The Pet Pig

Presenter: Dr Gayle Hallowell Associate Professor in Large Animal Internal Medicine and Critical Care, Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences, University of Nottingham

This was supposed to be a webinar about micro pigs but Dr Hallowell who led last week’s veterinary webinar explained the craze for purchasing micro pigs was now dwindling having peaked five to seven years ago. A micro pig is a cross between a small SE Asian pig and an old school pig such as a Gloucester Old Spot. This was considered an appropriate pairing to produce smaller pigs of around 25kgs. This, however, turned out not to be the case and the size of the said ‘ micro pig’ ended up anywhere between 25 and 100kgs. Hence the decline in ‘micro pig’ mania and why last week’s webinar was aimed at treating the ‘pet pig’ rather than the ‘micro pig’.

Despite my cynicism that a pet pig is perhaps not the ideal family pet (based on their temperament if nothing else) there will always be people out there who disagree with me and choose a pig as their pet of choice. Dr Hallowell explained that although this is really the client’s responsibility, as vets, it is important to remind owners that pigs are still seen as food producing animals and all cloven hoofed animals, including pigs, will require an agricultural holding or county parish holding number. With this number in place, they can contact the AHVLA regarding any movement of their pig which must always be recorded even if it is just a trip to the vets. If owners wish to take their pig for a walk, the route must first be approved, licensed and then reviewed annually. Owners must never stray off this route or their pig will be on ‘lock down’ at home for 28 days. There is also a 20 day lock down for pigs if new animals enter the premises. Other regulations which need to be adhered to include the compulsory recording of all prescribed medicines in a medicine record book and remembering it is illegal to feed food waste or scraps to pigs which could potentially spread disease.

If an owner is aware of the hoops they need to jump through in order to own a pig and still wish to go ahead with their pet pig endeavour, then it’s fair to say they are keen and, more importantly, well informed. Of course once a pig has entered a household Dr Hallowell explains that it’s key they are appropriately cared, including tending to their behavioural needs. Pigs are rooting animals but if living in a household their rooting behaviour will rapidly ruin a garden lawn. Dr Hallowell advises placing food in a ball which needed to be pushed to access the food and hiding fruit around the garden which pigs have to hunt out.. Sunburn can also be a real issue in pigs and it is advised if they don’t have access to mud then shelter should be provided and sun cream applied.

Dr Hallowell went on to pack this veterinary webinar full of advice and tips on examining, sedating and anaesthetising pigs as well as covering some of the more common conditions we may encounter in the pet pig. For those of you who are dealing with pet pigs in practice, this webinar organised by ‘The Webinar Vet’ makes for essential viewing. Even for those of us who have never encountered a pet pig we may at some point be asked our opinion on owning such a pet and I believe it is important that we can fully inform the owners of the necessary steps that need to be taken to comply with regulations and successfully care for a pet pig.

This webinar delivers this information exceptionally well and if we are better informed, our clients will also be better informed and can make a decision based on good advice ensuring their pet pig will hopefully receive the very best care.

The Stethoscope (MRCVS)

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