Pigs are known for being voracious eaters – after all, you’ve likely heard the saying, “he eats like a pig!” However, when your pig suddenly doesn’t want to go anywhere near the feed trough, you might start to panic.
Why isn’t my pig eating? When a pig doesn’t eat, it’s usually due to dehydration. If your pig has plenty of clean, cool water, then your pig might be bored with their food. Pigs can be picky eaters too. Changing up their food can often help. In rare cases, your pig might be dehydrated, sick, overheated, or suffering from a parasite problem.
Addressing these concerns is the best way to get your pig back on track – and eating well. Let’s dive deeper into the causes of appetite loss in pigs – and what you can do about it.
Why is My Pig Not Eating?
Healthy pigs should eat daily and consistently. If your pig isn’t eating, watch for these common issues.
The most common reason why a pig won’t eat is that it is dehydrated. Pigs need water to digest food. Eating while dehydrated will cause a pig to become even more dehydrated. As a result, pigs will stop eating as they get more dehydrated.
If your pigs won’t eat, refill their water with clean, cool water. Make sure you have enough watering troughs for your pigs so that even smaller, weaker pigs lower on the hierarchy can have access to water.
2. Picky Eaters and Food Issues
There are some foods that individual pigs will like, and others that they won’t. First, check to make sure the food is not moldy or spoiling. Your pigs will show preferences of their own and you may have to adjust your feeding strategy to accommodate those preferences.
There are some foods pigs aren’t naturally fond of, such as artichokes, cabbage, onions, corn husks, and cauliflower.
For the most part, you shouldn’t have trouble getting your pigs to eat favorite foods like cucumbers, melons, pumpkins, milk, and a formulated feed ration. They love sweet treats, too, though these should always be fed in moderation.
3. Illness, Injury, or Parasites
If your pig is suffering from any kind of ailment – be it an illness, injury, or parasite infestation – there’s a good chance that her appetite will suffer. Deworming, even if it is with a natural solution like garlic or apple cider vinegar instead of a chemical dewormer, can be helpful.
Other diseases that cause pigs to go off their feed include, but are not limited to:
- Hog cholera
- Swine dysentery
- Intestinal parasites
- Uterine infection
4. Stress, Depression, or Boredom
Pigs are creatures of habit – and they are prone to more mood-related problems than you might think.
A pig might stop eating if it is stressed, has had its routine changed, has been transported recently, or is depressed. Pigs can become stressed from losing companion pigs. Sometimes a pig will even stop eating if it is bored, preferring instead to lounge around in the mud all day.
How Do I Get My Pig to Eat?
Here are some tips to help you convince your pigs to chow down.
Adjust Watering Routine
If your piglets are struggling with their water (a common issue since they tend to flip over their watering buckets to play in them), try using a bottle drinker. These have large rubber nipples so that the piglets can get used to the idea of drinking from something that looks much like a mama pig’s teats.
You may also want to try providing a cleaner source of water. Pigs won’t drink water if it’s dirty or foul-smelling. If there’s lots of food, algae, or bacteria in the water, clean it out and replace it. Ideally, you should replace the water every day or set your pigs up on an auto drinker that will provide them with fresh water at all times. That way, you don’t have to worry about them running out because they flipped the tub to play in the mud.
Change the Feed
There are a few hacks you can try to “trick” your pigs into eating more. For example, you might:
- Put water in the feed to make it softer and more palatable
- Sweeten things up with molasses or a bit of honey on top of the regular food ration
- Offering food in automatic feeders instead of feeding by hand (so that all pigs have equal access to the food throughout the day)
- Try treats like peanuts, eggs, vegetables, milk, or bread (calorie-laden foods should be used only temporarily and in moderation to prevent any ill health effects)
Check for Illness or Injury and Treat Accordingly
It’s impossible to detail all of the possible injuries and illnesses that might befall your pigs. However, if you suspect that this is why your pigs are not eating, it’s important that you do a thorough examination.
Check their temperature and weigh them. Look for injuries from top to bottom. Is your pig vomiting? Does the poop look strange? Is her breathing raspy or shallow? Make a list of any symptoms that are accompanying the lack of appetite and write them down. Then, make an appointment with your vet.
There are certain vitamins that pigs need in order to stay healthy. You may want to consider giving your pigs a vitamin B12 supplement – you can also use a multi-stock solution that’s meant to be poured directly into their food.
Lysine is another nutrient (an amino acid) that pigs need. Without it, they won’t put on weight well. Make sure your pigs have a diet rich in lysine (it’s found in dairy products) if they aren’t eating as they should.
Provide More Activity
Some people are hesitant to add more activity into their pigs’ daily routines when they already seem as though they aren’t getting enough calories. Why would you want them to burn more?
The truth is that increasing your pigs’ activity level is a great way to lessen feelings of boredom and depression and to improve their appetite. Often, a clean barn and some fresh air outside are all that your pigs need in order to feel like eating again!
Whenever possible, give your pigs access to the great outdoors. Keeping pigs cooped up in a barn is a surefire way to kill their appetite.
Add Friendly Competition
Sometimes, single pigs can get depressed and lonely, which will make them go off their feed. That’s because pigs are herd animals and do best with other pigs. If your pig isn’t eating, consider adding more pigs. This is of course something you should put some thought into. However, pigs who are raised with other companions often eat more and gain weight better than those who are raised individually, since the friendly competition for food encourages them to eat.
