs over a year old...however, if your pig is a number 1, your pig needs to gain some weight regardless of the age. STOP STARVING PIGS TO KEEP THEM SMALL!!!!!! You will never get respect for abusing your pig, not from us or any respectable organization that has a genuine love for pigs. Big pigs are beautiful. There are no recognized breeds named teacup or micro. Check out the links below to see the sources, there are links on these pages from universities and the science community research studies. These are credible resources, not just some person who said so. Don't let your selfish desires outweigh the needs of a pig. Many are simply not equipped or prepared to bring one home and do so anyways. I was one of the people. You can read the heartbreaking article that I wrote in his honor that depicts his short life by clicking here.
A few links for you to look at.
Healthy versus unhealthy pigs.
Guide to nutrition
Teacup pig myth
Realistic sizes of pigs from real owners
Let all that information soak in and we will even give you the opportunity to form a counter argument. By all means, post a comment or let us know what you think. We can provide scientific data to support our thoughts, can you? We welcome your questions or comments, we also welcome a well thought out counter argument supported by facts. But please be prepared to post credible resources because, we are. Someone telling you something doesn't make it credible, FYI.
This is the same pig pictured from the top of the blog, his name was Jack-Jack. He was saved and rehabilitated by Gretchen Schlueter Kendall. Sadly, Jack passed away in 2012 due to twisted gut, likely as a result of scar tissue that formed after a procedure he had much earlier in his life. While we HATE seeing pictures of pigs in this condition, it is very important that people see the long term effects of blatant neglect to properly care for their pigs. THIS is what is left when you no longer want the responsibility. Jack-Jack was one of the lucky pigs who was able to overcome his past and was always a great pet pig. He just wasn't given enough time here on earth. Rest in peace sweet angel. Your story will help to educate many others. You can read more of his story by clicking the following link. http://www.skippingkunekunes.com/jack__jill
This is Oscar, he is a pig that was being starved and eaten alive by rats at the age of 7 years old, nearly dead weighing in at about 20-25lbs because the breeder told the owner to feed 1/4 cup of food DAILY. Does this look like a healthy pig?
This wound was almost to the spine. Without proper nutrition, the body can't heal effectively. The body relies on the nutrients in order to maintain the skins integrity and build immunity and strong muscles, etc.
This is the same pig about a year later. Miraculous recovery after being appropriately cared for and fed correct. He has a permanent deformity to his side due to his past neglect, but overall, has recovered quite well despite his former situation. Thankfully, Katherine Wilson saved his life!!!!
Here are a bunch of starving pigs. Very sad to see people posting pigs like this. This picture was shared by our dear friend Sherri Boley. I believe these are pigs posted by a breeder, but not entirely sure. If so, this is sad, sad, sad. I can only imagine the nutrition advice this person would give someone new to pigs. EXACTLY why this website was created....to tell the truth!
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.
Is your pig itchy and you don't know why? Pigs often have dry skin. This is something most pig parents battle or have battled at one point or another. Let's address some of the common issues that cause dry flaky skin with our pet pigs. (Enjoy this video of sweet Oreo scratching his rear end and remember, nothing you have is off limits to a pig butt)
1. Pigs love to sunbathe. In the summertime, it is paramount that you use sunscreen on all pigs that are outside no matter what the skin pigmentation is. Laying in the sun=dry skin.
