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Thread: 7 yr old piggie - lethargic, lurching, watery eyes, but no idea what is wrong...

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    Cavy Slave rolandinthehay's Avatar
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    7 yr old piggie - lethargic, lurching, watery eyes, but no idea what is wrong...

    My guinea pig Alfie is almost 7 years old (will be in July). Yesterday, we noticed he was in his hidey most of the day. He responded to veggies earlier in the evening, but seemed a lot less energetic than normal. We noticed he seemed to have a lot of poops (fully formed for the most part) stuck in his bum, so we cleaned them out using the impaction instructions on Guinea Lynx (w/ mineral oil).

    The rest of the evening, things got way worse. He laid facing the wall for the rest of the night. He was lurching forward off and on, but otherwise would not move. His head was almost tilted forward and down, so his nose was facing the floor. His eyes looked pretty watery, but it was white almost like his normal cleaning fluid. He has always had a lot of cleaning fluid for most of his life, though, so IDK if that has anything to do with this. He would eat some veggies or hay only if placed directly in front of him.

    This morning we rushed him to our vet. They did an exam, listened to lungs, heart, checked his teeth, took a radiograph, but couldn't find anything obviously wrong. He had a bit of gas, but not as bad as the vet has seen. She still prescribed a motility drug. No stones. The vet noticed a weird small growth on a few of his vertebrae and diagnosed it as spindylosis. She prescribed pain meds (metacam) for now and told us to feed him critical care until he starts eating regularly again. She wasn't overly concerned with his eyes, but did prescribe an eye-drop antibiotic, just in case.

    We took him home and gave his medications, but he is not doing well... He is now laying (not facing the wall anymore), but his head seems tilted in comparison to his body and it is only in this position when he lays. He looks so uncomfortable. My heart is breaking for him and I don't know what to do to keep him comfortable. I feel helpless and like I'm failing him and I just thought I would post incase anyone has experienced anything like this and has advice. Yesterday, I was hoping it was just his time and he would go peacefully, but now it seems like something is seriously wrong and he is in severe pain.

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    Administrator bpatters's Avatar
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    Re: 7 yr old piggie - lethargic, lurching, watery eyes, but no idea what is wrong...

    Normally, the head tilt would suggest an inner ear infection, but in a pig that age, it could be most anything. He could have had a mild stroke. And, as you say, it could just be his time to go.

    If you think he's in pain, keep up with the metacam. If it was prescribed once every 24 hours, he may get more relief if you half the dosage, increase it by a tiny bit, and give it twice a day. In my experience, metacam won't keep pain at bay for 24 hours in a guinea pig.

    Keep us posted on how you both are doing.

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    Cavy Slave rolandinthehay's Avatar
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    Re: 7 yr old piggie - lethargic, lurching, watery eyes, but no idea what is wrong...

    Quote Originally Posted by bpatters View Post
    Normally, the head tilt would suggest an inner ear infection, but in a pig that age, it could be most anything. He could have had a mild stroke. And, as you say, it could just be his time to go.

    If you think he's in pain, keep up with the metacam. If it was prescribed once every 24 hours, he may get more relief if you half the dosage, increase it by a tiny bit, and give it twice a day. In my experience, metacam won't keep pain at bay for 24 hours in a guinea pig.

    Keep us posted on how you both are doing.
    Yes, it was prescribed once a day. I might just do the split you've suggested for his dose tomorrow, if he is with us that long. It's just very difficult to watch, especially since he has always been such a lively and demanding piggie and he was that way up until yesterday morning.

    I just gave him the metacam at like 2pm, and he still looks so uncomfortable. He is currently hunched/curled into a ball and his fur is so puffed up :(

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    Cavy Slave rolandinthehay's Avatar
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    Re: 7 yr old piggie - lethargic, lurching, watery eyes, but no idea what is wrong...

    Update: So I had to run out for a couple hours and when I returned, he was ravenous. He ate a TON of veggies on his own and I gave him some critical care which he gladly ate. He even sat and socialized without looking like he was going to pass out at any moment. We put him back in the cage and he was actually walking around a bit and had a drink of water on his own which is more than he has done in 2 days...

