My daughter has always wanted a little pot-bellied pig to keep as a pet in our yard at the homestead. These pigs are certainly adorable when young, but they grow older and much larger.
As we considered getting her a pig, I wondered if they make good pets and how long they live. I know a dog can live up to 15 years if well taken care of, but just how old would a pet pig get? My dad had always said that a pig gets as old as your appetite. I certainly had no intention of slaughtering a pet pig, but just how long this commitment would be was a concern.
How long do pigs live? Depending on the pig’s environment and the care it receives, a domestic pig can live 15-18 years. However, the world’s record for longevity among pet pigs is a staggering 23 years, which shows that with good care and love, a pig can really be a long-term companion (and commitment).
There are several factors that affect a pig’s life expectancy, and I’ll cover everything you need to know about your pig’s longevity right here.
How Long do Mini Pigs and Teacup Pigs Live?
Mini pigs and teacup pigs are often terms used synonymously. However, they mean different things. Mini pigs are certain pig breeds, usually pot-bellied pig breeds, that don’t grow as large as other pig breeds. Teacup pigs come from mini pig breeds but have been inbred to create smaller pigs than mini breeds usually produce. The inbreeding creates additional health problems for the pigs.
In addition, teacup pigs still get quite a bit bigger than a teacup. In order to keep a pig smaller than it normally would grow, teacup pigs are often starved. Overall, they have poor health.
How long do mini pigs live? Mini pigs live an average of 18-20 years if left to live a full life. Mini pigs are bot-bellied pig breeds and even in the wild tend to live longer than their wild counterparts. Mini pigs have fewer aging issues than other breeds, which contributes to their long lives.
How long do teacup pigs live? Teacup pigs live for 5 years. They have a shorter lifespan because they are inbred to create a smaller size and under-fed to keep them small. As a result, teacup pigs are not healthy pigs. Perpetually starving and inbreeding introduces many health issues not usually found in pigs and shortens their lifespan.
Mini pigs, which are used to breed teacup pigs, are the longest-living pig breeds.
Factors Affecting a Pet Pig’s Life Expectancy
How long do pet pigs live? Pet pigs can live as long as 18-20 years. Pet pigs usually receive higher care than other domesticated pigs and are treated more frequently for health problems.
How long do wild pigs live? Wild pigs live an average of 6-8 years. After 4 years, the mortality rate increases to 50% each year. Exceptionally older wild pigs max out around 10-12 years. Experts consider 9-10 years to be the maximum age for most wild pigs. Their shorter lifespan is due to their exposure to harsh weather, famine, and predators.
Numerous factors will affect a pig’s lifespan.
- In commercial piggeries, pigs are slaughtered as young as three months. Most pigs are slaughtered at six months of age, at which point the pig will weigh about 200-300 pounds.
- Pet pigs live a very different life, and other factors can affect their longevity.
- Teacup pigs live less time because they are inbred and starved to keep them small.
- Overall Health:
- Genetics, disease, exposure, and other factors affect an individual pig’s lifespan.
Ensuring your pet pig is healthy will extend their lifespan, therefore, it’s important to know the signs of pig diseases so you can help your pig.
Pig Digestive Disorders
A pig is nature’s version of a vacuum cleaner. They will eat anything. However, the problem is that pigs are not meant to eat everything. While it may seem suitable for pigs, some food can cause stomach upset and lead to digestive issues.
- Obstructions: Pigs will eat almost anything. But, this can expose them to intestinal bacteria that could be harmful and lead to inflammation of the gut. Indigestion will require treatment with antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medication if needed. If your pig has managed to swallow something too large to pass through the digestive tract, this can lead to gastric obstruction or a ruptured intestine, proving fatal.
- Diseases: Common digestive diseases that pigs get include Colibacillosis, which is caused by E. coli bacteria and leads to diarrhea, and salmonella infection, which can cause bloody feces and weakness (and, if not treated, will lead to death).
- Constipation and Rectal Prolapse: Pet pigs may also be low on water consumption if they are kept indoors, leading to constipation if their gut dries out. If constipation isn’t treated quickly, it can lead to rectal prolapse, where sections of the gut protrude from the anus. This painful condition can cause secondary infections and septicemia and lead to death.
Bone and Muscular Disorders
Pigs are large animals. While not always a large size, most breeds will be heavy, negatively affecting their bones and joints. Plus, overfeeding or “fattening up” a pig will further exacerbate the issue, leading to chronic lameness, arthritis, and problems with movement.
- Lameness: Lameness may result from an injury, such as when your pig tries to jump down some steps or falls and lands badly. The sheer weight of a large pig will contribute enough force to break front limbs and damage vertebrae in the back. While you can opt to have these injuries repaired, the long-term prognosis regarding their health and longevity is not good.
- Arthritis: Pigs are also prone to arthritis, which can result from a bacterial infection or degeneration of the bones. In addition, the pig’s excessive weight will further worsen these painful conditions, ultimately shortening their lives.
