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Guinea Pigs/Polly the Guinea pig from Germany


QUESTION: Dear experts,

I am writing you from Germany, because I am sadly soon out of luck with my beloved guinea pig. My girl, Polly, is currently 3 years old and already had to go through too much in her young life. She is currently living with a male called “Fussel”.

Two months ago, she had her first abscess and since then everything has been very bad. She had surgery multiple times to remove the abscess, but it just will not grow back together. I clean the wound everyday with NaCl, and add ointment after. She is doing well a good period after the surgery until she again starts to have eating difficulties most likely caused by the formation of much pus, and now the vets here in Germany also fear that fungal might be the reason that her wound will not grow back together. She was recently checked for diabetes, but that came back negative.

Her last surgery was yesterday, and the vets suggested to let her go, because they simply do not know what to do anymore.

I am writing you in the hope that you might have some suggestions to fix my Polly, having your experience in the field in mind.

I am giving it my last shot and Polly a chance, since I don’t want to put her down unless I know I do not stand a chance to cure her so she can live a  happy life.

I would be more than appreciative if you could find 5 minutes to look at this email.

Thank you in advance,

Camilla and Polly from Germany

ANSWER: Hello Camilla. I am sorry to hear about Polly's back luck but I am more that willing to try to help if I can. You don't say where these abscesses are but your statement that having eating difficulties gives me the impression that this is a subglottal cyst, i.e. under the chin. Is that correct?

You are doing all the right things. And since you are flushing the wound that helps to keep it open with the goal of healing beginning from inside out. Abscesses frequently reoccur even in humans. As would a human physician do, tests start looking for diabetes. Poor healing is a symptom of diabetes, but fortunately Polly's tests were negative.

You did not mention antibiotics although typically we give Baytril or Bactrim to aid in healing,especially for cases that do not heal as they should. These abscesses are almost always caused by staph and can sometimes be resistant and difficult to deal with.  But not impossible. Cavies cannot tolerate any form of penicillin as it destroys the healthy bacterial flora in the gut and causes a secondary infection that can lead to the animal's demise.

As far as the wound not closing that seems to indicate she may have an immunity problem that is preventing healing. Unfortunately guinea pigs do not always do well with anesthesia and that can sometimes inhibit healing to some degree.  

Although the NaCl is excellent for flushing I would suggest that you also use some Betadine Solution. It takes very little and can be added to the NaCl when you flush the wound, with about 15cc of Betadine added to a cup of NaCl. It may help inhibit the bacterial growth that is causing this abscess to keep coming back. It's extremely difficult to get irrigation solutions inside a wound far enough unless you can put a syringe in there to push the solution deep in the wound.

If you don't have a syringe to help you get inside the wound you might try going to your local pharmacy and asking for the syringes that are used to give infants oral medication. They are usually about 10cc's and have a long pointed tip on the end for ease in putting into baby's mouth. I find those are excellent for flushing wounds such as this.  

If this were my pig I wouldn't give up just yet. If she's losing weight and is showing signs of illness that's a different story. I would suggest supplementing her diet with Critical Care if you are able to get it. If not you can also use baby formula.  Critical care is like Ensure is for humans. It has additional calories and nutrients to keep the body healthy when a proper diet is not able to be eaten.

Hang the liquid in a small water bottle. She will most likely love it and will take it freely. That will help to aid healing as well.  The body must have proper nutrients in order to heal and this will help.

If all of this effort fails, then you can make a decision as to what choice to make. But as long as she is willing to try I would continue until she tells me she's had enough.

I hope this helps. I know how hard this is for you and my heart goes out to you. She's still a fairly young sow and may still pull through this.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------


Thank you very much for your response! That helped quite a lot. Yes, the abscess is under her chin/jaw line. The vet did not provide me with any antibiotics whatsoever, only flushing guidance and something called Acridin®-Salbe. The thing is with polly, she eats and everything despite this unfortunate condition, until the times - as i mentioned - where the abscess starts to bother her too much, she stops eating and she undergoes surgery. She currently had 3 surgeries.

I thought about taking her out of her normal surroundings with Fussel (they normally live in an open space, since i have an extra room) and put Polly in the cage I have. I do not know if it could help to remove any kind of hay in this healing period, as i also i am not sure this could irritate the wound. Would oatmeal and soft fruits be a good substitute in stead of hay and "sharp" food?

Thank you so much for your answer! It helps a lot, and gives me hope!
thank you!

