Routine Care Needs
You will need to go to a feed store for special "mini pig" food as no other feed is equivalent in meeting nutritional needs and satiating your pigs hunger without leading to weight gain. The most common brand is Mazuri and the "Elder" or "Mature" formula is for any pig over 1 1/2 years old. Yes, your baby will live the life of an average dog but in terms of activity level and metabolism that slows down significantly after 1 1/2 years. My kids are fed about two cups of feed twice daily. They are so much smarter than I am, however, and have managed to get through every type of barrier imaginable to get into the feed buckets and gorge themselves. I have several locks on the gates to the feed areas and believe me, if I forget to reattach just one of them there will be a pig in the feed filling his/her mouth with as much food as possible once I turn my back. Once I yell out the piggies will be turning to run back out with their heads down fully recognizing they are being naughty.
Treats absolutely need to be limited as weight gain leads to knee arthritis pain, limited movement and even more weight gain. I buy the 20 lb bags of "juice carrots" (irregular looking carrots) and give the kids one each making them run to get them to encourage exercise.
Just as we would never have our dogs lay in straw (it pokes, it itches, it is NOT comfortable!) my kids get several layers of blankets to lay in. Certain pigs may be content to just plop down on the blankies and fall asleep whereas others are VERY particular and can spend upwards of 20 minutes carefully arranging blankets to make a nest just to his or her liking. One my more memorable rescues was when I took in four pigs that had been living in a small cement room in a basement their entire lives. Once I got them out the farm they started to sniff the grass and then each individually start yanking up a mouth-fulls of grass and then placing each parcel of grass in the same pile until they had enough that they could each snuggle into and cover herself fully!
One of the large pens in the barn I have converted into a large "pig nest." It is essentially a huge cube made of plywood with a small pig-sized door at one side and a window (with a wood cover to place over it) so that I can reach in to turn on/off a light inside and see my kids. Certain pigs may be content to just plop down on the blankies and fall asleep whereas others are VERY particular and can spend upwards of 20 minutes carefully arranging blankets to make a nest just to his or her liking. Afghans are the best as they will stretch as the pigs root with their noses and so are less likely to tear. I frequent the thrift stores for these; I like to think that the lovely (most likely ladies) who made these over a period of countless hours, now discarded by people who could not fathom the amount of the work goes into them, would be happy that a sweet baby gets so much pleasure from their handiwork.
Pot Belly pigs are very prone to Seborrhea, essentially really thick dandruff, that at times can build up into plaques on the skin. I have rescued pigs who were coated in this scab-like material and spent hours peeling it off of them. To prevent recurrence of this scaly, ITCHY, skin the best thing I have found is buying big containers of Coconut oil that is used for cooking. At usual temperatures it is a sold similar to Crisco and at higher temperatures turns liquid. Don’t buy the oil that is marketed for humans as perfumed skin cream and pay a fortune. Just slather this all over your babies every few weeks to months depending on each pig’s skin texture. I used to use Vaseline for the pigs' skin which I recommended for my human patients (I am a family practice Doctor) as putting this on a thick callus each night and wrapping that part of the foot with an ACE bandage helps to soften the callus enough it can be pared off easily. This was NOT the greatest for the pigs though as it coated their hair in the goo that just transferred to their blankets and everything else they rubbed against.
Pot Bellies are prone to sun burn living here in the US as they of course originally adapted to life in the jungles of South East Asia where they had plenty of cover from the sun. This can be especially problematic in a white pig. Of course, they love sun-bathing just as much as we do and do know enough to take a nice mud bath as a skin protectant. Even so, I still use the waterproof spray on sun screen on paler pigs to prevent burns.
In terms of mud baths, when I first got in my first babies I spent untold amount of money on those large plastic pools that the pigs would promptly break by laying on the side of the pool and cracking it. I then actually built a cement pool for them by digging into the ground and having a slope of cement on all sides. While they certainly enjoyed this they still instinctively dug themselves a mud pit right next to the pool and splashed water OUT of the pool to make their mud pit nicer! My whole idea was to keep them clean so they wouldn’t rush to greet me and coat me with a layer of mud. Now I just let the hose fill their mud pit and as there is NEVER enough room for everyone, the cement pool is considered a waiting area until one of the higher-ranking pigs moves out of the mud to go sun himself.
One my more memorable rescues was when I took in four pigs that had been living in a small cement room in a basement their entire lives. Once I got them out the farm they started to sniff the grass and then each individually start yanking up a mouth-fulls of grass and then placing each parcel of grass in the same pile until they had enough that they could each snuggle into and cover herself fully!
Nail trims need to be done annually and exposure to any hard cement surface works well to my keep overgrowth to a minimum. Even so, when my vet comes out with two assistants all four of us need to hold down the pig to get the job done. My barn has a cement floor that helps tremendously. You never want any animals standing long-term on cement though and so there are thick rubber stall mats in the pens. I took in two rescue pigs whose nails were so long that the nails actually curled around COMPLETELY in a circle and pierced their lower feet! It took the vet about 45 minutes to cut off chunks of nail one piece at a time as they nails had become embedded in the pigs' flesh.
We are lucky to have the fabulous services of Dr Blake with Northwest Mobile Vet who comes out for annual vaccines and well-pig checks plus emergency care. I have had issues especially with dental abscesses as pigs are not going to cooperate with the ultrasonic tooth cleaning our cats and dogs get! It always amazes me how much suffering they withstand without any sign; I normally only notice a problem when I see pus draining out of a hole in the side of a cheek!