Imagine a pet that is loyal, affectionate, and intelligent. You’re probably thinking of a dog or cat, but this description can also apply to pigs. Many people have come to find that pigs make excellent and entertaining pets, and are often similar to dogs in terms of care and behavior.
Evelyn Mackay, a resident veterinarian in large animal internal medicine at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, has advice for people who may be thinking about bringing a pet pig into the family.
“Pigs are intelligent and affectionate animals that can thrive as pets, but they require patience and time, just like an active dog,” Mackay said. “They definitely develop strong bonds, and often prefer their main caretaker to other household members or strangers. They can even be protective of their owners.”
She said a common misconception is that pigs are dirty animals. Pigs actually prefer a clean environment and take well to housetraining, although they still enjoy spending time outside to graze and sunbathe.
Like dogs and other common pets, pigs need appropriate diets to stay happy and healthy. According to Mackay, pigs can easily become obese, so it is important to feed them well and give them plenty of exercise.
“Although some people have the misconception that pigs can be fed ‘slop’, they actually need to be fed a commercial diet formulated for swine. I discourage feeding treats other than green leafy vegetables due to pet pigs’ propensity for obesity,” she said.
Mackay recommends taking pet pigs to a small or large animal veterinarian for vaccines, hoof trimming, and dental care. She also said spaying or neutering pigs can limit unpleasant behaviors and reduce the risk of certain cancers.
“Just like other species, pigs need regular preventative care and wellness visits with a veterinarian,” she said. “The common health problems we see in pigs are quite similar to dogs – obesity, arthritis, musculoskeletal injuries, respiratory infections, and gastrointestinal upset from eating things they shouldn’t have.”
One of the unique challenges of keeping a pet pig is caring for an animal that can weigh hundreds of pounds. Although photos of “teacup” or “mini” pigs are all over the internet, Mackay said these are misleading due to the fact that once fully grown, even the smallest pigs are 60 to 80 pounds.
“The cute photos we see on the internet of 5 pound pigs are just babies, and no pig will ever stay that size. Even pigs that grow to be 800 pounds as adults are often only 1 pound when they’re born,” she explained.
Keeping a pet pig may seem challenging, but it can be a unique and rewarding experience. Just like any other animal, pigs need time and attention to thrive as pets, but in the end they often turn out to be excellent companions.
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