My 8 year old guinea pig Chai had just died January 2015, and the next day Mu-Xi was all alone. Mu-Xi had been a very shy guinea pig. I originally got her for a Skinny I had, after her buddy passed away, but when Mu-Xi met Skeeter, she ran away screaming. She would scream any time Skeeter came near. Eventually Skeeter passed, Mu-Xi was a little less intense, and the final two piggies were Chai and Mu-Xi. The next day after Chai died, Mu-Xi was really nervous and wheeking very loudly. I freaked out and told the kids that I was going to adopt a piggy for Mu-Xi.
We did not bring Moe home with Lily. We left him for another family to adopt. I understood that Moe and Lily came in together, and that she could be pregnant. Two different vets said they can’t confirm she’s pregnant, and the pair of piggies were listed as “confiscated” on their documents for intake, so maybe the fact that she was only 830 grams meant she came from a very neglected situation?
I kept her in a dog kennel away from Mu-Xi for the first two weeks, while she got fat, and then after two weeks I introduced them. Lily was mean. VERY VERY MEAN. Two weeks later she had a litter of pups and scared the bejeebus out of me, so I get why she was so cranky. One morning she and Mu-Xi were eating breakfast salad like all was chill with the world, and out of the corner of the pen, a tiny guinea pig streaks across at full speed. I said “LILY! WHAT DID YOU DO?!!” and she just kept eating salad with her roomie. Obviously, not a thing.
I took a peak in a hidey muff nearby, and I saw a little wall of guinea pigs lined up inside. I put the stray back in the hidey, and tried not to freak out. I have a house full of cats, and newborns look nothing like real guinea pigs, and I had to take all their weights and start baby proofing.
One of the brown agouti abyssinians was somehow acquired by my cat the next day. He upset me greatly. My baby-proofing I guess was not well enough proofed, and Tommy was protecting the house against invaders.
Everyone else grew up. Upper right hand clockwise Auntie Mu-Xi, Murphy, Lily Momma, Ruby, and Potsticker
Having a new family where she started out as the elder, Mu-Xi came out of her shell so well for the second half of her life. Lily was very social, as were her offspring. They all traveled from Phoenix to D.C. in 2016.
Things change. Mu-Xi got sick with an abdominal mass early 2017, and she passed. Then September or October last year, we found Ruby had passed one morning. Potsticker took ill in January 2018 and suffered heart failure at the vet’s office. Lily Momma even needed surgery in April for a spay because her reproductive system was a wreck. She had ovarian cysts, and when they opened up her removed uterus, it was full of endometriosis. All those pieces had to go. AND SHE WAS MAD. When things aren’t going Lily’s way, she is so cranky. Recovery was a long 2 weeks of medications, and then a third week before her personality readjusted. Then she was the sweet and social, happy guinea pig again.
Two weeks ago Lily started rejecting her usual treats. She would run up to me for treats, say that what I was offering wasn’t a treat, and then leave. She would do this several times per day. From time to time, she would eat a treat, but it was most often her Oxbow Natural Science vitamin C hay tabs (her cookies). She was still eating her cookies and hay. She was eating. She was bright and alert and eating. I didn’t investigate until it was time to clean the pig pen last Friday. Lily was too light when I went to put her in the empty wading pool. The scale said 662. I called the vet, and they were full until Monday unless I brought her in as emergency. I told them I would wait until Monday and start her on vitamin C supplement, hand feeding, and metacam because from time to time she seems to be in pain. If she’s going to die over the weekend there is little I can do aside from run up a large vet bill. My stepson told me to get her cucumber, because she hadn’t had that treat in a long time. I got one for her, and she was very excited to eat it. I wasn’t able to get her Oxbow Critical Care supplemental feeding until Sunday because Amazon dropped the ball on “Next Day Pickup”. She ate some and did okay.
Monday morning though, she didn’t take her cookie from me, or the cucumber, so we weren’t improving. She hadn’t lost anymore weight. We went to the appointment and had her x-rayed with 3 views to make sure her stomach wasn’t twisted, because she was full of air. Bloat- specifically. Very dehydrated and beginning to show signs of G.I. Stasis. I declined to do blood work or have her hospitalized, because I was working with a very small credit line. They gave me an outline to work on: raised her metacam, gave me lactated ringers and butterfly needles to do subcutaneous fluids twice per day, hand feeding 3 times per day 10-15mL, cisapride twice per day, simethicone 2-3 times per day, liquid vitamin C supplement, and they administered an injection at the office that was supposed to help reduce the gas in her stomach.
