There are a variety of things that any pet owner can do in order to make their veterinarian’s job a little easier. Remember, helping the veterinarian means helping you and your pet because that is what the vet’s goal is, “to help you and your pet.” Many veterinarians dislike seeing potbellied pigs because they view them as too difficult to handle. This problem could be avoided by early training and socialization of the pet pig. In this respect, my recommendations are the same as they would be for any pet. Can you blame an animal for being afraid to get in the car, if the only time they ever get in the car is to go to the vet? All pets should be handled frequently, in a positive, non-threatening manner and rewarded for being calm. They should then be handled by a variety of people and exposed to a variety of novel places and situations. It should go without saying that your pig should be taught to wear a harness and walk on a leash. With patience, a pig of any age can learn this.
Pet owners should develop a relationship with a veterinarian as soon as they can after acquiring a new pet, especially if that pet is a novel one. When facing a life threatening emergency, that is no time to find out that your regular veterinarian doesn’t see potbellied pigs! In my experience, potbellied pigs that receive good, preventive health care rarely have emergency situations. By consulting with your veterinarian, you can be sure that your pig is receiving the vaccinations, etc that are important for the area you are living in.
If you are fortunate enough to find a veterinarian who is eager and willing to see your potbellied pig but who admits he or she knows little, never fear! In spite of what many people say, there is an increasingly large amount of information available in veterinary texts and journals about potbellied pigs. There are at least three regularly published journals that I know of, that cover nothing but exotic animal care. These are good sources for potbellied pig information. Most major veterinary conferences continue to offer some potbellied pig seminars. Send your veterinarian to the NAPPA website for more information. Soon a list of these books and journals will be added to the website!
When acquiring a new pet be sure to find out EXACTLY what vaccinations it has had and WHEN. You should also find out about any treatments for parasites that have been given and when they were given. When you go to your veterinarian for the first time, bring that information with you. Any time you change veterinarians, get copies of your records to take to the next veterinarian. Good record keeping, insures that no part of your pig’s health care is overlooked and that your money is not wasted by repeating tests, treatments or vaccinations unnecessarily.
Last but not least, BE OBSERVANT! An important part of making a diagnosis is getting a good history. The veterinarian needs to know what your pig eats, when it ate last, when it last eliminated, and if it is vomiting or having abnormal stools. All pet owners should be able to answer these questions. It really can mean the difference between life and death!!!
Obesity and the health problems that occur secondary to it are the most common things I see threatening the health of potbellied pigs of all ages. Obesity contributes to strain on bones and joints that are often already weak due to poor confirmation. It also puts strain on the already small heart and lung capacity of the potbellied pig. Obesity seems to lead to a very poor quality of life where the pig is caught in a vicious cycle… it doesn’t want to get up and move around because it is so uncomfortable and the less it exercises, the more overweight and unhealthy it becomes. The pig leading this sedentary lifestyle does not spend it’s time foraging and interacting with others as it probably would in the wild, possibly leading to some of the behavior problems we see in pet pigs.
Pet owners should concentrate on preventing obesity in their pets. Once a potbellied pig is overweight, weight loss is extremely difficult and will require a great deal of effort and commitment on the owner’s part. Another problem frequently encountered in veterinary practice can occur with any pet, and that is simple ignorance on the part of the owner. Too many people acquire pets, especially novel or exotic pets without first finding out what that animal’s husbandry and nutritional needs are. The majority of the time, this results in an unhappy pet owner and a weak or non-existent bond with their pet. Pets belonging to these owners are the ones I see most often that are ill or neglected and that the owner is seeking to re-home. You can avoid these problems by doing your homework BEFORE purchasing a new pet, not afterwards!