Mini-pigs that interact with and receive positive feedback from humans during the first two months of life are social and enjoy being with people. They typically have a daily routine that involves eating, drinking, eliminating, socializing, sleeping, and digging. Pigs are very intelligent and need environmental enrichment, or they can become bored and destructive. Pet pigs that are not provided with appropriate environmental enrichment or are not socialized early in life may develop stereotypical behaviors including pacing, staring, excessive drinking, hitting walls, drooling, rubbing on things excessively, and repeated licking or chewing on objects, especially metal and rope. Ideally, pigs should be allowed to root outside in untreated lawn. If they are not allowed access to an area for rooting, they may dig up floors, carpeting, or walls in your home, and chew up house plants. Pet pigs can suddenly become aggressive in response to changes within a household including a change in caretaker schedule, introduction of new pets and people, and discomfort from illness.
Like other pets and people, mini-pigs can suffer from numerous health problems including inner/middle ear infections, foot abnormalities, atrophic rhinitis, pneumonia, intestinal parasites and obesity. Obesity can lead to joint injury and arthritis. Mini-pigs may ingest inappropriate items leading to gastrointestinal tract blockages. If blockages are not dealt with quickly intestinal rupture and death. obesity and are prone to joint injury, arthritis, and foot abnormalities.
Young, male mini-pigs commonly develop urolithiasis in which uroliths form lodge in their urethras, causing life-threatening urinary tract obstructions. Male mini-pigs also suffer from cryptorchidism, in which the testicles fail to move from inside the abdomen to the groin. Older, un-spayed female pigs commonly develop leiomyoma uterine tumors. Two common eye problems are entropion (the eyelids roll inward, toward the eyeball) and distichiasis (in which eyelashes on the upper eyelid are misdirected, so that they point in toward and rub on the eyeball). Erysipelas is a bacterial infection characterized by diamond-shaped, red, raised skin lesions that is fatal but is preventable with vaccination. Because mini-pigs are non-discriminatory eaters, they tend to eat all sorts of inappropriate things, including rodenticides which can be deadly if not treated quickly.
Pigs are omnivores that typically eat multiple small meals throughout the day. A mini-pig’s base diet should consist of a commercially available, nutritionally balanced pelleted chow formulated for mini-pigs. Different formulations are available based on the life stage of the pig. In addition to pelleted pig chow, pigs may be fed small amounts of other foods, including fresh or frozen vegetables and small amounts of fruit. Pelleted food should be offered first to help ensure it is consuming a balanced diet. The exact amount of pelleted food to feed depends on the brand being fed; most brands give general feeding recommendations calculated from their caloric content. Treats such as small pieces of succulent fruits or vegetables may be offered once or twice a day and are best used as rewards in training.
There are many breeds of miniature pigs, including the Vietnamese pot-bellied pig. In addition to pot-bellied pigs, the term mini-pig includes an additional 14 recognized breeds of small pigs including Julianas and KuneKunes. Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs can be as heavy as 200 pounds, reach a height of 14-20 inches at the shoulders and typically live for 14-21 years. Mini-pigs communicate both with sounds and with body language. Mini-pigs should never be left alone unsupervised with even the friendliest, potentially predatory, dogs and cats. Mini-pigs are very smart and can be trained to walk on a leash/harness and to sit, stay, come, and retrieve objects.
Mini-pigs may be housed successfully inside if they are given enough space, an area in which to root, and proper environmental enrichment. Ideally pet pigs should have access to a safe area of untreated lawn outside in which to root and chew on grass. Pet pigs generally like to urinate and defecate in a single area that is far from where they eat and sleep and can be trained to eliminate either inside and outside. Pigs in urban environments may be taught to walk on a leash/harness and go outside like dogs. If this is not feasible, they can be trained to use a litter pan indoors.
The most common skin problem in mini-pigs is dry skin that results from a dietary deficiency of fatty acids. In addition to dry skin, mini-pigs commonly suffer from sarcoptic mange, parakeratosis, yeast dermatitis, and sunburn. Hooves of mini-pigs grow continuously throughout life and need to be trimmed periodically. The canine teeth (tusks) of male pigs grow throughout life, while those of females stop growing at about two years of age. Starting after the pig is about a year of age and usually after giving the pig a sedative, your veterinarian will trim tusks during an examination.
Just like other pets, mini-pigs should have a complete veterinary check-up after they are acquired and then annually after that. Your pig may need to be sedated for examination. Your veterinarian will determine the vaccines that are advisable for your pig, based on your pig's potential exposure to pathogens, breeding status, and geographic location. An analysis of your pig's feces should be performed annually to check for gastrointestinal parasites. Pet pigs should be screened for mites through a skin scraping. Veterinarians also will often help pig owners with hoof care and tusk trimming. Neutering of males and spaying of females is recommended for all pigs.