Much to consider if you want a pet pig

The PIGSustain project is billed as the most comprehensive ever conducted into the British pig industry.  Picture: Jane Coltman
The PIGSustain project is billed as the most comprehensive ever conducted into the British pig industry. Picture: Jane Coltman

We see more and more pigs kept in the garden, either as pets or to provide for the table.

They are regularly treated as a pet in the same fashion as either a dog or cat, and are cared for to the same extent.

Pet pigs can live to about eight years old, although it can be much longer.

When considering getting a pet pig there are a few legal issues that need to be addressed.

Pigs are classed as livestock, whether they are pets or part of a commercial enterprise, and as such, a premises with a pig is required to have a County Parish Holding number (CPH), which can be obtained from the Rural Payments Agency.

When acquiring the animal, a movement license document should be completed to register the movement of the animal. This should be provided by the seller.

You have one month to inform Animal Health that the pig is present, whilst at the same time no other pigs, cattle, sheep or goats may be moved on or off the site for 20, six, six and six days respectively.

Even if you want to take your pig for a walk you must obtain a Pig Walking Licence from AHVLA.

Pigs are social animals and often do better in small groups as opposed to being alone.

They will require a large exercise run, along with shelter.

It should be noted that they are naturally diggers and will forage for food. This behaviour can see them easily digging under a fence so solid boundaries need to be put in.

Pigs generally have voracious appetites and are very prone to obesity, which is the most common problem associated with them.

Obesity will lead to further medical problems, including arthritis, pressure sores and skin fold infections.

They should be fed a specially formulated diet and, in addition to this, given vegetables, avoiding starchy ones such as potatoes, to make up about 25 per cent of the diet.

It is illegal to feed your pig scraps from the kitchen table.

A variety of vaccines are available for pigs, although the one that is most essential is that for Erysipelas, a bacterial disease leading to sudden death and characteristic skin lesions. This is an initial course of vaccines, followed by six-monthly boosters.

Other general considerations include worming, which should be done every four to six months. Your vet will be able to advise you on a suitable wormer.

Unless wanted for breeding, male pigs should be castrated at 10 days of age.

Pigs will usually reach puberty at around four months of age, the exception being Vietnamese pot bellied pigs who reach puberty earlier, at two months of age.

Sunburn is seen in both light and dark skinned animals.

To protect against it high factor suncream (SPF 30), cool water spraying and mud wallows can all be used.

When thinking about getting pigs, it is advisable to consult your vet beforehand to ensure that suitable housing and feed can be provided from the day of arrival.

They will also be able to help you decide on what worming treatments and vaccinations will be most appropriate for your individual situation.

Alnorthumbria Vets is a mixed practice that treats all species of domestic animals, and a few wild ones.

Within the practice, vets have developed special interests so there are separate teams of vets dedicated to the care of farm animals, horses and small animals (dogs, cats and other small pets).

There are nine Alnorthumbria centres across Northumberland, from Wooler in the north to Ponteland in the south.

The practice offers a genuine 24-hour service.

Key elements of routine preventative healthcare are vaccination, regular treatment for parasites, neutering and dental care.