2. Hydration. Some of us have pigs that aren't big drinkers, in turn, they don't have the proper amount of water and that leads to dry skin. How can you correct this? Entice your pig to drink more water. Some add a small amount of juice to water, some add flavored water drops, some offer ice or sugarless Popsicles to their pigs in order to maintain a healthy level of hydration. Wet your pigs pelleted feed. Why you ask? 2 reasons. First, any additional water source is a good thing. Although it's not a lot, adding water to the feed does, in fact, add water to the diet. Second, the pellets are designed to swell giving your pig that "fullness" that they never seem to get. When pellets are left dry, you have to reply on them drinking enough water to swell the pellets internally. Why make them wait to feel full? Wetting the pellets beforehand gives you the opportunity to feed the pellets in the fuller state and in turn, your pigs belly will signal a fullness that they have enough to eat. ALWAYS make sure your pig has plenty of fresh water available to them. If necessary, have several water bowls outside in different areas and check them often to be sure they're not contaminated or dirty. Pigs will turn their nose up to a dirty water bowl. (And the biofilm that forms can pose a health threat)
3. Vitamin/mineral deficiency. This actually isn't a common thing if your pig is eating a manufactured diet from one of the major feed brands. These are companies who have spent time and effort formulating a diet specifically made for mini pigs. They have taken into account that owners will supplement the feed with fresh veggies and occasionally fruit and designed a formula of feed to match that algorithm. During a conference call I personally had with the head nutritionist at Purina, (who also owns the Mazuri brand of feed), they informed me that their raw ingredients are tested on a daily basis and slight modifications to their formulary is done daily; based on those results. They also constantly review emails they get and adjust the formulary based on customer satisfaction, such as adding more soy oil because of the complaints of dry skin in the mini pig population. If your pig is being fed a diet that mainly consists of a manufactured feed from a well known company, such as Purina/Mazuri, Manna-Pro, Champion by Ross Mill Farms, or any other brand name feed, in addition to fresh vegetables and fruits that you add, a vitamin or mineral deficiency is unlikely. You should always follow your vets advice regarding the type and amount of feed for your mini pig. If you do have questions, use the contact us link on the feed company's website. For Mazuri, this link sends an email that will go straight to the head of nutrition, not a customer service rep. I know this is factual because I have used the link and they contacted me back within 4 hours with a response for my question.
4. Pigs like to rub on things. They have tough skin. Most pigs have some areas of "hard" skin and in order to feel that relief from the itchiness, they will rub on corners of houses, tables, steps, buildings, tree trunks, or objects laying in the yard. We recommend a product called Scratch N All as a relief tool that can be used inside or outside (click here to learn more about scratch n all) "Forking" is another method used to help relieve your pigs itchiness that you, as the pigs owner, can do to build a great relationship with your pig. (Click here to find out more about forking) Coconut oil can be extremely helpful for dry skin as well. (Given orally or rubbed directly on the skin) So, don't be surprised if you come home and there is skin all over your floor from your pig rubbing on random things inside your home.
5. Parasites. External parasites can sometimes be seen. Louse or pig lice CAN usually be seen by the naked eye. You may even see these insects crawling on your pigs skin if you look closely. Mange can NOT be seen. Mange is a parasitic disease of the skin caused by one of two mites either Sarcoptes scabiei or Demodex phylloides. Sarcoptic mange (sometimes called scabies) is by far the most common and important because it is irritant and uncomfortable for the pig, causing it to rub and damage the skin which becomes unsightly. Demodex mange doesn't look the same as Sarcoptic mange mites. These mites get into the hair follicles and sebaceous glands and build nodules that can become infected with secondary bacteria. The life cycle takes about 3 weeks, but is poorly understood. Infestations often start around the nose and the eyelids to later spread throughout the whole body. Pig demodectic mange is usually rather benign, unless in cases of very heavy infestations. The skin typically has an brownish-oily like appearance as it sheds.
6. Internal parasites are another common issue that can create dry skin for your pig. Some worm infestations are so severe, that it causes secondary issues like diarrhea or liver damage. Its best to be sure you proactively treat every 4-6 months and stay on top of preventative measures. Click here to learn more about parasite control.
7. Pigs can have allergic reactions or even lesions that abscess and can itch. As the body's natural reaction to a foreign entity entering, whether that be an insect bite or an open area that has allowed bacteria to enter, the skin will swell as the white blood cells rush to the area to fix the underlying problem. Sometimes the body's natural immune response is enough to correct it, while other times, a veterinarians skills are needed to drain or treat these areas of concern. If you notice a lump or bump during a routine inspection of your pigs skin, mark the area to see if it grows, feel the area for redness, check for unusual shapes or patterns. Check your pigs temperature. Take pictures. Document in your pigs journal what was going on beforehand and anything you can remember about the situation. Was your pig playing in hay? Do you remember a large ant hill nearby? Things like this can lead to a definitive diagnosis and help your vet eliminate other possibilities. Food allergies are, by far, the most common allergen followed by contact allergies such as the case below.
