California Potbellied Pig Association, Inc

General Care


By Chris Christensen

General Exam - Just like us, once a year, pigs need a general check of their heart, lungs and general condition       

Vaccination/Wormer – With younger pigs it is probably a good idea to give them annual vaccinations.  There are pig diseases out there that could kill or harm your animal and could be spread to other pigs.  Older pigs (after 5 or 6 years) who have had yearly vaccinations probably have their immunities built up, and the vaccinations (which can cause medical complications) are probably no longer neccessary.  If you have a problem with mange or worms, you can give injectable Ivomec® or Dectomax® orally on a cracker every 3 months with probable success. (The 1% injectable solution for cattle or swine is given at a dosage of 1cc(ml) every 75 lbs of weight.  There are also more dilute solutions available for younger potbellied pigs.)  Rabies vaccinations are another problem.  There are no rabies vaccines approved for pigs, so many vets won’t give them.  Yet we have cases on record of pigs, who have bitten someone, being confiscated by authorities and killed so that their brains can be checked for rabies.  Some vets give a psuedo rabies vaccine, but I don’t know if that would be recognized as sufficient by authorities.  In all cases consult your veterinarian. 


Hoof Trimming – Very important.  Pigs whose hooves are allowed to grow too long can develop serious leg problems.  One of the pig’s greatest problems is getting those spindly little legs to support that pot belly.  Long hooves shift the weight back and break down the hoof and ankle structure.  If the pig is overweight it will, of course, increase the severity of this problem.  Because of the unavailability, expense or inconvenience of  having these procedures done by a veterinarian most pig owners will at least make a one time attempt to trim hooves on their own.  If you have worked with your pig and played with its hooves a lot you may manage to slowly get the hooves trimmed while the pig is at rest (see Nancy Shepherd's article further down the page), and with some luck manage to blunt the tusk tips.  Most home trims involve wrestling the pig onto its back, as it screams in protest.  You can hold the pig vertically or on its back and trim the hooves yourself with a cutter, file or an electric Dremmel® tool.  This will be stressful to both you and your pig.  You may be fortunate enough to have a skilled farrier or a mobile vet who can come to your home and perform this service.  Taking your pig to a good potbellied pig vet for these trimmings as part of a yearly check-up is probably the easiest and safest solution.

Hoof and Tusk trimming video "2003 Potbelly Pig Symposium" by Schnoidz Pigister

Tusk Trimming – Some people just let the tusks grow.  (You can tell by the scars on their legs.)  Problems this can cause are the obvious ones of inadvertent  injury to you or others (including other pets) from these built-in weapons.  They also may get caught in fencing, furniture, garden equipment, etc. causing injury or damage.  The other problem is that tusks can curve back into the mouth or cheek area puncturing the skin.  Blunting the tip of a tusk is not difficult using a file, but it may involve restraining the pig.  Trimming the tusk down to the gum line is more involved.  It should be done with an OB cutting wire (available at most vet supply/feed stores) or dental tools.  Be sure cover the back of the mouth area (with a cloth) to keep the cut tusk from being inhaled into the lungs of the screaming animal.  Again, taking your pig to a good potbellied pig vet for these trimmings as part of a yearly check-up is probably the easiest solution.

Tusk Trimming video by Schoidz Pigister

Eye and Ear Cleaning can usually be accomplished when the pig is at rest.  Use of liquid ear cleaners has created problems with temporary (up to a month) loss of hearing in some cases and is not recommended.       

Teeth Cleaning to prevent decay is desirable, but probably not essential.  However, a close examination of the teeth and jaw for signs of abscesses, especially in older pigs, is essential.


by Nancy Shepherd & Heartland Animal Health   

The pig's foot consists of two primary toes and two dewclaws.  Each of the toes are surrounded by a hard nail.  There are nerves and blood vessels in each hoof, similar to the quick of our own nails.  Be sure to keep this in mind as you cut back the pig's nails.  On the bottom of the hoof is also a soft pad.

You can begin training your pet pig to enjoy hoof trimming at any age.  Since most pigs do not like to be restrained and having their hooves trimmed is something very foreign to them, the best time to start this training is when your pig is very young.  The first step in helping your pig understand that hoof trimming can be fun is to desensitize the pet's hoof to being touched and to having pressure placed on its feet.  When your pig is comfortable and happy, such as relaxing for a tummy rub, play with each of its hooves.  Start out stroking and gently rubbing the pig's feet and legs.  Gradually work up for your pig to allow you to place a gentle pressure on its hooves while holding its foot in your hand.  You should be able to progress quickly to using a four-way file to file its nails.  Be patient and take it slowly.  This should be a pleasant experience for you and your pig.  If the pig will only tolerate one hoof at a time then that is all right.  It is best to go at your pig's speed than to get in a struggle over hoof filing.  Some pet owners file one hoof a week.

As the pig gets older the file will probably not be adequate to take care of its hooves.  Since your pet pig is tolerating your handling its feet and knows that you will not hurt it, it is pretty easy to move on to hoof trimmers.

With your pig comfortably resting on its side for the expected tummy rub, and with you sitting at its feet with your pair of clippers and file, look at the bottom of its hoof.  Many pigs have a build up of dried flaky nail underneath, causing it to not stand correctly.  By removing this material you will be able to see exactly where to trim its hooves without any injury or pain.  Using your cutters trim the underside of the nail until the entire flaky material is gone.  Now you will see smooth nail.  Your goal is to have the underside of the nail flat with or just a little higher than the pad.  Cut back both sides of the nail and blunt the end.  Do not clip between the toes on the inside edge.  You can then smooth the rough edges with the four-way file.  Just make sure you leave no sharp edges.  After completing the trimming and filing move up to the dewclaws.  The dewclaws can be shortened on the sides, if necessary.  They too should be left with a blunt cut and a few file strokes to smooth any rough edges.  To help prevent splits, the final step in your pigs hoof care is to rub "Hoof Moisturizer" into it hoof, dewclaws, and pad.  Now that one foot is complete you can move to the next one.

Some pet pigs will develop split hooves.  If you run into a split in the hoof nail, you can start by cleaning the area with a topical antiseptic.  With your file, "cut" a shallow line across the top of the split.  The split should then look like a "T".  This "T" will help keep the split from moving up your pig's hoof.  By using "Hoof Moisturizer" and Better Hooves regularly plus making sure your pig is supplied with a quality diet, you should be able to prevent these splits in the future.

Now that your pet has perfectly manicured hooves, a way to help keep them in good condition is to allow your pet some time on concrete.  If your pig has a regular opportunity to walk on concrete, be it a sidewalk, a patio, or cement stepping stones under its outside food or water dishes, it can help to keep the hooves worn down.  With many pigs this technique has almost eliminated the need for a monthly hoof trim.

Again, we must stress patience.  This should be a pleasurable experience for your pig.  If your pet pig thinks that one hoof or even a partial hoof is all it wants to tolerate, in one sitting, then stop.  It is always better to stop early than to push the trimming to an unhappy situation.  Because if your pet pig is happy at the end of even a partial hoof trim, then it is much more likely to allow you to do more later without stressing you and/or your pet pig.

Nancy Shepherd--573-698-3030, Rocheport, MO

"The paradise of my fancy is one where pigs have wings." 

G. K. Chesterton