Friday, March 21, 2014

Potbellied Pig Care Tips


 Hoof Trimming   is part of the regular care a potbellied pig needs. If you are lucky, you will be able to perform this task easily while your pig lies on his side with someone rubbing his belly, but more often than not you will have to confine him to get the job done.
The easiest way I have found to do this is to have 2 people. One person sits on the ground (back against a wall is VERY helpful) with their legs in a V in front of them. The second person secures the pig behind his front legs, across his chest and lifts his front feet off the ground. He/she then backs the pig into the V, lying him down as they go. The person on the ground then supports the pig in this position using their legs while the first person does the trimming.
A good quality pair of pruning shears is the best tool to use. It is hard to give a general description of how much to take off, as all hooves are different, but it is best to take small pieces at a time to avoid cutting into the flesh and nerves underneath. If you see pink after you have made a cut, you have gone a little too far. Never trim between the hooves; stick to the top and outside edges.

Tusk Trimming is another ongoing task in the life of a pig owner. Usually, just males (even neutered males) are the only ones who need this done. Bottom tusks can grow very long and can curve around and puncture your pig’s cheek. This is very painful and easy to avoid. Often, the top tusks are not as much of a concern, but they should be monitored for any signs of problems.
The tool to use for this is an OB wire with handles, which you can find at most farm supply stores. Again, the V position (above) is the easiest I have found to secure the pig to carry out this procedure. Once the pig is on his back, position the OB wire on the tusk, just OUTSIDE the lip. Grasp the handles and saw back and forth quickly, applying steady pressure on the tusk. With the right pressure, it will only take a short time to saw through the tooth. Be careful that the wire does not touch the pig’s lips, as it will be very hot. Also, be careful that none of the tusk falls into the pig’s mouth where he can choke on it.

Skin Problems are very common in potbellied pigs. Pigs naturally have somewhat dry skin. A healthy pig's skin (even though it is dry) does not usually bother him. He will occasionally rub against hard corners, etc. to scratch, but it shouldn't be something that consumes him and he should not look uncomfortable. If you find that your pig is scratching a lot, has redness or bumps or seems to be uncomfortable a lot of the time, there is probably something going on.
The most common skin problem I have seen in pigs is mange. The symptoms of mange include 1)dry, scaly skin (with "dandruff") that often leaves a white track where the pig rubs against dark surfaces. 2)Tiny bumps and/or scabs just below the surface of the skin, usually behind ears, under front legs and chest, between back legs down to the hoof. The skin in these areas will take on an orange color. 3) Eyes develop an orange/brown crust in the corners and can begin to tear, leaving brown stains. 4) Ears have excessive brownish debris and can have an odor. 5) Excessive itching.
A pig can have all or just some of these symptoms. Left untreated, this condition can become chronic and can lead to other health problems. It is very important to treat it at the first sign of a problem.
For my pigs (I am not a vet and always recommend speaking to your vet with any health concerns you have), I use Ivermectin for Cattle, Sheep and Swine. I give a TOUCH more than what the box says and I give it orally, spread evenly over their food. It's important if treating more than one pig at a time this way that you be sure they eat only their own food so they are getting the proper amount. I clean/wash all shelters and bedding areas thoroughly and then repeat the dosage in 14 days. Very severe cases may require a 3rd dose in another 14 days. This treatment has cleared up even the most severe case of mange.
I give my pigs the same '2 dose over 14 day' treatment of Ivermectin every spring and fall for worms and parasites. This has kept mange from being an ongoing problem with even the very severe cases we have encountered. Even though I am very against over medicating animals, I do recommend this for all pigs, regardless if they are showing symptoms or not. Because they are so susceptible to worms and parasites, preventative measures can nip the problems before they start.
There are other skin conditions that could be causing your pig's problems such as ringworm, diet and other fungal issues. If you have concerns, it is best to speak to your vet.

Housing. Potbellied pigs have difficulties regulating their body temperature without the proper shelter and surroundings. In the summer, they need fresh water at all times, a dry, draft free shelter, plenty of shaded areas and a water/mud pit to cool off in. Without these things, they can easily become over heated and this can be fatal.
During the winter, they need a dry, draft free, insulated shelter with an outside heat source. This can be heat lamps, heated mats or plug in/gas heaters that are properly installed to be kept away from any burn or fire hazards. They also need fresh, clean straw to bury themselves in and do best with at least one other pig buddy for warmth. Shelters must be cleaned weekly to avoid the problem of moisture and ammonia building up within the shelter.

Socialization is often a sadly overlooked part of pig care. So many people believe that a single pig will develop a stronger bond with its owner. Unfortunately, this is not true and the sacrifice that is made to fulfil this human desire is cruel and unfair to the pig. Just like a pig needs room to roam and root and do pig things, it needs a pig to learn about life and where he fits into it. There are things only another pig can teach him and if they are deprived of those lessons, they often mature into very unhappy, difficult, aggressive animals. Usually all it takes to rehabilitate these animals…is another more stable pig.

Introducing Pigs will go one of two ways. They have a very clear pecking order and any new addition requires a change to that order. If the new pig is happy to start at the bottom…things will go well. If he chooses to assume a spot already taken…it will get ugly. Introductions should always be done only after tusks have been trimmed and in a large, outdoor area to avoid one pig being trapped. The area should be free of children and other animals (especially dogs) and always be aware for your own safety, especially if you are unfamiliar with the new animal.
Most of what happens involves pushing, but there are usually always injuries. Pigs go for their opponents ears and will rip them right off, or bite right through, leaving holes. It is best to let a fight continue if no real damage is being done. If you break it up…they will pick up where they left off the next time they are together and it will take longer for peace to reign. Of course, if one of them is being hurt badly…separate them using a shovel or a board…but if they are both ok, let them continue until one walks away. This is what needs to happen, it is the start of harmony. Often there will be a few more scuffles, but they become less and less serious when the weaker admits defeat.

Diet. Potbellied pigs are not the same as their larger farm cousins and they require a different diet. Commercial hog grower is designed to fatten pigs up for slaughter to make money…not to provide a pig lifetime health. In addition to vegetables and fruit, there are specific foods for potbellied pigs on the market and these are always recommended. Mazuri is a good brand, although it can often be difficult to find depending on where you live.
There are different prepared horse foods on the market that will work for potbellied pigs. The best thing to do is talk to the nutritionist at your local feed store and compare with the labels of specific potbellied pig foods. They will be able to offer you advice and suggestions. The guaranteed analysis of “17% Rite Start Horse Pellets” from Champion Feeds is very close to Mazuri.
An adult potbellied pig should get an average of 1 cup of pellets in the morning and 1 cup in the evening. This should be supplemented with a large “salad” of vegetables and fruits every day. Of course, an underweight (or pregnant/nursing) pig will need more to help get him to a healthy condition and an obese pig will need less, these are just guidelines.