- Poor Hoof Health: Believe it or not, you may need to get your local farrier out to trim your pet pig’s hooves. Pigs experience as much hoof growth as horses do, and while wild pigs self-maintain their hooves with the wear and tear of walking over rough terrain, domestic pigs don’t. Therefore, your pig’s hooves may crack or become infected if not kept to a short length.
- Tetanus: The Clostridium tetani bacteria cause another disease that affects pigs, commonly known as tetanus. Signs of this infection are muscle stiffness and tremors. Often, this disease can lead to death if left untreated. Therefore, inspect your pet pig for injuries and signs of infectious sites on their body, as this is where the tetanus virus enters their bloodstream. However, annual vaccinations will help prevent tetanus.
Disease and Disorders Affecting the Brain and Spinal Cord
Several nervous system diseases can affect pigs, especially young piglets. Constantly monitor your pet pig, and you will usually pick up on these early, as your pig will have an elevated temperature or show physical signs of incoordination.
- Neurological Diseases: If treated early with antibiotics, your pig has a good chance of survival. However, these diseases often strike fast, and you may simply find your pet pig deceased in their crate or pen.
- Overheating: Other reasons why pigs may die early include overheating. Pigs can’t sweat, which makes the saying “to sweat like a pig” quite ironic. So, if temperatures exceed 85°F and there is a high humidity factor, pigs won’t be able to control their internal temperature. This means your pig may quite literally boil in their own skin or suffer brain damage due to overheating.
- Salt Toxicity: Pigs can also suffer from salt poisoning. This condition affects the brain when your pig’s fluid-salt balance is off. Pigs that have been denied water may suffer this condition, which will cause tremors, disorientation, blindness, and even brain damage. If your pig has experienced this condition, the only choices are to gradually rehydrate them (which may require your vet to administer an IV solution), or you may need to euthanize your pig.
Respiratory Disease and Disorders
My daughter was rather shocked when she noticed how wet the pigs at the local piggery’s noses were on her first visit there. Pigs tend toward runny noses, but this can quickly turn to respiratory infections.
- Rhinitis: If your piglets start to sneeze, it could indicate the presence of rhinitis-causing bacteria. I was amazed to discover that this condition could lead to violent sneezing, nose bleeds, and distortion of the pig’s nostrils. Over time, the nostril distortion can affect the pig’s regular breathing. You can vaccinate against this, but the pregnant sow needs to be vaccinated for the piglets to have immunity. As can be expected, chronic rhinitis can cause serious health issues, which may shorten a pig’s lifespan.
- Pneumonia: Infection of the soft tissue of the lungs can lead to pneumonia. The usual culprits are bacteria that are contracted from littermates, other pigs, and an unclean environment. Luckily, there is a supportive treatment to relieve this severe infection, and antibiotics may help fight off these bacteria. However, a pig with pneumonia is in danger of dying.
- Swine Flu: When the cause of the pneumonia isn’t bacterial but rather a virus, your pig will need to be treated immediately as swine flu is highly contagious and can be passed to humans. Seek the help of your vet immediately, be careful, and take precautions when handling your pig. Also, wear gloves and wash your hands with a medical-grade soap after handling your pet pig.
Skin Conditions That Cause Poor Health
While pigs are naturally itchy and tend toward dry and flaky skin, they can also develop melanomas. These cancerous growths may or may not be malignant.
Usually, these regress independently, and don’t affect a pig’s lifespan. However, some melanomas may ultimately lead to an early death.
- Diamond Skin: Far from being a fancy new skin tattoo, diamond skin, as it’s commonly called, is a contagious skin condition caused by a bacterial infection. This infection can spread throughout the pig in severe cases, affecting their joints, heart, and lungs. Therefore, death often occurs if the disease runs its course without treatment. Should you be breeding pigs for slaughter, these affected pigs are not fit for human (or animal) consumption as the bacteria will spread to other animals too. If you suspect your pig has diamond skin, you need to contact your vet and isolate your pet pig to treat them. Administering antibiotics like penicillin is usually effective if the disease is in the early stages.
Urinary Tract Conditions That Could Cause Death
- Calculi: Calcified stones formed in their bladder and kidneys. Pigs can also develop urinary tract infections that are painful and can lead to obstructions that may require surgical interventions. But having your pet pig screened annually with a urine test will help ensure they remain healthy.
- Overconsumption of Water: Usually caused by boredom. As a result of too much water in their digestive tract, pigs may urinate too frequently, losing precious nutrients and unbalancing their salt levels.
- Kidney Failure: Usually affects older pigs. It can also occur if it hasn’t always enjoyed the best care or if they drink too much or too little water. Any of these urinary tract conditions could cause premature death to your pet pig.
How to Increase My Pig’s Life Expectancy
1. Feed Pigs Healthy Food (Not Just Anything)
Your pet pig is not your garbage bin. Pigs should be fed pig-safe food that is commercially designed for their particular breed. Since you are not fattening up your pet pig for slaughter, you should provide a low-carbohydrate feed that will sustain them but not lead to obesity.
Always feed fresh, natural foods like cabbage, lettuce, carrots, and apples. Never feed leftovers that may contain unsafe foods for pigs, because unsafe human food leftovers are how diseases and illnesses often start.
