Tuesdays with Tony
You cats definitely don’t want to miss my next See Tony event- it’s the 3rd Annual Piggie Ice Cream Social! It will be going down right here at the clinic this Saturday, July 14th, 2018 from 10:00 am till noon. Once I realized these kinda loud, stinky, round little patients were here to stay, I decided to embrace and even celebrate them. And how better to celebrate in July than with frozen yogurt, kiddie pools, and watermelons?!? If you have a pig, please bring him or her (on a leash) to join in the fun! Even if you don’t have a pig, you’re going to want to come check this out. Dr. Vurgason’s own pigs will be performing some tricks, Frozen Berry will be supplying fro-yo for the humans, and it is pretty amusing to see a pig neck-deep eating a watermelon. There will even be adoptable piglets available, in case this event changes your mind about piggy ownership!
In case I succeed in convincing you that potbellied pigs make the second best pets (after cats, of course), here are the answers to the top 3 questions Dr. Vurgason gets asked by piggy parents:
What should I feed my PBP?
Vietnamese potbellied pigs, which are the breed of almost all pet pigs in this country, were essentially bred for lard. Yes, prior to the great influx of potbellies to the new world in the ‘80s (1980’s that is) these pigs were raised and bred in Vietnam as a fat source for cooking. What this means for today’s pet pig owners is that potbellied pigs can become overweight, and even morbidly obese, very easily. Obese pigs can even develop overhanging facial fat to the point that they can’t see, also called “fat blindness.” Often diet alone is not enough to treat these pigs, and surgery is required to remove the excess skin and fat hanging over their eyes.
We are never going to let our pet pigs get to that point though, right team? Instead, let’s stick to a diet that consists of a feed specifically designed for Mini pigs, with fruits and vegetables used (sparingly) as snacks. There are two commercially available, easily accessible brands of Mini Pig food that we commonly recommend. One is Country Feeds Mini Pig Feed; the other is Mazuri Mini Pig Feed. It is perfectly acceptable to give fruits and vegetables as snacks or treats, but one of these pig feeds should always make up the majority of your pig’s diet.
How much should I feed my PBP?
Very young piglets can be fed pellets free-choice. However, by the time your piglet is 12-16 weeks old, you will need to start limiting his diet. If left to their own devices, pigs would probably eat themselves to death! The amount your pig will need is highly dependent on his weight and body condition score. In general, think small. On average, you should feed approximately one cup twice a day for a 100 lb pig. This means that if you have a 25 lb pig, they only need 1/4 cup twice a day. It is best to feed at least 2 meals a day, although you can split their daily allowance of pellets into more smaller feedings if your schedule allows. Be sure to ask Dr. Vurgason to Body Condition Score your pig at his annual Wellness visit!
In this practice, overweight pigs are much more common that underweight pigs, although Dr. Vurgason has seen a few that were malnourished due to their owner’s attempts to keep them small. Once a pig becomes too fat, it is a major challenge to get them to lose weight. How do you exercise a pig? I don’t know…get back to me if you find out!
How do I combat boredom in my pig?
You may have heard this before, but pigs are highly intelligent creatures. I’m not saying they’re as smart as cats, but I’m also not saying I’m willing to put it to the test. Pigs can be house-trained for sure, but the most common reason that the majority of our piggy patients get kicked out to the barn is that they are causing damage inside while exhibiting their natural behaviors.
Pigs love rooting, and if they don’t have grass and dirt to root under, your carpet will do just fine. They also love scratching on just about everything. It makes no difference to a pig whether their scratching post is a tree or your sofa. Pigs also love to eat, and they basically use their nose and mouth to explore the world around them. If there is something you don’t want your pig to eat, you probably shouldn’t leave it any lower than 2 feet off the ground. This goes for shoes, furniture, kids’ toys, your toes, and any other objects your pig might find interesting.
So, your sweet little piglet is now an outdoor pet. What can you do to occupy his busy little mind all day? First, get him a friend. Pigs are very social animals, and they do get lonely when they are cut off from contact with everyone else. The best friend for a pig is another pig, although they can befriend other species such as dogs or goats as well. Just be careful when introducing new animals to your potbellied pig; bite wounds are a common injury we see here at the clinic.
In addition to a friend, you can stimulate your pig’s brain with training. Pigs can learn to do all sorts of tricks: everything from waving to dancing to painting a picture. The best part? Pigs will do almost anything for a cheerio or a peanut! Food-motivated animals are the easiest to train. Dr. Vurgason trained her pigs to perform a circus act in just a few months. We highly recommend, at the very least, training your pig to a harness and leash at an early age. It is a lot easier to get pigs in and out of a harness while they are still small! There are also several food puzzles available at your local pet store (in the dog toy section). These puzzles will keep your pig entertained and interested for potentially a few hours as opposed to a few minutes around feeding time. Don’t hesitate to get creative! Pigs love toys, and they are always exploring their environment to find new treasures.
To have these and all of your other pet pig questions answered, come out to my Piggy Ice Cream Social this weekend! And remember that all of this advice and more is included with our annual Pig Wellness Packages. We’ll chat about this more over some delicious Dole Whip fro-yo this weekend, but right now it’s time for my cat nap.