8. Do not bathe your pig too often...this strips away any natural oils they may produce actually exacerbating the dry skin situation.
Cathy Zolicani, DVM, who we have come to know and trust, wrote an excellent guide to healthy skin for pet pigs worldwide. She set a standard of best practice for pig owners to follow in order to keep their skin as healthy as possible. You can review that by clicking here. Always check your pigs skin for unusual marks or lumps and bumps. At the first sign of a problem, call your vet. Most of the time, a hands on exam along with a discussion about the history of the problem, can help you and your vet develop a treatment plan for your situation.
When choosing your pigs diet, these essential vitamins and minerals that also need to be factored in and/or considered. Because most average pig owners do not have a nutrition degree, we recommend that a manufactured pig feed be the main part of the diet so that vitamin or mineral deficiencies aren’t an issue for you and your pig. Can your pig have an all-natural diet? Sure…but you will need to be sure the diet is balanced and includes all the essentials being represented in the right amounts. Some of the deficiencies take some time to show up, some will show up right away, but this is something that will be ever changing and you can’t take part of an all-natural diet and apply it when you want. This must be done with consistency or the diet will not be balanced and you will be risking the health of your pig. If you are feeding a pelleted diet, this will likely not affect you, but if you are feeding an all natural diet, these are things you need to consider when deciding what you will feed your pig.
Pigs are mostly omnivores, which means they eat meat as well as plants and they have a high requirement for minerals, which is not surprising considering the time, spent digging and the amount of earth that may get swallowed. Because omnivores do not eat much herbage, they do not need ruminants like cattle and sheep. The main type of digestion in the pig is enzymatic and takes place in the stomach and small intestines, The salvia of omnivores contain an amylase enzyme so digestion begins as soon as food enters the mouth. Because bacteria only plays small role in a pigs digestion, its food must always consist largely od starch, sugar, fat and protein of a high biological standard that can be rendered soluble by the enzymes secreted in the stomach and intestines. Because of the small amount of vitamin synthesis that takes place in omnivores, it s essential to receive most of the vitamins required in the food. With animal vitamin and mineral supplementation, the golden rule is to have your soil tested to see what the deficiencies are in the soil. If your animals are living on what you are producing on your land, they will have the same deficiencies as the land.
If you notice that your pig is standing there looking at you and licking their lips, they could have a protein deficiency, you may want to think about supplementing with fish or meat meal, whey or cod liver oil, etc.
In a book I am reading, Farming naturally and organic animal care by Pat Colby, she says soybean meal can deplete iodine. She goes on to say that after 20 years of conventional farming, large amounts of seaweed meal, extra copper and zinc as well as dolomite are needed to keep pigs healthy. She went on further to say that whatever diet was fed to pigs, they would benefit from the following additives:
Dolomite: Teaspoon per head daily.
Seaweed: seaweed products of some kind.
Sulphur: A teaspoon per head daily.
Cod Liver Oil: A teaspoon at least once a week. If the pigs are totally free range, she suggested a salt lick similar to those given to cattle. (This would need to be used with the strictest of supervision) Sulphur in the diet should stop skin problems or it could be sued externally as a paste mixed with cooking oil.
Fat deficiency: Signs are hair loss and scaly flaky skin, dermatitis, areas of skin necrosis on the neck and shoulders and an unthrifty appearance in growing pigs. A level of 1-1.5% of fat seems ample to supply the essential fatty acids.
The rest of this blog will address the vitamins and minerals pigs’ need and what these vitamins and minerals are responsible for in the body.
Function: Assists in the contraction of the muscles. Required for blood clotting. Assists in the production of hormones and enzymes. Works with phosphorus and Vitamin D to produce bone, bone is 35% calcium.
Sources for calcium: green leafy forage, limestone oyster shell flour, fishmeal, and bone meal
Herb sources: Alfalfa, blue cohosh, chamomile, cleavers, coltsfoot, cayenne, comfrey, dandelion, kelp, mistletoe, meadowsweet, nettles, parsley, plantain, raspberry, rose hips, shepherds purse, yarrow and yellow dock.
