Original Posting: Nov 19, 2018 | Latest Update: October 19, 2021
Time and time again we come across inquiries with responses mentioning their pig isn’t very active anymore or always seems crabby. These are usually pigs that had gone from a happy, active pig that used to root around, to a pig that only comes out to potty and barely stands up to eat or drink. When we arrive, every single time laid a pig with extremely long hooves and/or hoof trauma.
Weight loss as far as nutritional changes only goes so far. It takes moving and burning energy in addition to the addition of fresh produce and/or commercial feed. If a pig in your care is being fed the correct amount of food daily and is still gaining weight (or having trouble losing weight), take a closer look at their little trotters.
MINI PIG HOOF TRIMMING TOOLS
Being a mini pig hoof trimming service that specializes in miniature pig hooves, we have searched and tested multiple tools out there that work best for our line of work. There are many others out there that may not agree with the tool selection we recommend. It is up to you to decide what is best for yourself and your pig when trimming hooves at home. The following tools are what we recommend for hoof trimming at home and tools our clients see in our own professional hoof trimming equipment.
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Note: We NEVER recommend horse hoof trimmers/horse nippers for trimming pig hooves. Filing tools are the safest option for at-home use, including beginners getting used to working with pigs. As a professional service that has seen hundreds of pigs, previous trimmers using equine nippers and shears/limb trimmers have caused one too many botch hoof trims, long-term injuries, and mental trauma to pigs.
MINI PIG HOOF LENGTH AND SHAPE
If you were wearing improperly fit shoes, or shoes that had a wedge on one side of your foot, you would feel uncomfortable and unsure to walk daily. This is how a pig with long hooves feels. Over time, long hooves and/or excess weight on their hooves can lead to hoof and muscle trauma, causing discomfort, limping, muscle pain and joint inflammation, hoof cracks, hoof rot, and in some rare cases, hoof splits that are extreme and need repair.
The length of a mini pig hoof varies depending on genetics. Pigs with strong potbelly genetics have a wider hoof structure to account for their weight. Pigs with half or more feral hog genetics have a slim and longer hoof structure as wild pigs need speed and better digging capabilities. When trimming longer overgrown hooves, it is essential to follow the “less is more” protocol. By allowing yourself room to file the hooves back, you risk less of a chance of cutting into the soft blood-rich tissue of the sole.
On light and darker colored hooves, you can often see the sole shape within the hoof by filing off old layers of the hoof on the underside. On younger pig hooves, you can easily look at the hoof in sunlight or with a flashlight. With pigs that have years of hoof buildup, the shape of the sole can be harder to see. This is why a rotary tool comes in very handy to start shaving off old layers get down to the newer layers of hoof all around. A white or grey line will appear in darker hooves that outlines the unique shape of your pig’s hoof. Younger pigs normally have less layers on the hoof and are easier to see where new growth is.
Mini Pig Hoof Trim Informational Gallery
MINI PIG HOOF KERATIN BUILDUP
Now, the hoof length and shape is just a part of the equation when it comes to hoof care. Any keratin buildup along the hairline (coronary band) of the hoof can also pose an issue. Pig hooves grow new hoof layers all the way around the hoof. That is where most go wrong in hoof trimming sessions. Buildup on the underside of the hoof can cause imbalance when walking and harbor bacteria/fungus in older separated layers that can lead to thrush and hoof rot. Buildup on the top of the hoof can lead to joint inflammation and hide cracks that may also lead to infections that can travel to the bone. By keeping the hairline—similar to a human cuticle—clean, moisturized, and free of excess keratin buildup, this will help fight cracks and joint inflammation. A cleaner growth will begin coming in after a proper trim and moisturizing, as well as any nutritional changes to promote stronger, healthier hooves.
PIG HOOF PERIOPLE
The Periople is located right at the coronary band and extends partially down the toe. The Periople provides a layer of protection of the hoof and helps aid in retaining moisture within the hoof. If this area becomes damaged from injury or a crack, the area can stunt in growth, grow weaker, or become inflamed, leading to pain while walking (or pigs that will stop walking altogether). In most overgrown cases as well as crack repair, we will file some to all of this off to address underlying issues. There is a huge division in the pig (and equine) hoof trimming worlds as to whether this is functional or not. We have found our method to be helpful for both studying hoof growth patterns in pigs, as well as treating cracks and excess keratin buildup to promote a smoother growth pattern moving forward. Take this information as you will.
