New study examines quality of life for mini-pigs

mini pig
Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech.

At the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, researchers want to examine what factors are important when owners of miniature pigs – also known as “pig parents” – measure the happiness of their pigs.

With the growing popularity of companion pigs, Sherrie Clark, professor of theriogenology and head of the acting department of large animal clinical sciences, and Megan Shepherd, clinical assistant professor of clinical nutrition, began to wonder what people forget when they think of their pet pigs. .

“There has been a lot of research on the indicators by which a dog or cat is happy, healthy, and prosperous, but with mini pigs we don’t really have a standardized way to measure their quality of life.” , Shepherd said.

“You can’t treat a pig like a dog with a different muzzle,” Clark said.

It might seem obvious, but Clark said setting the right expectations for people who want a mini pet pig into their homes is crucial.

“There are so many misconceptions about mini pigs. Potential owners really need to get into pig farming with their eyes wide open, ”said Clark. One of the misconceptions, she cites, is built into the name itself – the truth is, ‘mini’ pigs don’t stay mini.

“When we talk about mini pigs, we are talking about a one to two hundred pound animal. It’s “mini” compared to a half-ton farm pig, but if your pig doesn’t want to cooperate with you, it’s not just a matter of picking it up and putting it in a crate.

Clark and Shepherd have teamed up with Mazuri Exotic Animal Nutrition, one of the leading exotic animal nutrition companies, to develop a survey tool aimed at developing the quality of life (QOL) of mini pet pigs.

According to Mazuri nutritionist Nichole Huntley, “With a lot of exotic animals that we welcome, there aren’t as many resources available to guide animal parents as there are with more common animals. The creation of a standard quality of life instrument that could be used for mini pet pigs was a natural extension of Mazuri’s goal of being an information resource and helping to improve the welfare of pet pigs.

Clark and Shepherd have devised a simple questionnaire that they hope will form the basis of a quality of life tool that can be used to facilitate communication between owners, vets and their piggy friends.

For this study, healthy pet pigs aged 1 year or older had a single welfare visit, either to the University Veterinary Hospital or as part of a farm visit. During the visit, the pig owner will complete a survey on the quality of life of his pig while basic data is collected on the pig.

“We’ve tried to make homeowner participation as easy as possible,” Shepherd said. “The only additional thing they have to do is complete the short questionnaire, which can easily be done during the wellness visit. “

Participants will receive a $ 100 discount on the cost of their appointment. The cost of additional treatments or diagnostic procedures undertaken during the visit are not covered by the study.

Pig parent Lexi Vest of Earlysville, Va., Participated in the study during a recent health check-up for her 4-year-old mini-pig, Alexander Hamilton, better known as “Ham.”

“He sleeps under an electric blanket all year round, and every spring he runs to our neighbors and eats blackberries from their bushes. It’s his favorite time of year. He can gain five pounds during blackberry season just by gorging himself on berries, ”Vest said.

Vest, who is also a relative of Ham’s “roommate”, a bulldog named Luna, stressed the importance of understanding that pigs are different from other pets. “Their expressions are different from those of a dog. Your relationship with them will be different. I had to earn Ham’s respect, which made our bond even closer.

Knowledge from this study will help facilitate better communication between veterinarians and pig parents so that mini pigs like Ham can lead their best lives.

To schedule your pet pig patient for this quality of life study, call 540-231-1363 or email [email protected]

Mindy Quigley story. Quigley is Clinical Research Coordinator at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine

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