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A Pig as a Pet? You bet!

Gone are the days when the word “pig” would conjure up a vision of a huge sloppy sow on a farm, rolling in mud. Today, pigs are commonly kept as pets in people’s homes, even in urban areas. Pet pigs and farm pigs are the same species, so, theoretically, they can mate. However, their breeds — and therefore their sizes, temperaments and basic needs — can vary greatly.

Size Matters

Pet pigs are generally divided into different types depending on size. The term “mini pig” is a general description that includes many different sizes of pet pigs — but keep in mind, to some people, the term “mini pig” can still mean a pig that is quite large by household pet standards. Depending on whom you ask, there are a variety of names for different sizes of pigs, but in general, mini pigs commonly kept as pets fall into one of the following groups:

Potbellied pigs (also known as Vietnamese potbelly pigs, Chinese potbellied pigs and potbelly pigs) stand 16 to 26 inches tall at the shoulders and weigh between 125 and 200 pounds. While still quite large, these are much smaller than farm pigs, which can weigh 800 pounds or more.

Miniature potbellied pigs stand 15 to 16 inches tall at the shoulders and may weigh up to 100 pounds.

Teacup potbellied pigs are 14.5 inches tall at the shoulders and are really just smaller potbelly pigs, generally weighing 35 to 45 pounds. Be aware that the “teacup” designation refers to how big they are at birth, not at adulthood.

Toy potbellied pigs are 14 inches tall and weigh 35 to 45 pounds.

Micro mini pigs stand 10 to 12.5 inches tall and weigh 18 to 30 pounds.

Mini Julianas (also called miniature painted pigs or spotted Julianas) are 8 to 12.5 inches tall and weigh 15 to 28 pounds. Julianas are a separate breed from potbellies. They are more delicately structured than the potbelly and have a long nose and a spotted coat.

While these pet pigs are commonly distinguished by size, all pigs, including farm pigs, are very small at birth (generally between 2 and 4 pounds). That’s why it’s essential, if you’re getting a pet pig, to find out how big its full-grown parents are (and perhaps even its grandparents)…

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Dr. Laurie Hess, Exotic Animal Veterinarian & Bird Specialist, Advocates Medical Care For Exotic Pets

Dr. Laurie Hess, exotic animal veterinarian and one of approximately 150 board-certified bird specialists worldwide, spends nearly all of her free time advocating that exotic pets – birds, rabbits, ferrets, rodents, reptiles, amphibians, and other less common exotic species (sugar gliders, hedgehogs, pot-bellied pigs, kinkajous, and wallabies) – need regular preventative medical care, just like dogs and cats. Hess, who has been treating birds and exotic pets solely for the past 19 years, cares for these animals daily in Bedford Hills, NY, at her veterinary hospital – the Veterinary Center for Birds & Exotics – the only animal hospital in Westchester County, NY, and the surrounding counties in NY and CT that caters exclusively to exotic pets.


According to Hess, these pets are not typically brought to animal hospitals until they are sick, sometimes critically. As a result, Hess has taken on the role as an advocate for these animals, educating their owners and the public, in general, about the benefits not only to pets, but also to their owners, of regular medical check-ups for these species.

“Despite the fact that nearly 12.6 million of the 60 million pet-owning households in the U.S. own exotic pets, ” said Hess, “exotic pet owners still rarely think about bringing their animals to the vet after they purchase or adopt them.”  Hess, who has appeared as an exotic pet expert on national TV shows such as Animal Planet’s “Little Pets 101,” CBS’s “The Doctors,” the Martha Stewart Show, Inside Edition, and Fox Business News, takes any chance she can get to speak pet owners about the benefits of owning exotic pets and the proper ways to care for them. “We know so much more today than we did 20 years ago about how to keep these animals healthy, and we have such great technology available to help treat them when they are ill. If only people would bring them to veterinarians to learn how to care for them properly to prevent disease, the animals would have a better quality of life, and pet owners would save money on treatment.” In addition to spreading her message on TV, Hess appears regularly on radio stations across the U.S. and Canada, speaks internationally to both pet owners and veterinary professionals, and blogs and publishes on various exotic pet topics (see commonly asked questions & answers: http://www.avianexoticsvet.com/docs/laurie_hess_transcript.pdf  ).

After graduating summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa from Yale University and receiving her doctorate from Tufts Veterinary School, Hess completed a one-year internship and two-year residency at the prestigious Animal Medical Center in NYC where she stayed on to head the Avian & Exotic Pet Service. Following years of treating exotic pets in private veterinary practice, in 2010, Dr. Hess took her message about specialty care for exotics a step further and founded the Veterinary Center for Birds & Exotics, the only American Animal Hospital Association accredited bird and exotic specialty hospital in NY and only one of 5 in the world. At the Center, Hess and her staff provide complete medical, surgical, and boarding care for these unique species, employing the same cutting edge therapies to these pets that are typically used in people, including ultrasonography, digital radiography, cold laser therapy, and endoscopy. For more information about exotic pets, to interview Dr. Hess, or to learn about the Veterinary Center for Birds & Exotics, visit www.LaurieHessDVM.com and www.avianexoticsvet.com.

Contact: Laurie Hess

Could your pet have parasites? Indoor pets get worms, too!

So often, at the Veterinary Center for Birds & Exotics, we hear owners say that their pets could never have parasites because they don’t go outside. Not true. Many pets – mammals, birds, and reptiles – are never outside their families’ homes, yet they carry parasites in their intestinal tracts and can shed these microscopic parasites in their stool. Once the stool dries up in their cages, small bits of dry stool can blow around the environment to be inhaled by other pets or people or get on the hands of caretakers who clean the cage. Many of these parasites are harmful to people, as well as pets. Furthermore, many of these microscopic parasites resist common disinfectants used to clean cages, so they persist in the animals’ environments and continuously re-infect these pets as they eat in their cages; the infected pets continue to shed these infectious parasites in their stool, and the vicious cycle of re-infection is established. Thus, even if your pet shows none of the common signs of gastrointestinal parasite infection, such as diarrhea, weight loss, or an unkempt appearance, he or she may be infected anyway and could spread these parasites to you and your family. This is particularly an issue if young children who forget to wash their hands are handling these animals. Thus, it is essential that all pets are checked for parasites once you first bring them into your home and at least annually after that. Unfortunately, if an animal has intestinal parasites, they are not always continuously shed into its stool. So, a check of a single stool sample may not actually be a true representation of what’s going on in that pet’s intestines. This is particularly true for reptiles that are so often infected with gastrointestinal parasites that we routinely deworm them with general deworming medications even before we get back the results of their fecal analyses. So, even if your mammal, bird, or reptile is seemingly healthy, it is critical that he or she is checked annually for gastrointestinal parasites, both for their health and your health. Even if they are not obviously affected now with these organisms, if these parasites are left untreated, your pet may eventually lose weight and become ill, and worse yet, so could your family. Deworming is safe, easy, and inexpensive. Why wait for a serious problem to happen if you can prevent it now?