Tuesday evening I posted this to Facebook
Wednesday morning she didn’t come out even after I piggy called her three times. I fished her out of the hidey and she was full like a balloon, and could barely walk. I got my credit limit raised and took her back to the vet as an emergency followup. This vet that was visiting took a look at her x-ray and showed me that one of her kidneys was very enlarged, and that we could be looking at a problem with the kidneys as well, but we’d need blood. She got another injection to decrease the gas in her stomach. They tried to get her blood but she was kicking and biting, so they had to give her a bit of anesthetic gas. The amount of time for her to react to the gas and then revive after the gas, was much much longer than an average healthy guinea pig. My first stunned moment of “oh crap”. They did get her blood, but the machine wouldn’t read it. They decided to spin the blood to see if it would work with their equipment, but it didn’t, and the vet brought out the tube to show me. The second “oh crap” moment immediately brought me to tears. I have sold my plasma enough to pay for pet food in the past, that I know what it’s supposed to look like. There was so little plasma at the top, and this was very, very bad. She was still chronically dehydrated, even after giving her fluids for 2 days.
The vet asked me if I wanted him to send the blood out to the independent lab. I spoke to my anthropologist partner on the phone about that, and he said (because I’m definitely emotional) that there is no point running that test if the treatment is the same either way. Blood test would give us answers, but add more to the bill, and the treatment would be the same. If she’s having kidney issues, treatment is feed and flush. Keep hand feeding, and keep up with subcutaneous fluids religiously. If she’s not having kidney issues, she’s still got nil plasma – feed and flush. If she’s got an infection, we can’t treat it while we’re fighting off G.I. Stasis, because it’s going to nuke whatever healthy bacteria is left in the gut. Feed and flush. Running then on a presumption that there may be kidney problems, we took her off metacam and was prescribed Tramadol. Also changed her fluids from 8mLx2pD to 10mLx3pD.
I took her home and gave her all her meds and fluids and only got her to eat half her food. She just kept hiding in the crook of my arm between bites. She was behaving like a terminal piggy, and I wondered if the narcotic was too much. I wouldn’t give her the Tramadol again, I decided.
A few hours later I went to check on her in her hidey, and she was soaked in diarrhea. She wasn’t moving very well, and there was a pile of stool behind here where she’d been laying. I shouted for my stepson to bring my phone. I washed her up, blow dried and brushed her, put a clean hidey in the dryer for a few minutes, placed her inside, and got the heating pad out of storage and laid her on it. The vet asked me a clarifying question, and I didn’t understand what he was getting at or why he told me what he did next:
“Is there mucous in the stool?” I pulled the pile out of her old hidey with a paper towel, and yes, there was.
“How far away are you?” I’m an hour, and you close at 8. “If you need to put her down at home, you can feel free to do that; She’s probably not going to make it to morning. I know we talked about the metacam and the kidneys, but that mucous is from inflammation in her cecum. Make her comfortable and give her a dose of the metacam.”
We had discussed at the visit that day about co2 euthanization. That I will not do it in an animal over 800 grams, but I have done it before, and the vet pulled up the veterinary guidelines to make sure it’s still listed as a viable method if applied correctly, and not that it’s been discontinued and is now instead of a form of cruelty.
I couldn’t process everything from that phone call while I had her in the new hidey sack on the heating pad. Dismal asked me if I wanted him to go get dry ice, and I told him I wasn’t ready to do that yet, and I’d rather he not leave.
This is the point as I write this, that I’m going to take a break and feed my cats because I’m crying again. It doesn’t get much worse from here, but we’re not to the end yet.
Even though I was told she was likely dying, I still gave her another dose of Tramadol, the metacam, and another round of warm subcutaneous fluids. I sat next to her on the couch, while she was in the guinea pig sack on the heating pad. I would keep checking on her, or move the opening of the hidey sack so that the bright light wasn’t stuck in her eyes. Eventually everyone went to bed and I stayed with her. At one point, she starts stirring around a bit with some discomfort, and I swaddled her in the sack into my arm while we watched tv. She kept twitching less and less over about 15 minutes, and then she was gone. When I pulled her out of the sack, her bum was dripping all over me.
What exactly was I being told during that phone call?
I called the office the next day for clarification, and while yesterday’s vet was traveling back to Miami, they were able to put me on the line with another. “I thought the whole point with bloat and G.I. Stasis WAS to see more poop. Why was ‘mucous’ the magic word?”
And I was told that it signaled her body was shutting down and everything was evacuating. She asked if I wanted answers and to have a necropsy performed on Lily, but I said that I was just here for an education. In eleven years I had never had this experience, and I’d been pretty confused as to what had been going on most of the time, even though I kept up with everything they told me to do.
They don’t talk about this on the internet. I had spent two hours key wording different way to say GUINEA PIG DEATH POOP, and GUINEA PIG BLOAT DIARRHEA, and you get nothing that helps. People either say my guinea pig died of bloat, or my guinea pig survived bloat. You don’t often get the uncomfortable details.
That’s what I’m going to say about it. I’ve been discussing things with Murphy for the last few days, as she’s alone in the pig pen, and she’s okay so far. This herd was very people friendly, and unafraid of the other species. I have a lot of guilt in my inexperience, and that I haven’t been this long with only 1 guinea pig since December 2007. Even when you do everything right, you don’t always get to shake that feeling off that you did something wrong somewhere.