Deficiencies: Rickets in young, developmental orthopedic disease, poor muscle function, impaired blood clotting, joint problems and bone weakness and posterior paralysis.
Function: Works with calcium for bone growth. Assists in energy metabolism. Makes up 15% of the bones. Too much phosphorous will reduce the absorption of calcium during digestion.
Sources: Cereals, lucerne, fish and meat meals
Herb sources: Alfalfa, anise, asparagus, blue cohosh, caraway, cayenne, chickweed, calamus, dandelion, fenugreek, garlic, golden rod, kelp, licorice, linseed, marigold, meadowsweet, parsley, raspberry, rose hips, sunflower and yellow dock
Deficiencies: Overfeeding of phosphorous can lead to lameness, fragile bones, enlargement of the jawbone and hyperparathyroidism.
Function: Required for hemoglobin formation in the blood. Assists in bone formation and assists in enzyme functions of the body.
Sources: Alfalfa, clover, bran, linseed, milk
Herb sources: Alfalfa, blue cohosh, broom, carrot leaves, cayenne, dandelion, hops, marshmallow, meadowsweet, mistletoe, mullein, peppermint, raspberry, slippery elm.
Deficiencies: Nervousness and excitability. Increased respiratory rates, muscle tremor, aggressiveness and ill temper.
Function: Contains amino acids and methionine and cysteine. Assists in enzyme and hormone production.
Sources: Protein feeds and green forage
Herb sources: Alfalfa, burdock, broom, calamus, coltsfoot, cayenne, daisy, eyebright, fennel garlic, kelp, marigold, meadowsweet, mullein, nettle, parsley, plantain, raspberry, sage, shepherds purse, thyme and yarrow.
Deficiencies: None noted, but overdosing can lead to loss of weight and appetite, colic and yellow, frothy discharge from the nose and labored breathing.
Function: Maintains the balance of fluids in the cells. Assists in muscle contractions, removes waste products from the cells. required in the production of bile. Maintains the health of the nervous system.
Sources: Salt or salt licks. green forages, especially alfalfa.
Deficiencies: Dehydration, poor growth, muscle cramps, reduced appetite, poor hair and skin condition. Pigs will often be seen drinking the urine of other pigs when they have a sodium chloride deficiency. Overfeeding of this can lead to salt toxicity or water deprivation poisoning as well as hypertension (high blood pressure).
Function: Works with sodium to assist in correct nerve function and muscle contractions. Assists in maintaining the correct fluid balance in the body. May reduce heart rate.
Sources: Green forage, maize and molasses
Herb sources: Alfalfa, blue cohosh, borage, carrot leaves, chamomile, coltsfoot, comfrey, couch, grass, centaury, dandelion, elder, eyebright, fennel, kelp, ladies mantle, mistletoe, meadowsweet, mullein, nettles, parsley, peppermint, plantain, raspberry, shepherds purse, skullcap, wormwood and yarrow.
Deficiencies: Weight loss, diarrhea and muscle weakness
Function: Assists in the metabolism of nutrients. Required for the immune system to function correctly. needed for healthy skin, hair and hooves. Assists in blood formation.
Sources: Yeast, bran, cereal germ, and zinc sulphate
Herb sources: Kelp and marshmallow
Deficiencies: Can lead to dry flaky skin, hair loss and poor overall growth in addition to smaller and fewer piglets. It can also lead to a lowered immune system.
Function: Essential in the formation of hemoglobin, cartilage and bone. Required for the correct utilization of iron in the body.
Sources: Grassland, copper, sulphate, copper carbonate
Herbal sources: Burdock, chickweed, chicory, dandelion, fennel, garlic, horseradish, kelp, parsley and yarrow
Deficiencies: Brittle weak bones, anemia, faded/dull coat, poor iron metabolism, bowing of the legs, cardiac and vascular disorders.
Function: Required for the utilization of fats and carbohydrates. essential for the formation of cartilage, assists in the formation of bones and enzymes. Some benefits in pigs can be higher total litter and piglet weight at birth.