    That said, he definitely seems lopsided now... especially when he chews? The vet examined his teeth and they were okay, but should I be concerned about an ear infection or do you think his weird spine problem could be causing this lopsided-ness? The vet is closed tomorrow, so I wouldn't be able to bring him in for antibiotics until Monday, unless I went to a random clinic (not guinea pig specialist). Thoughts @bpatters?
    Last edited by rolandinthehay; 05-11-19 at 09:51 pm.

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    Administrator bpatters's Avatar
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    Re: 7 yr old piggie - lethargic, lurching, watery eyes, but no idea what is wrong...

    I don't know of anyone who's had a good experience with an emergency vet and a guinea pig, unless it happened to be at an exotic ER clinic. So I'd keep feeding CC unless he's eating a normal amount, and maybe get him in to see the vet on Monday.

    One of my pigs had a weird experience like that -- neck twisted, couldn't walk, etc. But she could eat, and did, with me holding her in my lap and putting food up to her mouth. When I went to bed, I put her in a recovery cage with everything she needed right at her head, and by noon the next day, she was perfectly normal. We did go to the vet, who said it could have been a vestibular problem with her inner ear, but that there was really no way to tell.

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    Cavy Slave rolandinthehay's Avatar
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    Re: 7 yr old piggie - lethargic, lurching, watery eyes, but no idea what is wrong...

    Quote Originally Posted by bpatters View Post
    I don't know of anyone who's had a good experience with an emergency vet and a guinea pig, unless it happened to be at an exotic ER clinic. So I'd keep feeding CC unless he's eating a normal amount, and maybe get him in to see the vet on Monday.

    One of my pigs had a weird experience like that -- neck twisted, couldn't walk, etc. But she could eat, and did, with me holding her in my lap and putting food up to her mouth. When I went to bed, I put her in a recovery cage with everything she needed right at her head, and by noon the next day, she was perfectly normal. We did go to the vet, who said it could have been a vestibular problem with her inner ear, but that there was really no way to tell.
    Yeah, that was my thought. He is lopsided and hoping around a bit. But as I said, with the x-ray, the vet noticed a spine issue AND some possible arthritis in his knees, so idk that may be part of the issue.

    Okay - I'll keep everyone posted. He just ran up the ramp we have in his cage...? LOL. I have no idea how this is the same pig I saw a few hours ago. I'm still prepared for the worst, but I gotta say, it made my heart happy to see him excited for veggies this evening and know he still has some joy left in his little body after these rough two days.

    Thanks for the support!

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    Cavy Slave rolandinthehay's Avatar
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    Re: 7 yr old piggie - lethargic, lurching, watery eyes, but no idea what is wrong...

    UPDATE: I took Alfie to the vet this morning for his head tilt and the vet mentioned it could be an inner ear infection, but could also be a stroke, brain tumour, etc., because of his advanced age. He didn't want to just assume that it was something more sinister, so he decided to treat for inner ear infection.

    This vet is a recommended exotics vet, having originally started out with rabbits, I believe. He prescribed Azithromycin, with a warning that we may have to switch antibiotics if he doesn't tolerate it well, and I didn't think anything of it because of his experience. He typically prescribes baytril or doxycycline, so I just assumed there was a reason for azithromycin this time. However, I looked it up once I got home and saw erythromycin is on the "bad drugs" list and I believe azithromycin is a derivative. It seems that a number of people on guinea lynx have used it successfully, but I'm quite nervous. I am home every day this week, so I could give him the drug and watch him like a hound and stop at the first sign of a bad reaction. Thoughts?

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    Administrator bpatters's Avatar
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    Re: 7 yr old piggie - lethargic, lurching, watery eyes, but no idea what is wrong...

    I've given one of mine azithromycin with no ill effects. I myself am allergic to erythromycin but not to azithromycin, so there must be some differences between the two. But if you're more comfortable with the idea of Baytril, I'd call the vet back and ask to switch.

