Pigs are omnivorous animals that are known for their ability to eat a wide variety of food items. In the wild, they can be seen munching on plants, vegetables, fruits, bugs or even scavenging on rotten meat of other dead animals. Though pigs are capable of eating almost everything, there are food items that they need to avoid. So, what about chocolates? Can pigs eat chocolates? Are chocolates harmful to pigs like dogs?
So, can pigs eat chocolates? Yes, pigs can eat chocolates and it is completely safe for them. Although it is safe for pigs to eat chocolates, we don’t suggest keeping them on a high carb and high sugar diet. The best way to feed chocolates to pigs is to give them as an occasional treat and not in excess.
If you didn’t know, the gastrointestinal system of a pig is very much similar to that of humans. Their stomach can handle pretty much all the food that humans eat. But the question lies in whether it would cater to the nutrient requirement of a pig or not.
In this article, we will examine whether pigs can eat chocolates or not and also discuss some interesting facts about the diet and nutrient requirement of a pig.
Diet of a pig
Before we proceed to discuss the diet of a pig, we must have a clear understanding of their gastrointestinal (GI) system.
Pigs are omnivorous scavenger that can eat almost everything. This isn’t the case with domesticated pigs who have an entirely different dietary pattern and there is a lot a farmer has to know before feeding them.
They have a simple GI system that consists of mouth, esophagus, stomach, liver, pancreas & intestine that is very similar to that of humans. Owing to this, pigs can eat almost all the food that we eat. But the question lies in whether they have the same nutrient requirement as ours or not.
Pigs have a high nutrients demand, contrary to what most people believe. It is important to note that their nutrient requirement varies with age, immediate environment, availability of resources, genetic variation, and so on.
In general, they need food that is rich in carbohydrates, amino acids, calcium, phosphorus, fats, and vitamins A, D & K.
This explains why pigs are adapted to eat virtually everything. What may seem to be an unsafe food to us can be a sumptuous banquet for a pig. To make things clear, pigs won’t even mind scavenging on dead and rotten meat of animals, including humans.
It is interesting to note that pigs have a unique ability to consume food irrespective of its toxicity. They don’t filter out the toxins from whatever food that they eat. Rather, they can quickly separate toxins from the food before digesting and store them in the form of fat in specialized chambers.
Is it safe for pigs to eat chocolates?
Most people find it hard to believe that chocolate contains a toxic chemical known as theobromine. It is just that the GI system of human beings is capable of digesting this chemical, whereas most animals are not. For instance, common household pets like dogs and cats cannot digest even small quantities of theobromine, and it can prove to be fatal at times.
Unlike dogs and cats, the GI system of pigs is capable of handling the theobromine in chocolate irrespective of its concentration. As said in the previous section, pigs use their unique ability to separate the toxin theobromine before the chocolate is digested quickly.
Similar to other toxins, theobromine is stored in specialized chambers inside their fat and is removed through urine and feces.
It is important to note that chocolates are safe, which doesn’t mean that it can be given in excess. Ideally, they should be kept in low sugar and low salt diet. It is advised that candies and chocolates should only be given to pigs as an occasional treat.
Can I feed chocolates to piglets?
Piglets love chocolates, and they would happily eat chocolates irrespective of how much you feed them. Piglets can handle theobromine like the adults, so it is safe to feed piglets chocolates. But pigs irrespective of their age should be kept on low salt and sugar diet.
Make sure that you feed chocolates to pigs only as an occasional treat and not in excess. Feeding them chocolates in excess can even cause digestive disorders in them.
What foods are toxic to pigs?
Contrary to what most people believe, pigs are not safe from all toxins. Though pigs can extract toxins from the food before digesting, not all food are safe for them, and some food items have to be avoided.
In this section, we will have a look at some of the items that are toxic to pigs.
The blue-green algae that are most commonly found in stagnant waters during summers are highly toxic to pigs. If you have observed a pig, you might know that they tend to remain in muddy waters.
During summers, when pigs get into these waters, there are chances that they may accidentally ingest the blue-green algae along with the water.
The toxins in these algae are so powerful that the pig may sink to the ground, and die without struggling immediately if ingested in high quantities. If ingested in small quantities, the poison can cause weakness and staggering, followed by recovery in a few hours.
In some cases, the toxins can cause inflammation in the skin of ear or other body parts, followed by rashes.
Either way, you need to be cautious that there aren’t any blue-green algae in the waterbodies in the enclosure of the pig!
Blister beetles are commonly found in regions from Mexico to Southern Canada and on the east coast of the United States. These beetles produce a toxic chemical known as cantharidin and are used against predators as a defense mechanism.
Cantharidin is extremely poisonous to pigs that ingesting even small quantities can prove to be fatal to the pigs.
Pigs do not consume the blister beetle directly. Instead, they come in contact with cantharidin by accidentally injecting alfalfa hay infested by blister beetles. There are high chances for the blister bees to be crushed into the feedstuff accidentally and thereby contaminating the alfalfa hay.
The only way to ensure that the alfalfa hay is safe is to inspect flakes before feeding them to the pigs individually.
Though most people do not consider mold to be a threat to pigs, it isn’t the case. The mycotoxin produced by fungi (mold) is toxic to most animals, including pigs.
Depending upon the type and amount of mycotoxin, the effects can vary anywhere between immediate effects to chronic issues. The most commonly found symptoms of mold poisoning are Appetite loss, Respiratory issues, and poor immune response. Mold poisoning can have a severe impact on Pregnant pigs and young pigs.
The pigs must be only fed hay and other grains that are clean and stored in clean, dry, and cool areas.
Salt poisoning is another commonly found poisoning among pigs. This can either be triggered by water deprivation or from the ingestion of too much salt.
Common symptoms of salt poisoning include disorientation, blindness, deafness, head pressing, spasms, Gastroenteritis, followed by diarrhea. If your pig shows any of these symptoms, make sure that you take them to a vet at the earliest.
Apart from these, there are other food items that you need to avoid feeding pigs. For instance, almond, animal products, avocado, cherries, sweets, tomato leaves, unshelled walnuts, and so on.