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Question
Our dear piggie passed away suddenly. We had only had her for 2 years. We don't know how old she was but we know she wasn't a baby when we got her. She didn't seem sick and her death was so sudden. Our 10 year-old is heartbroken and we don't know what to tell her besides "it was just her time" and reminding her that it's good that she didn't seem to be in pain and didn't suffer.

Up until the day before she died, our piggie seemed healthy and active. She had a good appetite and looked healthy as far as we could tell. A day or so before she died, she seemed a bit lethargic and spent most of the day dozing in her pigloo but she was still eating and seemed OK when she was awake. I wasn't worried until the night before when she was not interested in her usual nightly carrot, but she still seemed basically OK. I thought that I would keep an eye on her and call the vet if she didn't perk up in a day or two. In retrospect, we do think that she had seemed a little less active for the past few weeks, but since her appetite was good and she didn't look sick (shiny coat, bright eyes, etc.) we didn't think it was anything to worry about.

She did have a health scare last winter. We noticed that she had several bald patches an when we took her vet, they said that she had cysts that were causing a hormone imbalance. We had her spayed in January and after she recovered from that, she was fine. Do you think that it might be related? That's the only thing I can think of to explain her sudden death.

This has been really hard on us and having some explanation beyond "it was just her time" would help. I realize that you probably can't make a diagnosis, but I'm hoping that maybe you have some ideas.

Thank you in advance.

Answer
I would love to be able to give you a solid answer, but there never really is one. I doubt her death had anything to do with her surgery last winter. Not knowing what her age was makes it difficult, but I can tell you that the average life span for a guinea pig is only about four to five years. That's not very long at all. There are exceptions of course, but they are unusual exceptions.

When their time comes they don't show us until it's too late. If there's any consolation in knowing she went quietly and quickly you can be assured that she didn't suffer.  I don't know if you've ever read the story of the Rainbow Bridge, but it's helped many of us through the years when we've lost a beloved pet.  Maybe this might help ease your daughter's pain. Assure her she did nothing wrong, this is just the way nature works. But when you're a child it's more painful.

God Bless your family. I know how hard these things can be to try to explain.


The Rainbow Bridge


By the edge of a woods, at the foot of a hill,
Is a lush, green meadow where time stands still.
Where the friends of man and woman do run,
When their time on earth is over and done.
For here, between this world and the next,
Is a place where each beloved creature finds rest.
On this golden land, they wait and they play,
Till the Rainbow Bridge they cross over one day.
No more do they suffer, in pain or in sadness,
For here they are whole, their lives filled with gladness.
Their limbs are restored, their health renewed,
Their bodies have healed, with strength imbued.
They romp through the grass, without even a care,
Until one day they start, and sniff at the air.
All ears prick forward, eyes dart front and back,
Then all of a sudden, one breaks from the pack.
For just at that instant, their eyes have met;
Together again, both person and pet.
So they run to each other, these friends from long past,
The time of their parting is over at last.
The sadness they felt while they were apart,
Has turned into joy once more in each heart.
They embrace with a love that will last forever,
And then, side-by-side, they cross overů together.  

Guinea Pigs

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Pat VanAllen

Expertise

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.

Experience

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.

Organizations
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.

Education/Credentials
Graduate in nursing. Certified in emergency medicine.

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