Skin, Hoof, and Dental Care for Your Mini-Pig
Just as other pets require grooming, so do mini-pigs. Skin, hoof, and dental care is essential to pet pigs to keep them healthy and disease-free.
What kind of skin problems can mini-pigs develop?
Pet pigs suffer from skin conditions that may be prevented with simple treatment. The most common skin problem in mini-pigs is dry skin that results from a dietary deficiency of fatty acids. The best way to prevent this condition is to ensure that the pig is eating a nutritionally complete and balanced pelleted food formulated for mini-pigs (see handout “Feeding Your Mini-Pig” for more information).
If your pig is on a good diet and still suffers from dry, flaky skin, increase the amount of fat and vitamin E in the diet, or offer commercial omega fatty acid supplements labeled for dogs and cats. Any dietary supplementation should be done under the supervision of your veterinarian so as not to upset the pig’s overall nutritional balance. Although many supplements and diets can be found online, be careful, as many products and online diets have not been researched or verified by proper swine nutritional authorities.
Mini-pigs commonly suffer from sarcoptic mange (scabies), caused by mites that can spread to humans and other household pets. Signs in pigs include thickened, itchy, red, flaky skin that can progress to crusty, scabbed skin. Weight loss and lethargy also accompany the condition, as the constant itching is tiring.
If you see these signs in your pig, they should be examined by your veterinarian as soon as possible. Your veterinarian will likely do a skin scraping procedure in which they scrape the surface of the pig’s skin with a scalpel blade to gather skin cells for microscopic examination. If mites are identified on the microscope, your veterinarian will give your pig two to three injections of an anti-parasitic drug, each a week apart.
It is important to thoroughly launder all bedding the pig has been in contact with. All carpeting or rugs the pig has walked on must be completely vacuumed to avoid reinfection or spread to other pets and people in your home. Mites can live away from a pet or human for two to three days in the house or outdoor environment.
Your veterinarian must differentiate sarcoptic mange from dermatitis (inflammation) of the skin due to a yeast infection. Yeast dermatitis may cause similar signs but is typically less itchy than a mite infection. It may be identified by the presence of yeast organisms in a skin scraping examined under a microscope. Yeast infections may be treated by bathing the pig with antifungal shampoo.
Sarcoptic mange and yeast infection also must be distinguished from a more serious skin condition in pigs called parakeratosis, which is marked by thickened, crusty, scaly skin that is typically not itchy. This condition is caused by a dietary deficiency of both zinc and fatty acids. It is commonly seen in pigs fed a diet composed mostly of baked goods or un-supplemented cereals. Your veterinarian will treat this condition by prescribing zinc and fatty acid supplements, and as well as recommending a nutritionally balanced diet.
Sunburn also happens in white or spotted mini-pigs that have minimal pigment in their skin. Sunburned skin in pigs appears red, painful, and sometimes blistered. Skin on the tips of the ears, nose, back, and nipples are most affected. Sunburned pigs should be seen by a veterinarian who will likely prescribe topical or oral anti-inflammatory medication. Sunburn can be prevented in mini-pigs by ensuring they have a shaded area when they are outside. You can also use sunscreen on pigs with lighter skin coloration.
What kind of hoof care do mini-pigs need?
Like the hooves of horses and cows, mini-pig hooves grow continuously and need to be trimmed periodically. How often you need to trim their hooves depends on how active they are and the type of flooring they spend most of their time on. Pigs housed on rougher (concrete) floors may wear down their hooves more quickly than those housed on soft flooring or in a grass-covered yard. Older pigs that walk less because of arthritis may need more frequent hoof trimming.
Train your pet pig from a young age, using food rewards, to be comfortable having their feet touched and their belly rubbed while they lay on their backs, to make hoof trimming easier. Hoof trimming is generally performed during a veterinary examination. Many untrained pet pigs must be sedated at the animal hospital to have this procedure performed.
What type of dental care do mini-pigs need?
The canine teeth (tusks) of male pigs grow throughout life, while those of female pigs stop growing at about two years of age. Unneutered male pigs' tusks grow faster than those of neutered males. Untrimmed tusks can get caught on cages, furniture, or other objects, or grow so long that they cause damage to the pig’s face and gums. Overgrown tusks also are sharp and can inflict injury to caretakers.
Typically, unneutered males’ tusks need trimming every 6-12 months, versus those of neutered males that need trimming every one to three years. Starting after the pig is one year old, your veterinarian will trim tusks during an examination. Often, the veterinarian will give the pig a sedative. The tips of the tusks are trimmed with a cutting wire or a drill. Clippers should not be used, as they can fracture the teeth and damage the root. Tusks should never be trimmed too short, as they may become abscessed and need to be extracted. Other than overgrown tusks, dental problems are rare in mini-pigs.
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