The Guide to Owning a Potbellied Pig

8 min read

 

Grooming Requirements and Hoof Care

 

Armstrong-Madgison says that since potbellied-pigs don’t smell (despite their stereotypes), you don’t need to bathe them as much as you would, say, a dog.

 

Shepherd attributes the stereotype of pigs being smelly to them being left in poorly-managed conditions. A pig likes to go to the bathroom in the same spot everyday, but if that is not cleaned up and there’s nowhere else for them to go, that’s what can cause a smell.

 

Since pigs have hair instead of fur, shedding is not as big of a deal as it is with some other types of pets. Shepherd says, “they shed once a year, it happens within a week’s time, usually in the spring, and starts at about two years old.” You should also brush your pig to avoid flaky skin.  Fleas also tend to leave pigs alone.

 

Grooming a pig’s hooves, however, require a bit more work. Illescas says, “Pigs will need regular hoof care and older pigs that develop tusks (usually three years or older) will need the sharp points trimmed.”

 

Hoof care can be done by a pig parent, and is recommended by Illescas because of the bonding experience and the increased awareness of the pig’s well being. It is best done when the pig is relaxed and getting belly rubs.  “A few maintenance snips here and there throughout the year is better than a single traumatic trip to the vet,” he says. But, if you simply aren’t able to trim your pig’s hooves yourself, you’ll need to call in the professionals. Hooves that are left too long can do real damage to a pig’s feet.

 

 

The Health of a Potbellied Pig

 

Potbellied pigs have an average life expectancy of around 15 years, and are generally very healthy animals. They do face some health issues, however, especially if they aren’t fed a proper diet or spayed or neutered. Gray says that some of the most common health problems in potbellied pigs include mange, obesity and arthritis.

 

In order to prevent your pig from facing these and other issues, get them vaccinated appropriately and keep them on their proper diet and at a proper weight, as well as find a veterinarian who is trained in treating potbellied pigs.

 

“There are special skills, medication dosing and equipment needed to handle these pigs safely,” Gray says. “Every species of pet has different symptoms for different diseases, and if a vet is not versed in potbellied pigs, then missing or delaying diagnosis is a real risk.”

 

One of the most important things a pet parent can do is ensure their potbellied pig is spayed or neutered. Not only does this avoid unwanted pregnancies, but it also ensures the health of the female pigs in particular.

 

“Female pigs who aren’t spayed she will cycle every 21 days,” Shepherd says. “They are more likely to have uterine issues, like endometriosis, in adulthood, as well as tumors.”

 

Potbellied Pig Behavioral Traits

 

If you’re getting a potbellied pig, or already have one, you will likely add a second one to the mix in time as pigs are highly social creatures.

 

“Pigs are pack animals by nature and do best with a friend.  Most people who keep their first pig for a year find themselves getting a second pig for this reason, but most people have to learn it the hard way,” Illescas says. He recommends adopting a bonded pair of pet pigs to start, as introducing pigs to new friends can be a lengthy and complicated process and it can take months to fully integrate two formerly-unknown pigs.

 

While a pig and a dog can be a sometimes tricky pairing, he says, “Pigs and cats do very well together. Cats really seem to like to cuddle with pigs and the pigs love a good massage, which many cats seem very willing to provide.”

 

However, when a pig isn’t in a good mood, they’ll let you know. Their intelligence also makes them highly manipulative, which can set off the balance of an otherwise harmonious household. As mentioned, Shepherd says that pet parents have to set the standard for the household and make sure their pig knows that they are in charge. 

 

If pigs are weaned too early from their mother, they can engage in charging or butting behavior, like they did when they were nursing from their mother. Shepherd says if a pig does do that, put a barrier like a pillow between you and the pet.

 

Buying a Potbellied Pig

 

If you feel you are ready to take care of a potbellied pig and want to bring one home, it’s of the utmost importance that you go to a reputable breeder or rescue organization.

 

In addition to doing your research, Shepherd says that a good breeder or rescue will not adopt out a pig that is under six weeks of age, as they should be nursing for at least that long. “Pigs need to be with their mother for that amount of time.”

 

As is the case with any adoption, you’ll want to make sure paperwork is in order, including contracts between you and the breeder or rescue, as well as documents from the breeder or rescue about the pig’s feeding needs, their veterinary health and vaccination status, and housing requirements.

 

Shepherd adds that adopting a pet pig must be taken seriously, and that potential owners should do their research and visit reputable breeders or rescues to get a better sense of the environment and where the pig is coming from.

 

“You pay for what you get. If you get a pig from [a non-reputable source] your chances of having a socialized, veterinary-treated, home-ready pig are very slim,” she says.