Ensure your pet pig has enough water, and if they sleep outside in the pen, be sure their water supply doesn’t freeze at night. A water heater may be required in cold climates. 2.
2. Pigs Need Space and Exercise.
Pet pigs require exercise. While a pig raised for slaughter doesn’t necessarily need a lot of space to move around, a pet pig is hopefully going to live much longer. So, having enough space to explore, satisfy their digging instincts, and forage for natural foods is an ideal environment.
Ensure your pig gets enough sunlight to boost their vitamin D3 production, but be aware that a pig has light-toned skin that easily sunburns (unless it’s a brown or black-skinned pig).
If you keep your pig in a small yard or a city apartment, be sure you take your pig for regular strolls. While pigs can run, it is not healthy for their joints when they become larger. Instead, let them mozy along on a harness with you at the park or around the block.
Your pig should have access to some good natural mud, freshwater to rinse in, and a nice dust bath area where they can roll to maintain their skin’s optimal condition. You can bathe your pig, but overdoing this will lead to crusty skin and serious skin problems. After all, a healthy pig is a happy pig.
3. Provide a Clean, Safe Environment
Most importantly, when it comes to your pig’s health, it is vital that you keep them in a safe environment. If your pig gets out of your yard, then they may be hit by a car (ending their life early), or dogs may attack them.
Ensure your pig’s environment is safe, secure, and toxin-free. If your pig is an indoor pig, it’s advised that you fine-tooth comb your home like you would for a human baby.
Consider whether there are electrical wires in the range of your pig’s mouth, if the furniture paint is lead-free and if there are furniture items that your pig may run over, potentially injuring themselves. Finally, it’s your responsibility to keep your pet pig safe so that they can reach a ripe old age.
4. Seek Vet Help in Emergencies
You can take steps to ensure your pet pig lives a healthy and long life. It’s not rocket science! Simply ensure you cover all the bases your own child has: is your pet eating correctly, has your pig been vaccinated for contagious diseases, and do you regularly take your pet pig for a vet check?
If your human child is ill, you won’t hesitate to consult with a doctor. So, if your pet pig is unwell, don’t hesitate to speak to a vet and get them the treatment they need.
Also, make sure your pet pig is happy. Because when a pig is happy, they will live longer since they will be healthy too. Pigs are group animals, so don’t keep only one pig on its own. Rather keep two or three pigs together to meet their social needs.
Abandonment of Pet Pigs as a Cause of Premature Death
Another sad reason many pet pigs don’t live to a ripe old age is that most people are completely unprepared for what is involved in keeping a pig as a pet. Therefore, many pet pigs are abandoned annually when people dump them in animal rescues and shelters.
The reasons for their abandonment are often as silly as “I didn’t know the pig would grow that much,” or “I can’t teach the pig any tricks,” or “This pig is so messy.”
So, before you think about adopting a pet pig, do your homework and determine whether you would be a good pet pig parent.
What You Need to Know About Pet Pigs Life Expectancy
You’ve decided to get a pet pig—Great!
My daughter was overjoyed when we decided to get her one. In our research, we also discovered that different pig breeds could reach a range of ages. So, to help you make the best choice in pig breed here are some popular pig breeds with their unique lifespans:
|Pig Breed||Average Life Expectancy in Years|
|Poland China Pigs||6-10|
|Chester White Pigs||6-8|
As a general rule, the larger the pig, the lower its life expectancy. So smaller pigs tend to live longer.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long do domesticated pigs live? Domesticated pigs can live for an average of 10-15 years if allowed to live out their lives. The lifespan of a pig will depend on its use; slaughter, breeding, or pet. Domesticated pigs can live longer lives than wild pigs because they maintain better health and diet.
How long do pigs live before slaughter? Pigs are slaughtered at 6 months. On a small farm or homestead, pigs may live as many as 9 months before slaughter. This is the optimal age for food to weight ratio. After 6 months a pig’s weight gain slows down and they continue to increase how much food they eat.
What breed of pigs lives the longest? The Vietnamese Pot-Bellied Pig has the longest lifespan and can live up to 20 years. Other pot-bellied pig breeds also have longer lifespans which range between 18-20 years. Mini pig breeds live longer than larger breeds and teacup pigs. The oldest pig ever recorded, Jane, was 23.5 years old. No pig is known to live longer than 23 years.
How can you tell a pig’s age? A pig’s age can be estimated by looking at their teeth, assessing their weight and development, inspecting tusks, and observing behavior. Pigs have baby teeth and grow adult teeth at 2-3 years old. Age can be estimated by examining the type of teeth and the amount of wear and tear on the teeth. Tusks come in at 2 years as well. In addition, pigs’ weight, growth, and behavior can also be assessed using average breed trends.
When you are ready to get your pet pig, remember one thing. Pet pigs are awesome!
We love our little spotted pig, and it’s been such a blast training her and introducing her to the other animals in the yard. Because we know that if we take good care of her, she will live for many years. She can even be around when my daughter goes to her prom one day.
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