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Guinea Pigs/paralysis or possible bone problem?


We have a 3 yr old male guinea pig that we noticed having the following symptoms about 10 days ago:  He seemed to be moving less and we noticed he was having trouble moving his hind legs, but was still able to walk around (he was just very hesitant).  Now it appears he cannot walk on them at all and seems to be having trouble controlling his front feet.  He is still eating his pellet food and the fruits and veggies he has always eaten, although he only eats about 1/4 of what he used to eat.  He cannot get to his water bottle so we are squeezing the water into his mouth a little at a time.  We have always used vitamin C drops in the water.  He has not had any injury to his spine, as far as we know.  Do you know of anything we can do to help our guinea?  The vet has only examined him - we cannot afford the diagnostic tests.  Thank you in advance for your time.

To be honest even if you had the money for diagnostic testing it would not change or cure the problem. It sounds like he may have osteodystropy, a condition sometimes present and passed genetically in certain breeds of guinea pigs. It's is primariy found in the Satins, and there are five different breeds of pigs that have a Satin counterpart.

The Satins have a characteristic sheen to the coat, making them almost look like they'v been sprinkled with stardust. They are beautiful to look at and to touch as the shaft of the hair are more hollow inside allowing light to go through it, thus giving this special sheen to their coats.

Unfortunately there is a genetic disorder that is passed in some lines. The bones become brittle, the muscles lose their elasticity and they ultimately succumb to the loss of muscle and ligaments.

Of course I am only guessing this may be the problem with your pig. Not being able to actually see him that's all I have to work with is the symptoms you've described.  There is no treatment or cure for osteodystrophy in guinea pigs. You might Google it and see a better description of what this disease is.

Unfortunately this is not something that Vit C would change. It could probably be compared to Sickle Cell Anemia, a condition that is present in certain ethnic groups around the world. There is treatment for Sickle Cell however. It's not curable, but the periodic crisis' suffered by the patients can be minimized with treatment. Again, even that is a genetically caused and related condition.

Although certainly you have to make the decision as to what you are able to do for him, but in this case I think you should know that no matter what amount of money you are able to spend it would not change the inevitable. So please don't feel guilty because you're not in a position to sell your wordly goods to save him.

At this stage what usually happens is dehydration which quickly leads to renal (kidney) failure, thus causing the inevitable end.

I wish I could give you something more positive to hold onto. I'm sorry I'm not able to give you a magic answer that would make this easier for you to bear.  

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Pat VanAllen


As is sometimes the case, people in urgent need of information have a higher degree of expectation than those of us as experts are able to give. The experts on this site do their best to give the most accurate and responsible answers possible. We ask that you remember that it is not our intention nor place to criticize the professional advice given by your veterinarian, nor is it appropriate for us to comment on the correctness of a diagnosis made by a licensed physician. Our knowledge is experience based. Although many years of breeding and showing cavies gives me a wealth of experience it cannot change the fact that we as experts are not veterinarians and therefore may occasionally have to reject questions that appear to be asking us to criticize advice given by the licensed professional. Having raised and exhibited cavies for many years I have extensive experience in cavy care and husbandry. I currently have an active breeding program for pedigreed show animals but do not encourage backyard breeding for inexperienced owners. Although I don't encourage breeding for fun I'm always happy to answer any questions from an owner who is in sincere need of help. Pet owners wanting to breed should understand that even experienced breeders have litter losses. The mortality rate is high in cavies. The chance for losing both sow and pups is always present, even with experience. Although this is a site for experts to assist owners, there is no expert in any field who has all the answers. The wisest thing a good expert can know is their limitations. Not having an answer does not diminish one's ability or knowledge. It simply shows that we recognize our limitations and operate within them.


Raised and shown cavies for many years, having aquired my first cavies in the early 1970's as pets. My caviary currently handles 65 + animals in two different breeds and several varieties. Having been in the health care industry as a licensed nurse for 35 years I have hands on experience with care and needs in both humans and cavies. Member of American Rabbit Breeders Association and American Cavy Breeders Association.

Awarded Lifetime Membership in of one of the oldest cavy clubs in the United States, on whose Board I served as Sec/Treas for six years and currently serving as President. Also editor/publisher of the club's quarterly newsletter. We are strong supporters of our youth exhibitors, most of whom are 4H members who are working on cavy projects. Through these projects they become good responsible citizens. We deal with all aspects of showing, breeding, caring for and sharing experiences in the fancy. The cavy fancy is not a new one but in some areas is still relatively unknown. Our goal is to inspire interest in high quality, responsible breeding to improve the species, not just the reproduction of guinea pigs. Our job is to educate owners to help them make the right decisions and choices in the care of their cavies.

Graduate in nursing. Certified in emergency medicine.

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