Sources: Wheat bran, most grains and grasslands
Herb sources; Kelp
Deficiencies: Deformed piglets whose bones are not correctly developed. Irregular or absent estrous cycles, weak piglets at birth and reduced milk production.
Function: Essential for the formation of hemoglobin and red blood cells
Sources: Grasslands and cereals
Herb sources: Alfalfa, asparagus, bilberry, burdock, blue cohosh, cayenne, chicory, comfrey, dandelion, gentian, hawthorn, hops, mullein, nettles, parsley, raspberry, skullcap, vervain, yellow dock
Deficiencies: Anemia, poor performance, poor growth in young pigs, can be contributed to labored breathing.
Function: Essential for the formation of healthy teeth and bones, helps prevent tooth decay. Combines with calcium in the body and gives strength to the bones.
Sources: Pasture, hay, water and limestone based supplements
Herb sources; Alfalfa, beet leaves, garlic, watercress
Deficiencies: Deficiencies are rare but overdosing can occur especially where soils are rich in this mineral and the water has been treated with it as well. Signs of overdosing are discolored, mottled teeth, poor condition and rough coat and lameness in joints, usually all of them.
Function: Needed for correct functioning of the thyroid gland. required for reproductive cycle to function correctly.
Sources; Kelp, pasture and mineral licks
Herb sources: Asparagus, cleavers, garlic, kelp, speedwell and sarsaparilla.
Deficiencies: Abnormal estrous cycle. Piglet can be stillborn while others may be hairless and exhibit weakness and/or deformed joints. Overdosing can lead to enlarged thyroid glands.
Function: Works with vitamin E. Essential part of antioxidant enzymes that help to remove toxins from the system. A component of the amino acids methionine and cysteine. Assists in maintaining a healthy immune system.
Sources: Pastures, alfalfa, fishmeal, rapeseed meal and linseed.
Deficiencies: Can be labored breathing and white muscle disease. Overfeeding can cause poisoning, impaired reproduction, reduced milk and mulberry heart disease.
Function: Needed for hormone synthesis, bone growth and used in most of the mucous membranes of the body. Essential for vision and reproduction.
Sources: Carrots, carotene in green leaf plants and cod liver oil
Herb sources: Alfalfa, burdock, cayenne, comfrey, dandelion, kelp, marshmallow, papaya, parsley, raspberry, red clover, watercress, and yellow dock
Deficiencies: Night blindness, excessive tears lack of appetite, infections of the reproductive tract, poor growth and weak bones and tendons, incoordination and posterior paralysis.
Function: Assists in the metabolizing of carbohydrates. Maintains a healthy nervous system. Assists in energy metabolism. This vitamin is made by micro flora in the intestines.
Sources: Good forage, good hay, cereal grains, millet, rice bran and brewers yeast
Herb sources: Alfalfa, burdock, cayenne, comfrey, dandelion, kelp, marshmallow, papaya, parsley, raspberry, red clover, watercress and yellow dock
Deficiencies: Weigh loss, muscular incoordination and missed heartbeats. Deficiencies are fairly rare due to this vitamin being made in the intestines.
Function: Maintains a healthy nervous system. Assists in energy metabolism. this vitamin is also made in the intestines.
Source: Green forage, peanut meal, whey, brewer's yeast, good hay and milk.
Herb sources: Alfalfa, burdock, fenugreek, kelp, parsley and watercress.
Deficiencies: Rough coat and dry skin, conjunctivitis, excessive tearing and may be connected with moon blindness. Hair loss. Deficiencies are rare.
Function: Helps in the metabolism of nutrients and also with hormone and lipid syntheses. This vitamin is also made in the intestines.
Sources: Green forage especially lucerne
Herb sources: Alfalfa, burdock, fenugreek, kelp, parsley and sage
Deficiencies: Inflammatory lesions of the GI tract and diarrhea, weight loss, rough skin and coat and dermatitis on the ears. Overdosing may cause dilation of the blood vessels, sickness and itching of the skin.
B5 Pantothenic Acid
Function: Assists in energy metabolism and the formation of antibodies.
