A dramatic rise in the popularity of pet pigs has led to concerns that owners and veterinarians may lack the detailed knowledge required to ensure porcine health and welfare. According to the British Pig Association, 148 new pig keepers were registered in October 2009 alone.
A dramatic rise in the popularity of pet pigs has led to concerns that owners and veterinarians may lack the detailed knowledge required to ensure porcine health and welfare.
According to the British Pig Association, 148 new pig keepers were registered in October 2009 alone – a figure that chief executive Marcus Bates believes could be “just the tip of the iceberg”.
Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs and Kune Kunes have been popular for some years, while the current trendy porcine is the miniature potbelly, also known as the ‘teacup potbelly’ or ‘micro pig’.
However, vet Tom Mowlem (of Companion Care in Bournemouth and Christchurch) is concerned that many small animal practitioners lack the specialist knowledge required to advise clients and treat animals.
Mr Mowlem, who gained large animal experience before moving into small animal practice, told Vetsonline: “An awful lot of small animal vets will probably have no pig experience at all. It’s a specialist area – you can’t just extrapolate from a dog or a cat. The vet would have at the least read up on diseases of pigs, there are a lot of notifiable disease that unless you have had pig training you probably wouldn’t have seen. New graduates will be in a better position than those who qualified a long time ago as they would have had recent pig training at vet school.”
Common health issues in pet pigs include skin conditions (sunburn, mange mites, insect bites and dry skin) and foot conditions, such as overgrown claws. Pet pigs also require vaccinations for erysipelas and leptospirosis, as well as suitable medications for worms.
Mr Mowlem also claimed that owners need to be made aware of regulations surrounding pigs – a subject highlighted by Pig Veterinary Society (PVS) spokesman Steven McOrist, from the University of Nottingham’s School of Veterinary Medicine and Science.
Professor McOrist explained: “There are important legal constraints for owners of all pet pigs, these legalities are administered by DEFRA. It is essential that owners do not feed their pig any meat products – swill-feeding is banned in the UK to prevent another devastating outbreak of foot-and-mouth. It is also a legal requirement that owners register any premises or walkway where their pig may enter or exercise.
However, in response to Mr Mowlem’s concerns, Prof McOrist claimed: “The veterinary profession has a strong interest in the health and welfare of pet pigs and the PVS has hundreds of members across the UK who can provide first or second opinions on any veterinary issue.”
Further, BSAVA public relations officer Mark Johnston said the association had responded to the popularity of pigs by offering information to practitioners. He said: “BSAVA is aware that more professionals working in predominantly small animal medicine are being presented with ‘farm pets’, and that is why we published the BSAVA Manual of Farm Pets, which includes chapters on pig health, husbandry, medicine and surgery.”