All pigs must receive immediate veterinary attention when they are sick or injured. In most cases, unnecessary pain, injury and disease can be prevented through good husbandry, regular visits to a veterinarian and addressing any issues the veterinarian raises.
This law is called the Animal Welfare Act. The Animal Welfare Act outlines how people must take care of and act towards animals in New Zealand. The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), the Police and SPCA work together to make sure people in New Zealand follow these laws.
Under the Animal Welfare Act, all animal guardians (owners) are responsible for making sure the welfare needs of animals in their care are met. Learning about the Five Domains helps us to understand these welfare needs and how we can make sure we provide these. One of the Five Domains is Health. In this section you will learn about this domain and how you can make sure your pigs have the right veterinary care to be healthy.
Just like you have a family doctor that you see when you are unwell, your pig needs their own doctor too - a veterinarian. It’s a good idea for your family to find out which veterinarian they plan on using before you get your pig.
Not all veterinary clinics specialise in pigs, so it is important you find a vet that is experienced at treating farmed animals. Vets that specialise in farmed animals like pigs will usually come to your house instead of you having to transport your pig into a veterinary clinic.
Once you get a new pig, your family should have him/her checked by your chosen veterinarian straight away for a check-up and to administer any preventative treatments or medication that may be required.
Your veterinarian should also be able to give you lots of tips and advice for properly caring for your pig and helping him/her to settle in. Make sure you ask the veterinarian any questions you have about caring for your pig.
Pigs are prone to sunburn and do not do well in very warm or hot weather. To prevent sunburn, just like you or I, you should provide areas of shade for your pig to avoid the sun and keep in the shade. Another option is to provide an area of water or mud for your pig to cool down in – a wallow – as mud can act as a natural sun screen for pigs.
If your pig is scratching a lot and the skin starts to crust, your pig may need to be checked for mange. Mange is a disease caused by parasites called mites, which can spread very fast if you have more than one pig. If your pig has mites, you will notice him/her trying to rub against things to scratch themselves, or even shake their ears a lot, as ears are a favourite spot for the mites to attack your pig.
If you think your pig has mange, contact your veterinarian so they can give medication for your pig to get rid of the mites and help soothe your pigs skin.
Pigs can also be groomed with a brush. This keeps their coat nice and tidy and helps to get rid of any mud or dirt that may be built up. They also like this very much.
Pigs generally do not have very good eye sight and certain breeds of pigs are prone to eye problems. For example, pot-bellied pigs can develop folds of skin which can end up covering parts of your pigs’ eyes as they age, typically as they become bigger and sometimes too fat.
It is normal for your pig’s eyes to sometimes run with a little fluid, which can be gently wiped away with a damp cloth if it is building up. If the discharge becomes excessive or is yellow/brown in colour, you should contact your veterinarian as this could be a sign of an infection.
Pigs have four toes which are covered in hard hooves. The two front hooves are large and flat and carry most of your pig’s body weight. Since hooves do such an important job, looking after them and keeping them well maintained is very important. Your pig’s hooves also need to be inspected often to make sure they are healthy and in good shape. You need to check that your pig is not limping, and that his/her hooves are not cracked or swollen. You should also check that they do not have any stones or other items stuck in between their hooves.
Your pig’s hooves will grow over time and will need to be trimmed regularly with special tools. It is best to let a veterinarian or local hoof specialist trim your pig’s hooves. Don’t worry – this will not hurt your pig and is much like when you trim your toe nails. If you let your pig's hooves grow too long, they can become overgrown and cause problems for your pig. Your pig will have difficulty and pain on walking and can lead to infections, lameness and pain.
To cut down on how often their hooves require trimming, another option is to give your pigs a dry hard surface for them to walk on – in addition to their other areas. Ensuring they have a dry place to rest, sleep or relax in, is important for good hoof health as well.
Pigs love to eat, so if your pig seems like it has lost its appetite and does not want to eat, this is a sign that your pig may be ill.
In this case, you should contact your veterinarian right away, as there could be a number of causes for what may be causing your pig to feel ill.
Your pig will need some preventative treatments to make sure they do not become sick, ill or diseased. This is the easiest way to make sure your pig stays healthy.
Vaccinations protect pigs against the disease that can cause illness and death. There is a range of different vaccines available for pigs, but your veterinarian will be able to tell you what vaccines are recommended for your pig, based on breed, lifestyle and local and environmental conditions.
Pigs also need to be drenched regularly. This protects them against worms, lice and other parasites such as mites. Your pig’s vet will be able to provide the special medication for this, suggest how often to treat your pig and they will show an adult how to give it to your pig.
If your pigs show any signs of vomiting, diarrhoea, discoloured skin or urine, panting, shivering, quick weight loss, lots of dribbling, limping – or any other strange, non-normal behaviours, you should call your veterinarian to come and check on your pig.
This is why it’s really important to spend time with your pig and understand his or her normal behaviours.