How to Help a Pig with Mobility Issues

Like our beloved furry friends, our hooved family members are just as important. But unfortunately, their farm and barnyard counterparts can suffer mobility loss like a dog or cat. Mobility problems can occur due to injury, old age, a congenital disability, or caused by a progressive condition that worsens as the farm animal ages. 

Just because an animal struggles to stand or walk without help does not mean there is no hope. Goats, cows, horses, donkeys, and chickens are just a few animals that have benefited from mobility aids like wheelchairs to assist them. The pig is arguably the smartest of the barnyard animals, but unfortunately, the pig is just as susceptible to mobility problems as any other animal. There are options available. Understanding the benefits of a pig wheelchair and how it works is the first step to caring for your beloved pig correctly. 

Understanding Pig Mobility Loss

There are many reasons why a pig can become paralyzed or struggle to walk on its own. Although hind leg paralysis and weak back legs are often the main reason, a pig will require a rear wheelchair, a neurological condition, balance issues, or even weak front legs could cause a pig to need a full support wheelchair

Signs a pig may be unable to walk or is struggling with mobility loss include:

  • Shaking back legs
  • Tremors
  • Visibly signs of muscle atrophy (muscle loss)
  • Weak back legs
  • Joint stiffness
  • Struggles to stand up
  • Unable to maintain balance or unsteady on their feet

It’s very easy to see the signs in a piglet, especially when they are born paralyzed. In an older pig, mobility loss can occur slowly and progressively worsen. Any pig struggling to walk needs to be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible. 

How Does a Pig Wheelchair Work?

Like a dog wheelchair, a pig wheelchair gives a disabled pig the support to stand and walk independently. There are four main components to a pig wheelchair:

  1. The wheelchair frame – the right size wheelchair frame depends entirely on the pig’s weight. The Walkin’ Wheels wheelchair comes in four frame sizes, which can fit the tiniest piglet up to a full-grown pig. 
  2. The front harness – the front harness attaches to the wheelchair frame to provide stabilization and to keep the wheelchair positioned correctly. The harness is a three-point harness with three straps. The first strap runs over the back and across the shoulders, a second strap sits in front of the chest, and the bottom strap runs behind the pig’s front legs. Each harness has two harness clips, one on either side, that attach directly to the sidebars of the wheelchair. The standard harness for the Walkin’ Wheels wheelchair is very adjustable and can easily fit any size pig. 
  3. Leg Rings – The leg rings are the primary support of the pig’s hind end. These foam rings create a comfortable saddle that supports the pig from underneath. The leg rings attach to the wheelchair frame in four places, and the pig’s legs will are placed through the back to back c’s providing balanced support. The length and thickness of the leg rings will vary depending on the wheelchair size.
  4. Struts and Wheels – There are numerous sizes of struts and wheels, and the right combination for your pig will depend on the height of their back leg. For the most accurate measurement, measure the pig lying on its side with its leg in a natural standing position. Start from the bottom of the hoof up to the groin to determine the rear leg height. 

A Pig Wheelchair Can Change a Life!

Teddy from Cotton Branch Farm Sanctuary

Teddy was rescued by the Cotton Branch Farm Sanctuary in 2018 and was one of over 500 pigs saved! Although he was healthy at first, all that suddenly changed.  “A few months after arriving at Cotton Branch, we found Teddy immobile in his pasture. He was paralyzed and could only use his front legs. Initial imaging pointed towards a slipped and bulging disc, and with treatment, he should recover and regain the use of his rear legs. However, after months of treatment with no major changes, new imaging showed that Teddy had a degenerative disc disease.

Within weeks of this diagnosis, he developed an infection that required emergency surgery to reroute his urethra. The initial university vet hospital who performed the first surgery told us there was no hope and tried to convince us to euthanize Teddy. Their biggest argument was his quality of life, but we knew that he was enjoying his life and active and strong! We picked Teddy up and took him immediately to UGA Large Animal Hospital. They painted a different picture! UGA gave us hope and saved his life. They saw that Teddy was determined, happy, and thriving!

Teddy has never shown a sign of giving up; he has always kept a big smile on his snout and has always remained a happy and active man! He loves his time in his chair, and he lets us know when he’s ready for a rest. Like any other pig, he gets to root around, and he enjoys his belly rubs like any other pig. Teddy doesn’t think he’s any different than all the others, but we all know he’s our hero!”

Maisie from Oliver and Friends Farm Sanctuary

When Maisie first arrived at the Oliver and Friends Farm Sanctuary, she could not stand or walk without help. Her rescuer tells her story, “She has CT diagnosed cerebellar hypoplasia, and as such, Maisie doesn’t have any balance whatsoever and has to be propped up to sit. She’s fully with it in her brains, though, and is the sweetest girl! We got her wheelchair fitted right and a harness that protects her face when she gets the wobbles and shakes and keeps her safely inside it. Maisie is really loving standing and walking around a bit, though she still needs lots of help learning. But she’s doing great today and already learning how to move in the chair!”

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