Provide High-Calorie Treats
If your pig is refusing to eat, it can be hard to convince her to do so even after you’ve addressed the underlying issue. If she was sick, she may associate her food with the unpleasant symptoms and be unwilling to eat as a result. She may also just have no appetite.
A good way to encourage her to eat again – and to help her get her appetite back – is to provide plenty of high-calorie treats. This will enable her to put back on any weight she has lost while also enticing her to eat her regular feed ration.
You won’t want to continue with these high-calorie treats forever, but temporarily feeding foods like molasses (poured on top of the regular feed), cakes, and cheese can all be helpful in encouraging your pig to eat normally again.
Tips for Feeding Healthy Pigs
- Introduce a variety of foods (don’t overdo it on things like bread)
- Use an auto feeder
- Make sure you’re not overfeeding
- Ensure that feed rations are correct for pig based on individual health, age, breeding status, etc (for example, lactating or pregnant sows need more)
Weaning Piglets Who Don’t Want to Eat
Piglets who are in the process of being weaned from their mothers often demonstrate a lack of appetite.
It can be difficult to encourage these young animals to eat when they don’t want to, particularly if the weaning was done abruptly or too early.
Give piglets creep feed while they are still nursing. This can be offered free choice or you can try mat-feeding, which involves spreading a small amount of feed on floor mats to encourage the pigs to rut and ingest feed as early as possible.
Wait until piglets are at least six weeks old to begin the process of weaning. Many commercial pig farmers do it earlier, but you may have more trouble getting your pigs to eat solid food if you attempt to wean them young.
Providing a separate feeding area from the mother can help – this will prevent her from getting into the creep feed, which should be a specialized feed just for your piglets (it will be more digestible and have specialty ingredients to improve post-weaning feed intake).
You can also use an appetizer to entice them to eat. This usually includes traditional feed that encourages piglets to explore these old feed based on aroma and texture. These are available at most farm supply stores and generally consist of things like oats, milk and fish proteins, and other ingredients. You can even make your own appetizers out of things like milk replacer powder sprinkled on feed, if you choose.
Of course, providing plenty of water is essential, too.
Most of the time, a temporary lack of appetite during weaning is normal. As long as your piglets are eating something, there’s not necessarily any reason to panic. You should notice this situation improve quickly as your piglets get older, but if not, the tips above should help encourage them to eat.
Warning Signs That Your Pig is Suffering
Sometimes, your pig will have days that it just isn’t that hungry. I’ve noticed that our pigs eat a lot less when the weather is hot. Instead, they prefer to hunker down in the woods in the shade. They’ll come out at night to eat instead.
That’s totally normal, and as long as you provide your pigs with plenty of water so that they can continue to drink during the day, you shouldn’t worry. The only time this would be problematic is if your pigs are not compensating for their fasting during the day by eating at other times – or if the lack of appetite is accompanied by other symptoms.
Some signs that your pig is suffering from not eating enough include symptoms such as:
- Change in mood
- A hunched back while walking
- Trouble walking
- Elevated temperature
- Very dark or concentrated urine
- Patchy hair loss
- Coughing or other signs of infection like nasal discharge (which could indicate an illness that’s causing the lack of appetite)
If you see any of these in any of your pigs who aren’t eating enough, it may be time to consider whether it’s just a temporary lack of appetite or a symptom that’s indicative of a larger overall issue.
When to See a Vet About a Pig Who Won’t Eat
When does not eating get dangerous for a pig?
While a pig can survive quite some time without food (a few days to a week, in most cases), going without water is a far more dire situation. Without water, a pig can die from salt poisoning in just 24 hours. Of course, complications from dehydration can set in even sooner than that – which is why keeping plenty of water out for your pigs is so essential.
Though a pig can live for a few days without eating anything at all, it’s important to see a vet if you notice a lack of appetite for longer than a day. While some natural variations in appetite are expected – and totally normal, as they are with humans – a refusal to eat anything at all is often a symptom of an underlying disease.
That’s especially true if your pig is exhibiting other symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, or extreme and rapid weight loss. If you notice any of these, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.
A pig who isn’t eating as much isn’t a situation that’s necessarily dangerous unless it turns into a pig who refuses to eat anything at all for more than a day. Consider the causes and potential solutions above – but when in doubt, always seek medical attention. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is my mini pig not eating?
If your mini pig is not eating, TAKE IMMEDIATE ACTION. it is sick, dehydrated, or the food is not good. Make sure that your pig has access to cool, clean water, especially in extreme weather. Provide clean food. Some mini pigs won’t eat if the food is moldy or spoiling. Check for signs of other illnesses including lethargy, parasites, and vitamin deficiencies.
What is poisonous to pigs?
Food poisoning can cause your pigs to get sick. Do not feed them plants like ivy, cocklebur, hemlock, or nightshade plants. Bracken, foxglove, elder, and Jimson weed are toxic. Although pigs can eat most of what people can eat, do not feed them fish and meat. Pigs should not eat milk, processed human foods, including foods high in fat, salt, or sugar.
How long can pigs go without food or water?
Pigs without adequate water will start to suffer from salt poisoning within 24 hours. Pigs can get dehydrated within two hours if they don’t have access to water, especially on a hot day. They will usually get sick if they go without food for 48 hours. Even in cold weather, water is important because it plays a crucial role in regulating body temperature.
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