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Trimming Your Pig's Hooves
by Kathleen Myers

The pig’s foot consists of two primary toes and two dewclaws. Each of these toes is surrounded with a hard nail. There are nerves and blood vessels in each hoof, similar to the quick of our own nails. Be sure to keep this in mind as you start to cut back your pig’s nails. On the bottom of its hoof is a soft pad.

Since pigs do not like to be restrained to have their hooves trimmed, the best time to begin hoof-trimming training is when your pig is a piglet. The first step to help your pig understand hoof trimming can be fun is to desensitize the pet’s hoof to being touched and to having pressure placed on its feet. When your pig is comfortable and happy, relaxing for its tummy rub, just play with each of its hooves. Begin by stroking and gently rubbing the pig’s feet and legs. Repeat this until your pig will allow you to place a gentle pressure on its hooves, while holding its foot in your hand. You should be able to progress quickly to using a metal file to file its nails. Heartland offers a 4- Way File for this purpose. Take it slowly. This should be a pleasant experience for your pig and for you also. It is always best to start and end this process with a fun pig experience like a tummy rub or special treat. If the pig will only tolerate one hoof at a time, then that is all right. It is best to go at your pig’s speed than to get in a struggle over hoof filing. Some pet owners file one hoof a week so that by the end of the month all four hooves are done.

As the pig gets older, the file will probably not be adequate to take care of its hooves. Since your pet pig is tolerating your handling its feet and knows you will not hurt it, it is relatively easy to move on to hoof trimmers. The best clippers for trimming potbellied pig’s nails are a pair of stainless cutters, like Heartland’s Hoof Trimmers. They have curved blades and blunted ends with cushion grip handles. Since pig’s nails are very hard, it is best to get a good pair that is easy to use and that can be sharpened easily.

With your pig comfortably resting on its side for the expected tummy rub and with you sitting at its feet with your pair of clippers and file, you should look at the bottom of its hoof. Many pigs have a build up of dried flaky nail underneath. This build up can cause it to stand incorrectly. By removing this first, you will be able to see exactly where to trim its hooves without injury or pain. Using your trimmers or a large pair of non-pinching toenail clippers, you can trim the underside of the nail until the entire flaky nail is gone. You will come to smooth nail. Your goal is to have the underside of the nail flat with or just higher than the pad. After you have finished this, cutback both sides of the nail and blunt the end. Do no clip between the toes on the inside edge. You can then smooth the rough edges with a metal nail file. Just make sure you leave no sharp edges. After completing the nail trim move up to the dewclaws. The dewclaws can be shortened on the sides, if necessary. They too should be left with a blunt cut and a few file strokes to smooth any rough edges. To help prevent slits, the final step in your pigs hoof care is to rub Heartland’s Hoof Moisturizer, which promotes naturally moist hooves. Now that one foot is complete, you can move to the next one.

Some potbellies develop split hooves. If you run into a split in the hoof nail, you can start by cleaning the area with a topical antiseptic. With your file "cut" a shallow line across the top of the split. The split should then look like a "T". This “T” will help keep the split from moving up your pig’s hoof. By using Heartland’s Better Hooves, you can enhance your pig’s hoof growth and hardness. By supplying your pig with a good diet such as any of the Heartland Feed products, you will be able to prevent these splits in the future.

Now that your pet has perfectly manicured hooves, a way to help keep them like that is to allow your pet time on concrete. By regularly walking on concrete, a sidewalk, a patio or cement stepping-stones under its outside food and water dishes, your pig can help keep its hooves worn down. With many pigs, this technique almost eliminates the need for a monthly hoof trim.

Again, I want to stress patience. This should be a pleasurable experience for your pig. If your potbelly thinks that one hoof or even a partial hoof is all it wants to tolerate in one sitting, that is all right. It is always better to stop early than to push to an unhappy situation, because if your pig is happy at the end of even a partial hoof trim, then it is much more likely to allow you to do more later without stressing you or your pet pig.

Kathleen has written an excellent book that we recommend to all pet pig owners.
Click here to learn more about her newest revision

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