Just like other pets, mini-pigs should have a complete veterinary check-up after they are acquired and then annually after that. Pigs can be challenging for a veterinarian to examine, as they are extremely strong, do not like to be restrained, and scream loudly when restraint is attempted. Ideally, your pig should be trained to walk on a leash/harness, so that he can walk into the animal hospital and on to a scale to be weighed. Smaller pigs may be trained to walk into a carrier for transport.
"If your pig will not stay still for the check-up or acts aggressively to the veterinary staff, he may need to be sedated for examination."
Once at the animal hospital, your pig should be allowed to wander freely around the exam room for a few minutes to acclimate before your veterinarian attempts to examine him. As pigs are very food-motivated, bringing a few of your pig's favorite treats to the check-up may help keep your pig distracted while your veterinarian performs the examination. Pigs also typically lay down when they are scratched on their sides; therefore, your veterinarian may try this trick to get your pig to lay down for an examination.
If your pig will not stay still for the check-up or acts aggressively to the veterinary staff, he may need to be sedated for examination. If this is necessary, do not be alarmed, as this is the case more often than not, and a pig-savvy veterinarian will have a safe protocol to sedate your pig for the check-up and any short procedures, such as grooming or vaccination.
What vaccines does my pig need?
Vaccination of pigs is controversial, as there are no widely accepted standards for vaccination of pet pigs. Recommendations vary based on geographic location, pig's age, and degree of potential disease exposure.
"Your veterinarian will determine, based on your pig's potential exposure to pathogens, breeding status, and location of where you live, what vaccines are advisable."
Most veterinarians agree that at minimum, pet piglets should be vaccinated against the bacteria that cause the infections erysipelas, leptospirosis, and tetanus. Other vaccines exist for pigs against infection with viruses such as parvovirus, rabies, pseudorabies, coronavirus, Rotavirus, and other bacteria including Bordetella (the cause of a respiratory infection called atrophic rhinitis), Pasteurella, Streptococcus, Actinobacillus, and E. coli. Vaccinations are usually started at 8-12 weeks of age, boostered a month later, and then annually. Your veterinarian will determine, based on your pig's potential exposure to pathogens, breeding status, and location of where you live, what vaccines are advisable.
What other procedures might my veterinarian perform?
An analysis of your pig's feces should be performed annually to check for gastrointestinal parasites. If parasites are found, your veterinarian will prescribe appropriate anti-parasitic medications.
Pet pigs also commonly carry mites on their skin that can cause sarcoptic mange which is transmittable to people and other pets. Your veterinarian may perform a simple, commonly performed procedure called a skin scraping to check for mites in which he or she scrapes the surface of the skin with a scalpel blade to obtain skin cells to examine under the microscope.
Veterinarians also will often help pig owners with hoof care and tusk trimming. It is important to train your pig to be comfortable having his feet touched so that your veterinarian can trim his hooves during his annual check-up. Depending on the type of surface pet pigs walk on every day, some may need hoof trimming every few months. Trimming may be performed awake if the pig will lay on its back while its belly is scratched; otherwise, the pig may need to be sedated.
Male pigs have canine teeth (tusks) that grow continuously throughout life and need periodic trimming (usually every 6-12 months in unneutered males and every 1-3 years in neutered males). Tusk trimming is typically performed on a sedated pig.
Finally, for adult pigs as they get older, your veterinarian may want to check internal organ function with a blood test. A blood sample may be taken from an ear or leg vein of an awake pig; however, if the pig protests, he or she may need to be sedated for blood testing.
Does my pig need to be neutered or spayed?
Male pigs become sexually mature by 6-10 weeks of age and females by 10-12 weeks. Sexually active pigs will exhibit unpleasant behaviors including excessive rooting (digging) and mounting, and sexually mature males have a strong odor. Female pigs are prone to developing uterine infections and tumors as they age. Therefore, neutering of males and spaying of females is recommended. Neutering is recommended at 8-12 weeks of age and spaying at 12-16 weeks.