Nothing is more terrifying than hearing that intense squeal a potbelly pig makes when it’s in pain. It’s even more terrifying not knowing why your potbelly pig started limping and what could have caused it in the first place!
Pigs are very vocal animals, so they will tell you when something is wrong. Although they can be very strong and resilient animals, hoof or leg injuries can be very serious and even lead to permanent immobilization if not appropriately treated.
There are many factors that could cause your pig’s limping problem, such as severe trauma or injury, an underlying disease or illness, or even as simple as needing a hoof trimming.
It’s essential to know how to handle such situations and when you should reach out to your vet. We will dive into the detail of what could be causing your potbellied pig to limp and what your next steps should be.
Why your potbellied pig could be limping?
Obesity in pigs is very common because of their size and weight. Unfortunately, obesity can be why your potbellied pig has lower back, hindlimb, or forelimb weakness, causing them to limp.
Constant strain on the joints and muscles can eventually lead to more slips, trips, and falls for your pig causing more injuries.
Overgrown or cracked hooves
A potbellied pig’s hooves continue to grow throughout its life, just like human nails.
If your pig doesn’t have access to rough surfaces like concrete to help wear down their hooves, routine hoof trimming is required. Overgrown or cracked hooves can lead to posture and limping problems.
Hoof cracks can be caused by environmental conditions such as overly dry or wet flooring, nutritional issues such as a biotin deficiency, or simply caused by a trauma-related injury.
If hoof cracks are not treated properly, they can invite bacteria leading to possible infections.
Injuries can be anything from cuts to open wounds, fractures, sprains, and dislocations.
Such Injuries can be caused by environmental factors such as a fall down the stairs, rough flooring, tight enclosures, or anything sharp your pig could have encountered.
Fights with other animals are very common as well.
Although most injuries can be easily identified to be the cause of your pig’s limping problem, it is crucial to figure out how your pig got injured in the first place so you can make sure it doesn’t happen again.
The most common infection is a bacterial infection caused by a cut or open wound.
Cracks in the hooves can also invite bacteria, causing an abscess to be formed in the area, causing your pig to have extreme pain until the abscess bursts or is drained (bush foot).
Bacterial Infections are usually identified with redness, swelling, and soreness around an open wound or cut. Infections can also cause other symptoms such as fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or even abdominal pain.
Illnesses & Diseases
Some diseases can take a while to show their effects, such as Arthritis, osteomyelitis, or even Osteochondrosis, making it hard to identify the cause of your pig’s limping problem.
Osteomyelitis is caused by an infection that leads to the bone. Whereas Osteochondrosis is where the cartilage and joints become weak from the lack of blood flow causing loss of joint movement.
There are also acute conditions such as Dippity Pig Syndrome that causes painful red oozing sores on their back, leading to temporary loss of use of their hind legs and can reoccur at a later time.
Three things potbellied pig owners need to know about broken bones
Fractures are caused by a trauma-related injury and can range from a simple sprain to even a messy open fracture. Open and closed fractures are exactly how they sound to be.
Open fractures have a wound present where the bone may or may not be visible, whereas a closed fracture is where there is no external wound or cut.
Dislocations and sprains are the most common trauma-related injuries among potbelly pigs.
A dislocation results from the displacement of the bone to the joint, usually caused by an acute injury to the connective tissues. On the other hand, a sprain is caused by the tear or stretching of a ligament, tendon, or injury to a joint.
Signs and symptoms of a broken bone
Potbelly pigs are very vocal animals, so they will squeal and make other strange noises when they are in pain. That is your first sign, along with noticing how your pig is walking and getting around.
They might be walking around stiff, holding one of their legs off the ground, or refusing to walk at all. Redness and swelling will be very noticeable around the area as well, making it easier to identify the problem.
Just like humans, when pigs are in extreme pain, they will have changes in their attitude, which can lead them to not want to eat or drink.
How do vets treat a broken bone?
Depending on the severity of the fracture, some injuries are repairable, and unfortunately, some are not. An X-ray will be performed first to determine the extent of the damage.
If surgery is required to stabilize the fracture, your pig will be sedated first, then anesthetized to ensure a calm and comfortable surgery.
To access the broken bone, your vet will make an incision and utilize items such as pins, plates, and screws to hold the bone in place while the fracture heals.
Most fractures can take up to 4 to 8 weeks to heal. However, more complicated fractures can take up to 20 weeks. In some cases, a cast might have to be used to help the bone heal properly.
What to do if your potbelly pig is limping?
Stay calm & comfort your pig during this stressful time
Staying calm will help your pig feel more comfortable, especially during these stressful times. Being frantic and panicked will only worsen things, especially since pigs can sense how you feel.
If possible, try to put your pig in a warm, comfortable environment, somewhere they can lay down and rest to avoid causing any more injuries.
Try to figure out why your pig is limping.
Finding out the cause of your pig’s limping and pain is crucial. Observe how your pig is using that leg. Are they applying pressure or none at all? Is there a deep cut or wound present that may need stitches?
If there is an obvious fracture, dislocation, or sprain, you will need to try to immobilize your pig, and never try to splint yourself.
There are also illnesses and diseases that can cause your pig to limp, such as infections, arthritis, or even environmental stress.
When to contact your vet
There are a few instances where your vet should be contacted immediately.
Open and closed fractures, dislocations, and sprains are very painful to your pig, and depending on the extent of the injury, it could lead to permanent immobilization.
If your pig has any deep cuts or wounds, you will need to contact your vet immediately as they will need to be properly cleaned and sutured to prevent infection.
The cause of your pig’s limping problem could be as simple as needing a hoof trimming. If you cannot trim yourself, you will need to contact your vet.
If there are any signs of your pig’s symptoms worsening, it’s best to contact your vet immediately.
How to keep your potbellied pig safe?
Make sure they have a comfortable and safe environment
Whether indoors or outdoors, your pig should have some form of comfortable bedding such as blankets, pillows, timothy hay, or even a mattress.
If your potbellied pig is kept outdoors, make sure they have access to lots of water and shade for those hotter days as well as a warm heated area in the winter.
It’s also vital to keep their area clear from any environmental hazards that could potentially cause injuries, such as stairs, uneven ground, or even sharp objects.
Food and exercise requirements
Most health problems in potbelly pigs come from an improper diet, leading to obesity, arthritis, or even heart problems.
Try to stick to potbelly pig food/grain, Leafy greens, lettuce, and some fruit. Make sure your pig always has fresh water as well.
Exercise is just as important as diet. Unfortunately, some pigs present destructive behavior when kept in smaller spaces or are not getting enough exercise, leading to injuries.
Maintaining a healthy pig can be hard work at times, but just like dogs and cats, there are yearly vaccines they need to help prevent different diseases and illnesses.
Annual check-ups are recommended to check your pig’s hooves and tusks for possible trimming.
Some potbellied pig owners can do this themselves. However, if they are not properly trimmed, it can lead to more limping, pain, and even infection. It’s best to get them done by your vet.