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Potbellied Pigs In Particular: Addressing Their Unique Needs

A muddy potbellied pig outside being pet by a human.
Potbellied pigs are certainly cute, but what does their care look like?


While potbellied pigs share many similarities with large breed “farm” pigs, it may surprise you to learn that there are a number of dissimilarities between these two types of pigs as well! The differences are important to know when caring for potbellied pigs residents, as they can have a big impact on their health and well being.

Size Is A Big One

The most notable physical difference between large breed pigs and potbellied pigs is certainly their size! Large breed pigs are bred to rapidly grow large. They often weigh between 600-900 pounds! On the other hand, potbellied pigs grow more slowly over a longer period of time and more generally range between 100-200 pounds though some weigh less or more than this. Other differences include the length of their snouts and size of their ears, and the position of their eyes.

While both large breed pigs and potbellied pigs can be prone to arthritis, the significantly greater weight of large breed pigs on their hooves seems to make them much more prone to hoof infections and other foot issues than potbellied pigs.

The Health Needs Of Potbellied Pigs

Although large breed pigs are physically larger, potbellied pigs are typically considered to be at a higher risk of obesity than large breed pigs, and thus their diet (both type of food and amount) needs to be chosen and monitored just as carefully as a sanctuary would for their larger pigs.

Unlike large breed pigs, potbellied pigs can sometimes have naturally shorter faces and sunken eyes, which can put them at risk of “fat blindness” if they become overweight. They are also much more prone to  runny eyes or entropion, where their eyelids can turn inward and their eyelashes irritate their eyes.

Spaying Potbellied Pigs

Due to their size and rapid growth, adult large breed pigs may be at risk of hernia from a traditional spay, so it can be safer to do a laparoscopic ovariectomy and leave the uterus in place. Potbellied pigs are small enough for a full spay, but this should still be done by an experienced vet hospital, especially once they are fully grown.

Vaccinations For Potbellied Pigs

Vaccinations are not specifically approved for Potbellied Pigs, so large breed pig vaccinations are often utilized. It’s critical to discuss the safety and efficacy of potential vaccine choices with a veterinarian prior to their use in potbellied pigs.

Porcine Stress Syndrome

This dangerous disease appears to be significantly more common in large breed pigs. Only a few potbellied pigs have ever had a confirmed case of the disease.

Handling And Restraining Potbellied Pigs

When you need to go beyond belly rubs for hoof and tusk trims or other restraint, rope snares are often utilized at sanctuaries for large breed pigs. If deemed to be safe for the individual, potbellied pigs can usually be flipped, either back into a “seated” position in a handler’s lap, or on their backs between a standing handler’s calves. It’s not typically considered safe to snare a potbellied pig because they may thrash and injure themselves.

Housing Potbellied Pigs

While pigs are social animals, pig introductions can be dangerous because fighting can be intense and herd dynamics can shift over time. Because pigs can be quite rough with each other and small pigs may not back down from a fight with much larger pigs, it’s important to be extremely careful if housing large breed pigs and potbellied pigs together. Some large breed pigs don’t seem to see potbellied pigs as part of the hierarchy and will ignore them, but the risk of injury is significant if a large breed pig confronts a potbellied pig. For this reason, it may be best to house potbellied pigs and large breeds pigs in separate living spaces at your sanctuary.

House Pigs

While potbellied pigs can live perfectly well in a barn-type living space, some individuals may do better living indoors depending on their personality. Many pigs can be housebroken or trained to use a litter box, although they can be more strong-willed to train than a dog, and rooting and other natural behaviors can make them destructive without proper pig-proofing. Stairs and slippery flooring are also issues that would need to be addressed. While large breed pigs could theoretically live inside, their size makes that scenario unworkable for most people!

Other Health Issues In Potbellied Pigs:

Due to the increased demand for “teacup” or “micro” pigs, potbellied pigs are more likely to be selected for their smaller size when breeding and may also be nutritionally malnourished. Health issues deriving from poor breeding practices include musculoskeletal deformities, heart disease, dystocia, hypoglycemia, seizures, and cleft palate. PBBs are also at risk for the following health issues:

  • Pneumonia – Due to their small lung capacity.
  • Cystitis and Urolithiasis – Yearly urinalysis can help identify issues before they become serious.
  • Nephritis (Following Cytitis) – Leptospirosis is often the cause. There is a 6-way vaccination that your veterinarian may recommend.
  • Psychogenic Water Consumption should be considered in potbellied pigs (especially young potbellied pigs) with polydipsia and polyuria.
  • Chronic Kidney Failure is a common cause of death in geriatric potbellied pigs. 
  • Constipation

This list will be periodically updated as we receive new information from experienced caretakers, scientific articles, and veterinary sources. If you have observed a difference between these two types of pigs that you would like to see added here, let us know! These resources are meant to help sanctuary staff provide the best care to their residents.

Hopefully, this resource allows you to develop a nuanced care policy for both large breed and potbellied breed residents!

Article Acknowledgements

This resource could not have been created without the generously shared knowledge of compassionate pig advocate Abbie Rogers, a senior caregiver at multiple sanctuaries over the course of a decade or hard work and dedication to the well being of so many beloved non-human animals.


Pig Care | Farm Sanctuary

Management of Potbellied Pigs | Merck Veterinary Manual 

Non-Compassionate Source?

If a source includes the (Non-Compassionate Source) tag, it means that we do not endorse that particular source’s views about animals, even if some of their insights are valuable from a care perspective. See a more detailed explanation here.

Updated on December 23, 2020

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