Pigs as pets have become more common since the mid 1980's, when the first Vietnamese Pot-Bellied pigs were imported. Most pet pigs are mini pigs, but occasionally a regular-sized pig ("commercial") is also adopted into the family.
Besides the Pot-Bellied pig, there are Juliana pigs and Kunekune pigs. Although pigs may be noted as teacup pigs, they invariably grow to their true size, which in the case of Pot-Bellied pigs may range from 30 kg to upwards of 100 kg!
Here are six things to consider - or questions you should ask yourself - if you want to raise a pet pig:
1. Are pet pigs allowed in your municipality?
It's important to understand that pet pigs are still considered as livestock in most urban municipalities, regardless of their origins. Therefore, it's important to find out if there are bylaws that prohibit the ownership of pigs within urban boundaries. Please keep this in mind as having to move a pet pig elsewhere due to these bylaws can be very difficult and heartbreaking.
To find out if your muncipality allows keeping pigs as pets, visit Ontario's list of municipalities and contact your local city or county hall.
2. What should pet pigs eat?
If you are considering a pig as a pet, do your homework. Pigs have dietary requirements that are different than dogs or cats. Mini or pet pigs can be fed commercial diets (such as Purina's Mazuri Pot Bellied pig diet) or you could source commercial pig feed from a feed store.
They should be fed limited amounts daily in order to prevent obesity, but they can be supplemented with fresh fruits and vegetables. Do not feed pet pigs table scraps, especially meat scraps. The reasoning behind this will be discussed in the next section.
Pet pigs require fresh water daily, much like we do. Failure to provide adequate water can result in the pig developing seizures, which are very difficult to treat. Make sure that you emphasize this if your pet pig is being cared for by others while you are away.
3. How do I prevent my pet pig from getting sick?
Pet pigs are susceptible to various diseases. Of most concern right now are several diseases which are found in other countries but not Canada and are known as "foreign animal diseases." One of these is African Swine Fever. Despite its name, it is found in numerous countries, including Russia, China and Eastern Europe. Your pet pig could be affected by this disease if meat products are smuggled back in a suitcase and find their way into its belly. Remember, these pigs are break-in artists, and can smell food from far away. They won't hesitate to break into a suitcase that may contain things that it shouldn't have. As this disease is severe in nature, your pig may succumb to it. The disease is immediately reportable, and your veterinarian has an obligation to notify federal authorities if it is suspected. So stay vigilant, and do not bring home pork products from other countries!
You can download or print this information poster for free. Help keep pet pig health top of mind.
4. Do you have access to veterinary care?
It is recommended that your pet pig be spayed or neutered. There are a number of veterinary clinics that will provide these services for miniature pigs.
Pet pigs should also be vaccinated for rabies, as pigs are as susceptible to this disease as other household pets. There are other vaccines that should be given to pet pigs. You can ask your veterinarian about these vaccines.
New Ontario Pig Health Check-up Program
The Ontario Pig Health Check-up program will provide funding to support veterinary consultations for small scale pig herd owners. Good animal health practices are key tools to prevent the introduction, development and spread of transmissible animal diseases.
The spread of African swine fever (ASF) in Europe, Asia and more recently in the Caribbean is a particular concern to the Ontario and North American pork industry. While large commercial pork producers and swine veterinarians are well aware of the potential risk to our swine herd if the disease should enter Canada, there may be gaps in resources for owners of small pig herds, homesteaders, animal sanctuaries, and pet pig owners. As well, some may not have an established relationship with a veterinarian. We hope this program will facilitate that connection. Visit www.ontariopighealth.ca for more information. The program runs until October 31, 2022.
5. Travelling with your pet pig?
Travelling with your pet pig requires thought. If you are crossing an international border (such as the Canada-United States border), the pig will require federal paperwork that is filled out by a Canadian Food Inspection Agency accredited veterinarian.
Returning with the pig can be more difficult, as a 30-day quarantine will be required once over the Canadian border. Therefore, it may be prudent to have someone care for the pig while you are away.
6. Does your pet pig have a bed?
Pigs kept in barns as companions to horses or other livestock will need a "piggy box." This is a simple three sided structure with a low roof over it that is located inside of the pig pen. The box should have lots of shavings or straw in it so that the pig can burrow when the weather is colder. Many barn pigs also have blankets, which they enjoy snuggling in.
House pigs often have an area to sleep in that they call their own. House pigs are easily trained to use a cat litter box, provided it is accessible to the pig (not located down stairs in the basement, for example).
Written by Dr. Sue Burlatschenko, Diplomate ABVP, MPH in November 2019. Last updated March 2021.