BALANCING THE MINI PIG HOOF
Another important part of hoof care is the balance of the hoof. There should never be a lip or ridge post-trim; the bottom of the hoof should feel flat.
Not every hoof trim is the same, though. In corrective work, we may leave a structurally short toe with more hoof wall length to balance to the longer claw at a better angle. This allows a pig’s hooves the most even balance when walking. Many pigs who have a naturally straight hoof structure and walk on concrete/paved environments regularly will naturally balance and file the underside of their hooves.
MINI PIG HEEL CALLUS WORK
If the heel, or pad/fleshy part below the hoof on the underside has callus buildup, those too may be addressed so your pig has a nice cushion and natural shock absorption when stepping down onto surfaces. Keeping the heel moisturized will also help fight against cracking and extreme callus buildup. Hard and overgrown heels often lead to walking at incorrect angles such as one hoof curving upward, overgrowth of pad onto or in between the hooves, and uncomfortable skin calluses that grow in between the main hooves and cause the hooves to splay apart. In more extreme cases, callus removal is only recommended by a professional hoof trimmer as filing too deep can cause bleeding, pain, and discomfort.
MINI PIG DEWCLAW LENGTH AND TRIMMING
In addition to hoof length and shape, balance, and heel care, mini pig dewclaw length is important for daily life. The dewclaw acts as extra support and stability when walking and running. If cut too short, your pig will not have that extra support needed while losing weight, walking around, even using steps and ramps. If cut into the soft tissue of the dewclaw, this can lead to bleeding and pain.
When standing, the dewclaw should sit right above the hairline of the main hoof. If the dewclaws are too long, they can curl under the hoof and cause issues while walking. If longer dewclaws continue to become overgrown, a higher risk of injury can happen, such as the keratin sheath degloving, leading to bleeding and pain until the dewclaw grows bath. During this time, there is a higher chance of infection from the exposed soft tissue.
If your pig is laying down or flipped, gently pull the main hooves back as if they were standing on a hard surface. Match where their dewclaws sit in correlation to the main hoof hairline. Dewclaws should be trimmed (if needed) and filed flat. A flat tip provides better support versus a pointy/narrow tipped dewclaw that can break or crack.
MINI PIG HOOF CONDITIONER
Applying hoof conditioner should be done after any hoof trim, and throughout the week as a normal ritual. Hoof conditioner helps keep the hairline from drying out which can lead to cracks and keratin buildup. Normal application can actually help strengthen the hooves and create a healthy hoof growth pattern. We always recommend using more natural options. Many hoof conditioners on the market have petroleum-based, turpentine, and tar ingredients that hinder moisture absorption or fish-based ingredients that can go rancid if stored improperly. Many pigs do not like hoof conditioners due to the scent. Pigs have extraordinary olfactory senses!
Use of a light carrier oil as a hoof conditioner helps provide moisture to promote healthy hoof growth. Oils such as jojoba, sunflower, avocado, or neem are great. We never recommend applying coconut or olive oils undiluted as they are too heavy on a pig’s skin, especially around the hairline. Pigs lack sweat glands and can easily get ingrown hairs from comedogenic oils. Pigs can overheat in warmer weather from these barrier-like effects of thicker oils.
The following hoof conditioner formulas we have used in the past. As of April 2019, we use and recommend Hoof Alive at all appointments.
Hoof Alive (4 oz recommended size. Does not have a strong smell–contains lanolin)
When it comes to trimming mini pig hooves, there is a lot to take into account. Take your journey one step at a time to get comfortable and confident at inspecting your pigs’ hooves. Should you decide to trim yourself or feel your last professional trim job was not done correctly, please feel free to use the information to help as a small guide. If you still have questions regarding any of the topics explained above, please email us to request an online 1:1 consultation.
If this blog has helped you in your personal or professional learning, please do us a favor and share this blog with others. The more up-to-date information available to pig parents, the better the future of the miniature pig community.