There are several mini pig chows on the market that are easily found at pet supply stores and offer a well balanced diet. Some breeders choose to feed their pigs commercial pig finisher pellets found at farm feed stores. This feed works well because it meets the nutritional needs of growing piglets and breeding pigs. It is not as readily available to pet owners. Both of these grain type foods are great options. What is never a good option is to feed dog or cat food to your pig. Dog and can foods are not balanced to meet the protein or vitamin requirements of pigs and they may contain too much salt, which is a serious health risk. (see Salt Toxicity) Always provide fresh, clean water for your pig.
You can supplement your pig’s diet with fresh veggies, fruit, hay and grass. See our “Delectable or Deadly” food and plant list. Be careful to limit how much “extras” you feed your pig. Excess grass can cause diarrhea and other health issues. Certain fruits and vegetables are high in calories and should be given sparingly. Low sugar treat options include carrots, cucumbers, bananas, apples, plain popcorn and cheerios.
Break the feedings into at least two meals a day (three for younger pigs). Adding treats in between can keep your pig from getting too hungry and also keep him/her from eating too fast at the next meal. Treat toy dispensers are a great tool to spread out food time and activate your piggy’s keen mind and nose. If he or she seems to run to the water bowl often while eating, you may choose to sprinkle a small amount of water on his/her food to moisten it (not so much as to make soup).
The best way to tell if your pig is getting enough food is based on its appearance. A body condition score (BCS) is frequently used in other species and can be used with your pig as well. We have created a BCS chart for use in miniature potbellied pigs which can be found by clicking HERE. An ideal BCS is 3-3.5.
Weight issues are more often swayed to the overweight side in adults. With growing babies not feeding enough can be a problem as well. Too little food can cause a piglet to have trouble regulating body heat and they may become unresponsive if their blood sugar gets too low. This may then lead to death. Too little food can also affect their growth, leading to skeletal deformities, stunted growth, and compromised immunity. Obesity in both piglets and adults can also lead to skeletal deformities which may lead to joint and feet issues. In extreme obesity, pigs may develop skin issues and their vision may become obscured.
If your pig is too thin, increase its feed intake gradually to not upset its stomach. You may wish to split the feedings to reduce upsetting your pig’s stomach. Once you have adjusted its diet, give him/her time to gain weight before you increase the amount of food any more. It is not healthy to gain weight overnight. You can also increase the amount or frequency of treats or try a higher calorie treat (ie change from celery to cheerios). It is better to increase the food portion of the diet rather than the treat portion as the grain is well rounded and has essential nutrients that your growing pig needs. Also, giving extra treats may lead to a very demanding pig later on.
If your pig is overweight, gradually decrease the amount of food so he/she does not go into “starvation mode” and try to hang on to that weight or become very upset at the loss of snack time. You may try to at first switch to a lower calorie snack or smaller sized snack. Your pig will not notice if her carrot pieces go from a quarter-size piece to a nickel-sized piece. Celery is a good, low calorie substitute for many snacks since pigs love its juicy quality. You can also use dog treat dispensing toys to slow down and spread out treat time. Treat dispensing toys have the added benefit of mental and mild physical stimulation. Try moving or hiding the toys, or switching between toys, to make it more interesting for your pig. To add to your pig’s weight loss, include some mild physical activities like splashing in a kiddy-pool or rolling a ball around the yard. Give your piggy time to adjust to a smaller diet and then check his/her BCS again and adjust the food as needed.
As pigs age or if they are spayed/neutered their metabolism may change and you may need to adjust their food intake. Don’t become complacent, continuous monitoring of your piggy’s BCS will keep your pig healthier and lead to a longer, happier life for your pet and you.