This Little Piggy Went To The Veterinarian (Eventually)

If you live in an urban area, or any other area that doesn't normally provide veterinary services to farm animals, you may wish to rethink any decision to purchase a pot bellied pig. While some urban animal hospitals will treat exotic pets, you will need to both find a vet that will provide care for your pig as well as develop a system for transporting the pig to the vet.

Although they are cute, intelligent, and affectionate, they have specific needs, both medical and lifestyle oriented, that must be addressed throughout their lives. Failure to provide adequate care for your pot bellied pig is not only cruel to the animal, but will make your own life considerably more difficult.

What are the specific veterinary needs of pot bellied pigs?

Spaying and neutering

Pot bellied pigs should be spayed or neutered before the start of puberty, which occurs only a few months after birth. Even if your pig is not likely to encounter another pig in your area, spaying and neutering will minimize the unpleasant traits of intact pigs.

An intact female pig may grunt and squeal excessively and demand an inordinate amount of affection while in estrus. She may also release a huge amount of urine around your home in the hope of attracting a willing male with her scent.

An intact male will exude a strong musky odor, and exhibit aggressive behavior, such as side swipes of their head with their massive necks and tusks that protrude from the bottom portions of their mouths. While these actions are usually not meant to cause actual harm, they can inflict serious puncture wounds.

Pigs are herd animals, but are hierarchical, and are always attempting to rise in the ranks of the herd. Since your pet's herd is your family, an intact male may challenge current family members or new additions to the household such as housemates or spouses.

Hooves and tusks

Pigs that cannot roam outside will experience additional problems with hoof growth. Hooves can become so overgrown and curved that the pig cannot walk without severe pain.

While you can cut the hooves yourself (in theory), many pigs are resistant to having their hooves trimmed, especially if you've accidentally cut the "quick" of a hoof in the past. This "quick" is a small strip of flesh that runs down the center of the hoof, and can cause severe pain and  moderate bleeding when cut.

Some pigs must be sedated when getting their hooves trimmed. This is also true of male pigs that need their tusks filed. Tusks are naturally shaped with a sharp point at the end, and male pigs will sometimes swipe with them when irritated, even if they have been neutered.

Health problems of aging pigs

Pigs experience many of the problems of aging as their human owners, particularly if they are overweight. These issues include life threatening issues such as heart disease as well as lifestyle concerns such as debilitating joint problems.

Transporting a pig that you can no longer lift requires training them to use a ramp to enter your vehicle to be transported for veterinary care. Both lifting a pig and training it to walk on a ramp is difficult for many pigs, because they are natural prey for predators in the wild, and have an instinctual fear being in a suspended or vulnerable position.

While it's possible to have a pot bellied pig as a pet in an urban or suburban environment, you should weigh the potential costs to both the pig and your family before adopting a pig.

Remember to also check your local zoning laws, because you don't want to experience the heartbreak of giving up your pet pig because your municipality doesn't allow them within its borders. Contact a vet in your area, like Howard County Animal Hospital, for more help.