Best regards,

Polly and Camilla

Healing abscess
Healing abscess  
Ethyl\'s abscess
Ethyl's abscess  
ANSWER: The hay shouldn't bother her but I think you have a good idea in putting her in a cage where you can control her environment a little better. If this is a simple subglottal cyst, and it sounds like it is, they will usually burst on their own after time. I've opened many of them through the years. It's actually not a huge deal and I don't put mine under any kind of anesthesia.  

When the abscess get's large enough it will break fairly easily but now that she's had recurrent episodes the skin will have thickened making it a little more difficult to get through it. I scrub the area with Betadine, then use an exacto blade with the very straight and pointed tip. It helps to wrap the pig in a towel to keep her restrained. Right where the softest part of the abscess is you just gently push into the skin and make a little cut. Be aware that when the pus starts coming out it will sometimes literally shoot straight out, so make sure she's turned away from you.

If you're not comfortable doing that I would recommend you just leave it and wait for it to open on its own. I've sent a picture of a pig (Ethyl) that a Kindergarten teacher brought to me. This was the class pet and they didn't have the money to spend on veterinary care. Her abscess was as large as a ping pong ball.

Once opened and irrigated for several days it began to heal up. The skin around the hole as you can see is pink and there's no pus draining from it. She closed up completely in about two weeks.  I got a HUGE card made by all the kids, with their hand prints on it and a big thank you for curing Ethyl. Cute name for a pig.

The picture with my glove on is about two days after opening the abscess and you can see the darkened necrotic tissue. The other picture is six days after opening and the surrounding skin is pink and healthy looking again, and on the way to healing.

If your vet is willing you might just call him and ask if he would give you some Baytril or Bactrim. They are a sulfa based medications and typically work well for this without causing the stomach upset.

Since you've already paid them so much and he recommended euthanizing Polly he might just give in and give you the medication.  Actually for what I'm sure you've spent.... he should.  After all, he has stated that he doesn't know what else to do. It's worth a try.

Best of luck to you and Polly and please keep in touch and let me know her progress.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------



I am going to the vet for a follow up on the test they took from Polly's surgery 2 days ago, on friday. I will most certainly ask for Baytril/Bactrim.

Thank you for the pictures, now I at least know how the healing process is supposed to look. The things is just, that.. Polly's hole after the abscess will not grow back together, it will not heal. And I am not sure if I am doing the right thing or not. I have a daily routine with her, where I flush the wound with NaCl, clean the "open hole" for pus - what i can see, and what i can remove with a pincet without hurting her. I am in doubt whether I should not remove the pus within the hole, in hope that she will heal better when I let it rest - but then I am afraid that the hole will heal and another abscess will occur caused by pus. Her hole is litteraly a hole in the cheek/jaw.

The things is just.. Polly seems very happy, she wants to eat, goof around, squeek – basically, it seems like she still wants to live and haven’t given up yet despite of a big hole in her cheek and daily cleaning of the hole with a syringe and removing pus. But I am no vet, so I can’t explain this. Also, she has been dealing with her post-surgery periods more or less without any pain medicine, since she did not seem to be in pain and had this life lust. So I am.. So confused about what to do with my little girl.

See attached pictures please.

Kind Regards Polly and Camilla

Malignant mammary tumor
Malignant mammary tumo  
It's not unusual for the wound to stay open for awhile. Don't worry about cleaning out all the pus, but if you can just squirt it in the hole that will cleanse it. The best indicator of how a guinea pig feels is their appetite. The fact that she's eating tells me she's not suffering pain.

Because this has been so recurrent it's harder for it to heal up. I'm assuming the test that the vet did was a biopsy to determine if she has a malignancy. That has to be a consideration anytime an animal or a human has a wound that will not heal.

I'd also suggest that you only do the irrigation for another day or so then leave it alone and she what happens. I'm encouraged by the fact that she's active and has a good appetite. Just like us, when an animal feels bad they lose their appetite. So that's a good sign.

I'm attaching a picture of a pig that someone wrote me about a couple of years ago. I hope this does not upset you to see this, it's just for purposes of example. This is a cancerous tumor that opened up and refused to heal. Mammary tumors on female pigs, although unusual are not rare. Anytime there is breast tissue cancer can occur. Subglottal cysts are almost never malignant.

From what I can see Polly's wound does not look the same. Malignancies like this usually have a hard tumor beneath it such as this little girl had.

In any event I don't think I'd made the decision to euthanize Polly. Certainly not yet. If it comes to that point she will tell you when the time comes. And then you will know that you've done everything possible and can be at rest with that decision.

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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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