Sources: Green forage, cereals and peas
Deficiencies: Deficiency is rare as this vitamin is made in the intestines
Function: Assists in energy metabolism, maintains health of the nervous system. Assists in the formation of hemoglobin in the blood. Maintains the overall health of the immune system. May increase litter size. This vitamin is made in the bowel.
Sources: Green forage and cereal grains
Herb sources: Alfalfa, chlorophyll
Deficiencies: Reduced appetite and growth rate, eye secretions, convulsions, unsteadiness in use of the legs.
Function: Assists in the production of red blood cells. Assists in energy metabolism. Good for stress. Can assist in putting on condition and correcting anemia. Improved reproduction performance, This vitamin is made in the bowel.
Source: Green forages
Herb sources: Alfalfa, chlorophyll, dong quai, and kelp
Deficiencies: Reduced weight gain, lack of appetite, rough skin and coat, irritability, voice failure and pain and incoordination in the hindquarters.
Function: Assists in the metabolism of energy. Maintains sebaceous glands in the skin. maintains bone marrow, may improve litter number and birth weight.
Sources: Yeast, green forage and cereals.
Deficiencies: Excessive hair loss, skin ulceration and dermatitis, eye exudate, inflammation of the mucous membranes of the mouth.
Function: Assists in the transport of fats stored in the liver to other areas of the body for use as energy. Maintains a healthy nervous system. Structural component of the cell membrane. May increase live piglets born and weaned and improve conception rates.
Sources: natural fats, fish meal, green leafy forage, rapeseed and yeast cereals
Deficiencies: Can lead to poor growth and increased storage of fats in the liver. reduced weight gain, rough hair coat and staggering gait.
Function: Assists in cell metabolism. Required for red blood cell formation. Assists in general metabolism.
Sources: Green leafy forage
Deficiencies: Slow weight gain, fading hair color
Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)
Function: Essential for the formation of collagen tissue which is vital in tendons and cartilage. Essential for the utilization of essential amino acids lysine and proline, Has a role as an antioxidant. Reported to reduce naval bleeding in newborn piglets.
Sources: Made in the liver and other body cells
Herb sources: Alfalfa, burdock, catnip, cayenne, chickweed, dandelion, hawthorn, garlic, horseradish, kelp, parsley, plantain, papaya, raspberry, rosehips, shepherds purse and yellow dock.
Deficiencies: None recorded. Supplementation has been given periods of stress and growth.
Function: Essential for the absorption of calcium and for growth maintenance and repair of bones and teeth.
Sources: Cut and dried plants, fish oils and through the skin after direct contact with sunlight.
Herb sources: Alfalfa, chlorophyll, don quai and kelp.
Deficiencies: Reduced growth, weak bones and increased bone problems, rickets.
Function: Helps with the immune system and is a powerful antioxidant. Helps stabilize cell membranes and acts on the reproductive system.
Sources; Leafy green forage, good hay, cereals and alfalfa.
Herb sources: Alfalfa, dandelion, dong quai, kelp, raspberry, rose hips and watercress.
Deficiencies: Anemia, swelling of joints, muscular incoordination and reduced stamina. Skeletal and cardiac degeneration.
Function: Helps in the clotting of blood and in calcium assimilation.
Sources: Made in the gut from green leafy forage.
Herb sources: Alfalfa, chlorophyll, plantain and shepherds purse
Deficiencies: Bleeding and longer clotting time.
Enlisting the help of someone with a nutrition degree, someone with years of experience or even one of the pig feed manufacturer's nutritionalists can help you to be sure that your pig is getting what he or she needs to live a long healthy, happy life. Not providing the right amount of feed or the right amount of essential nutrients can lead to serious medical conditions that can claim the life of your pig well before his time. Click here to visit our nutrition section and click here to see what healthy versus unhealthy pigs look like. Don't focus so much on the weight of your pig, but look more towards the shape and size. That should be your biggest factor in determining the amounts of feed and types of foods you are feeding your pig. If you would like to read a vets guide to healthy skin, click here to read the article written by Cathy Zolicani, DVM.
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.
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