CVMA-ACMV

Caring for Your Pot Bellied Pig

May 8, 2012

Pot Bellied Pigs (Syn: Vietnamese Miniature Pot Bellied Pigs, Chinese Potbellied Pig)

If you don't already have a pot bellied pig in your home, read this summary carefully since many folks that adopt them find they are in over their heads! Taking a pig into your home has many attendant challenges (and excellent rewards!), but the number of pigs that are surrendered once they reach maturity indicates that many people do not understand upfront what their (the pigs) special needs are. There are many sanctuaries for unwanted pigs, but the best strategy is to become well educated about pigs before the pet comes home.

The pot bellied pig is a very intelligent, active pet that has a mind of its own, and can provide many hours of entertainment or many hours of stress, depending on how it integrates into the household. As they grow, their needs grow, and if they overrun the home, some people put them out in the yard in a dog house. The neighbours may have something to say about this, because squealing and screaming can occur if they are left alone for long periods of time. This is also not a really humane option, because the pig will sorely miss the human contact that they received as piglets.

Unfortunately, up-front pet selection is often not rigorous. Some have sold pigs that are purported to be pot bellied variety, but as they mature, it is evident that they will become much larger than this variety. Make sure the breeder you buy from has shown you other stock that confirms that the offspring are small, and that the parents and piglets are friendly, accommodated to human contact, and trained. Care taken at this step can prevent heartbreak later. Going to breed events and visiting more than one pig source is recommended. The person selling you a good quality pet will ensure that you understand their needs, will provide you with a starter kit of information, and will be proud to show you their other stock. There are plenty of good sources of pets.

Before you bring them into your neighbourhood, check for local ordinances that might potentially restrict ownership.

Basic Biology

Other pigs that are in between the farm hog and this breed in size exist. Kune Kune (400 lb) and Guinea Hog are some intermediate varieties. There are no "mini" miniature pig varieties. Those that are under the average size may have been underfed.

These small pigs originated in Vietnam and China, and are a relatively new introduction to North America. Pigs are substantially the same, whether on the farm or the pot-bellied variety. They are omnivores which means that they will eat meat or plant-based food sources. This does not imply that they will thrive just on table scraps. They require a balanced diet, but do appreciate a few healthy low fat tidbits from our table such as salad and "veggies". Avoid high sugar treats; chocolate may potentially be toxic to pigs. The provision of a solid, balanced diet ensures healthy growth and maintenance. There are pig chows available, and the breeder should provide you with some food so that the new pig will have some familiar food to start off with at their new home. Some breeders have also historically advised limiting the food for pigs to "keep them small". Do not do this to the pig. The properly bred variety will not overgrow if fed properly. Do not feed them dog and cat food because these are too high in protein. The pig should have a body condition that does not allow you to feel bony prominences, but it should not be excessively rotund, since obesity prevents it from getting around.

They live on average 12-17 years, and their mature weight can reach up to 125 lb (56.8 kg) and reach 16-26 "at the shoulder. Unless you have extensive experience and knowledge about the breed, it is not recommended that breeding be undertaken. 

Housing

Your house is their house. Period! They will be best off in Canada primarily indoors since the winters are too harsh, but they do require regular outdoor exercise. Make sure the yard is fenced if you have them off-leash. Once leash trained, a pig walk twice a day is an excellent way to bond with the pig and is refreshing for both of you.

Watch for extremes in temperatures. They do not tolerate very cold or very hot well.

Soft bedding is appreciated for sleep time. Make sure they are out of drafts.

Behaviour and Handling

Their very high intelligence, trainability, and playful nature can make them a really exciting pet.

They will mimic owners and can be like a young child, getting rather irate if needs are not met, and screaming their demands. If you take the time to train them though, they will understand their limits, and the borders of acceptable behavior will be clear to them. It is important to handle them regularly and gently so that they learn to tolerate lots of human handling, and enjoy this contact. They actually cherish the process of learning new tricks, so like dogs their quality of life is enhanced if they are provided with daily sessions to master new skills. Leash training and potty training are easily accomplished with patience and repetition.

Do pot bellied pigs like to "root" like their barnyard cousins? 

Yes, they really enjoy the opportunity to be challenged with buried food in your play area of the yard. Their curiosity makes them prone to finding things that they shouldn't around the household though. Keep things well out of their reach, especially pharmaceuticals and small foreign objects. "Childproof" your home! They can become adept at opening cupboards so child latches should be considered.

Health Considerations

Regular veterinary care is important for these pets, just like any others. They do require some vaccinations, and the hooves also require trimming. Checking their stool periodically for parasites is important, and abnormal skin, respiratory, or other worrisome signs should be checked out promptly by a veterinarian familiar with this species. 

The pot bellied pig is a fascinating pet, and if you are prepared to invest time to train and socialize the pig, they can truly be a wonderful addition to your life.