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Guinea Pigs/Can Guinea Pigs be sick

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QUESTION: Hi please can you help, I gave our guinea pigs mellon and he ait some of the rind, next day non of his food had been eaten, he wouldn't even eat dandy lion leaves then he started to retch and brought up green colourd liquid and bubbles from his nose I thought he was being sick, took him straight to the vet, she presumed it was upper respiratory infection but when trying to administer anti biotics they just came back and he continued to retch, it was very upsetting to see him so distressed, I had already nursed a guinea pig 3 years prior with URI only for it to pass away a week later and so I gave concent to have him PTS to save him the distress. I now think he had a blockage due to the mellon rind as the fluids kept coming back and not URI after all, I'm in bits now because I think I made the wrong decision.

ANSWER: I've fed melon rinds to my pigs for many years. They prefer the white and green part over the red on watermelon. Cantaloupe is a bit different, but they still eat the rinds.

Guinea pigs cannot vomit like humans and some animals. If he had a piece stuck in his throat he could gag and try to get rid of it. But I am more suspecting the dandy lion leaves may have had something on them.  Our horses LOVE LOVE LOVE dandy lions, but once they reach a certain point in blooming they will no longer touch them.

I can't give you a scientific reason for this, but horses typically do not eat something that is poisonous or will make them sick. I hesitate to believe that your pig got a respiratory infection that quickly. Guinea pigs have a natural rattling sound in their lungs that is often confused with a URI.

I don't know what kind of antibiotics your vet prescribed, but do make sure they are NOT in the penicillin family. They cannot tolerate any form of pcn and come of the cycline drugs. They destroy the natural bacterial flora in the pig's gut causing them to get a secondary infection.

This sounds more to me like he aspirated something into his lungs OR that the leaves he ate were possibly tainted with some kind of toxic spray, such as weed killer, bug killer, etc. This is of course a guess on my part and I'm just tossing that in as a possibility.

I think you are correct in your thinking he had a blockage of some sort or something caught in his throat.  Don't punish yourself for thinking you made a wrong choice. As animal lovers we do what parents do, we do the best we can.

I would personally discontinue the antibiotics as I don't think they are indicated. But I don't wish to criticize your vet either. Not many veterinarians have cavy experience as they are an extremely small part of their practice and most do not get enough experience to be able to successfully care for a guinea pig. That's not their fault. It's just a reality.

Please let me know how he does. I would like to be kept updated.

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

QUESTION: Thanks ever so much for getting back to me, he seemed off his food and unhappy before I gave him the leaves he loved his leaves and it was a kind of test to see how he would react, they were from our garden and I washed them too, he nibbled at part of one then went into his bed so I picked him up he felt cold, popped him on the carpet to see him move that's when he started the retching and bubbles from his nose. So panicking then I took him in. I Agree the vet was very lovely and caring but didn't fill me with confidence in her knowledge, you get to know your pigs really well and having dealt with URI I before wasn't totally convinced but wanted to believe her and do something anything! When he couldn't keep the drugs down I knew it wasn't going to work no matter how much I wanted them too or how much I nursed him. She check his mouth but couldn't see anything, maybe the problem was further down. He was five and a half she said that was a good age she could do tests scans x rays etc but the poor little think was retching and struggling and the bubbled from his nose seemed to be getting worse even as we spoke. I was desperately upset as I never give up on any of my animals but I felt so helpless and she put him to sleep for me, I wasn't allowed in because she said she would need to inject him directly into his heart this obviously causes screaming and momentery distress I was mortified at this! She promised to anysthetise him first, after what seemed an eternity alone in that room she finally Brought his little body back in she said he went peacefully. The whole family are soo upset he was our last and we Burry him today next to his cage mate. I'm so sorry to waffle on just need to get it out there and just to have someone's opinion hugest thanks lisa x

Answer
Oh Lisa, you have nothing to apologize for. I'm so sorry you lost him. Your vet did the right thing by gently putting him down. 5 1/2 yrs is considered an old pig. You may never know what happened, and even doing a necropsy would not change the outcome.

We have to just assume it was his time and whatever caused him to do what he did it seems clear that nothing would have altered the final outcome. It may have been just coincidental that he ate the greens then had this episode which sounds like an aspiration.

Euthanizing an animal is not always a pretty sight. I've had to do that with dogs and horses. With larger animals they are given an intravenous injection to quiet them, then potassium chloride is injected into the vein. When a guinea pig is already so very ill it's impossible to find a vein. The vet had no choice other than an intracardiac injection.

My best to you, and if I can ever be of help again please don't hesitate.

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Pat VanAllen

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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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