The last 48 hours have been rough, ending in a forced decision to let Juineapig pass. She was put to sleep today by our pigdoc due to a long list of health complications.
The Denver Dumb Friend’s League had ruled her unadoptable hours before we got there, but agreed to let us take her given our history with caveys. We had her for around 1.5 years and gave her a great home.
— Extensive details of her health and struggle below, as well as necropsy results. Read at your own risk. —
Sunday, all of the pigs were out for their weekly run time, all over the living room floor in a huge pig-pen. Juineapig seemed to be in good spirits, was moving around, eating hay and demolishing the shared corn cob treat. That night she ate her share of the veggie platter and was put back with the rest of the pigs after being weighed. She came in at 995 grams, down almost 140 grams from 10 days prior. That dramatic weight loss was a huge concern and indication of serious problems.
Since around 2AM Monday, her health went downhill rapidly.
Monday afternoon she would not leave her cozy to get lettuce. She was interested, but hesitant to leave. I put a few pieces in front of her and she took a few bites and went back to sleep. Hours later I moved her to her own cage to give her alone time, since she had been getting increasingly worried/bothered by the other pigs. In her new cage, she hunkered down in a cozy and wouldn’t leave it. At this point she hadn’t had food or water for 12 hours and that was a bad sign. Several times that day, she would not eat lettuce or act interested in it. Overall she was more lethargic and more interested in burying herself in the fleece cozy. Evening lettuce time came, and she still wouldn’t eat, still hadn’t had water and was sitting in the same place. More worrisome, she had not poo’d at all.
I consulted Kay who talked to her friend Scott who messaged me and began helping me diagnose her problem(s). After ten minutes of Q&A, we were sure she had ‘bloat’, which is gas build up that can be fatal to guinea pigs, unlike humans. By 9PM Monday night, we started her on Mylicon (name brand of Simethicone) and Critical Care (CC) to keep food moving and help break down the gas.
I began to call animal hospitals with emergency care but had no luck. Very few doctors would even agree to see a guinea pig. Some would say yes, ask for symptoms and then change their mind. The few that would see her could only offer “general care” which does little good without an idea of the problems. It is incredibly frustrating when places like “All Animals Hospital” refuses to see your animal. What part of “All” don’t you understand?
After several rounds of Simethicone and CC, Juineapig ate a little lettuce on her own at 2:30AM (Tuesday). My main goal was to keep her comfortable and get as much food in her while i waited for Aurora Animal Hospital to open, where Dr. Esposito and Dr. Cogswell are very familiar with guinea pigs. As luck would have it, I get there at 8AM to find Esposito is out. Fortunately, Dr. Mish was there and helped while consulting Esposito via phone. X-rays confirmed our suspicion of bloat and also showed a small stone in her bladder. After a long discussion, I left with Buprenex to help with her pain and Metoclopramide to help get her GI system moving food. Throughout Tuesday she got those along with more doses of Simethicone and CC. Things began to look up when I noticed that she was able to poo and had more interest in lettuce.
I woke up this morning to find Juineapig had not moved again, produced no poo and had laborious breathing. Overall she was unresponsive and seemed miserable. I got a dose of pain meds in her
and took off for the vet again. Halfway there, Juineapig’s limbs went limp as she has her back legs sticking straight out behind her. This was a horrible sign and I knew right then her health was in critical condition. Esposito was there today and immediately looked at Juineapig. The first thing she noticed were two lumps in her abdomen that hadn’t appeared on the X-ray and could have been the root cause of many issues. One mass was visible on the X-ray, but only partially and very feint. It was not evident as a mass by Dr. Mish on Monday.
At this point, Juineapig was unresponsive, had problems breathing and had no strength. Surgery was an option, but it would have been as much for discovering what the masses were as fixing any issues found. With a senior pig in that condition, surgery is extremely risky. Given her discomfort, I opted not to take her home either; while she may have been in a more familiar environment, she really wasn’t aware of her surroundings and it would have been for my benefit, not hers. Esposito, Kay and I all agreed it was time to let Juineapig go.
While it was clear she had many internal problems, I asked for a necropsy to get details of the complications. Since I have many other pigs and there is a lack of explicit detail on guinea pig health (e.g., as compared to cats and dogs), I want to learn as much as I can. Further, I want to ensure that nothing I do for daily care of the pigs has long-term adverse affects.
First mass was a little smaller than golfball sized tumor, caudal abdomen, backside. Irregular shape, white in appearance. Blood supply extended off uterus, unusual presentation. Wasn’t uterine tissue. probably pushing on cecum, caused partial obstruction which likely contributed to gas build up. Definitely cancerous. second mass on right side of abdomen where kidney is, 2x size of other mass, encapsulated / fluid of kidney tissue. Metastatic masses on liver, small ~ 1 cm on several lobes.
The stone was ‘regular’ and totally in bladder, didn’t seem to be causing any of the problems (weight loss, bloat, etc). She may have been passing stones for some time. Her kidney likely had some function; there wasn’t much urine present, but she hadn’t been drinking water for almost 48 hours.
I asked “she seemed to have a world of problems?”, Esposito replied “yes she did”.
Hindsight: The first mass could have been removed by surgery, but wouldn’t have fixed the other complications including the second mass. Based on the extensive problems, letting her go was absolutely the right thing to do. The one thing I should have done is describe in more detail the ’emotional’ change in Juineapig the last few weeks, where she became a bit more aggressive toward other piggies that got near her (i.e. overly defensive of her area). While Kay told me that such a change could be a sign of physical problems, Juineapig’s exam around three weeks ago did not find evidence of the masses. Even if I had ordered X-rays, they were mostly invisible on them yesterday and would not have been seen then.