  9. "Thank you, bpatters, for this useful post," says:


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    Cavy Slave rolandinthehay's Avatar
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    Re: 7 yr old piggie - lethargic, lurching, watery eyes, but no idea what is wrong...

    UPDATE: I'm not super hopeful for a positive ending to this story given his age and the multitude of problems that keep cropping up.

    Last time I updated, we had noticed the head tilt and got antibiotics for that. As of last night (before giving the antibiotics), I've noticed his breathing is quite laboured. His sides are moving dramatically. I don't think it is pneumonia as the vet listened to his lungs, which were clear sounding, and didn't mention anything about cloudiness in the x-ray we looked at. He also has not sneezed or had any other symptoms of a URI-turned pneumonia.

    He still gets excited when I bring out veggies and will eat a few on his own and I see him occasionally eating hay, but we are still hand feeding him because he's just not getting enough down. Just feeling super discouraged and sad that I can't help him more than I am at this point.

    I was thinking heart problems, potentially? But what would the relation be to the head tilt? Could he breathing be laboured if he is stressed/in pain?

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    Administrator bpatters's Avatar
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    Re: 7 yr old piggie - lethargic, lurching, watery eyes, but no idea what is wrong...

    I wouldn't think that heart problems would have any relation to a head tilt. But the infection may be affecting the rest of his body, and his heart may be failing. That could explain the heavy breathing.

    I'm very sorry he's having these problems. Do keep us posted.

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    Cavy Slave rolandinthehay's Avatar
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    Re: 7 yr old piggie - lethargic, lurching, watery eyes, but no idea what is wrong...

    UPDATE: We had to say goodbye to Alfie today. I'm devastated.

    We woke up to a pig with even worse breathing than the night before with no improvement in the head tilt/tilting while laying. He stopped showing any interest in food at all (we were still force-feeding up until the end, don't worry!) and stopped moving completely. He was essentially falling asleep in our arms, which is NOT normal for him. If we forced him to move by nudging his bum, he would kinda hobble a step or two and then stop. He was nothing like his normal, spunky self and the vet couldn't say what was definitively wrong. He was willing to try a few different things, but we would essentially be treating blind, hoping something would work. Since nothing had really improved his symptoms aside from the pain meds the first few days and he went downhill so quickly, we decided it was best to say goodbye.

    I feel guilty about it, as I always do with these things, but my partner and I think it was the right thing to do. He was 2 months from 7 years of age and his symptoms were so varied that I feared his last few days/weeks (if that!) would be filled with us just trying drug after drug until something either worked or didn't work and he said goodbye on his own. I didn't want him to spend his last days with us laying in one spot, which has been his life the majority of this past week.

    I just miss him so much. I know 7 years is a good age, but it just feels too short.

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    Cavy Champion Guinea Pig Papa's Avatar
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    Re: 7 yr old piggie - lethargic, lurching, watery eyes, but no idea what is wrong...

    My heart goes out to you. I am so sorry it had to come to this. I'm sure you already know this, but he was a lucky pig to have a parent like you. I'm positive that he knew how much he was loved.

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    Administrator bpatters's Avatar
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    Re: 7 yr old piggie - lethargic, lurching, watery eyes, but no idea what is wrong...

    I'm so very sorry. But it sounds like you made the right decision for him.

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    Re: 7 yr old piggie - lethargic, lurching, watery eyes, but no idea what is wrong...

    I'm very sorry about the loss of Alfie. I strongly support quality over quantity of life and you did what was best for Alfie under the circumstances.

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    Re: 7 yr old piggie - lethargic, lurching, watery eyes, but no idea what is wrong...

    Fly free over the Rainbow Bridge, Alfie! You lived a nice, long life and were certainly loved!

    There is never enough time with our beloved fur balls, and each of them takes a piece of our heart when they go. Hang onto the fond memories and make room in your heart for another loving soul when the time is right.

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    Re: 7 yr old piggie - lethargic, lurching, watery eyes, but no idea what is wrong...

    I'm so sorry for your loss. I feel like one of the heaviest responsibilities we have as pet owners is to protect our pets from suffering in whatever way we can, and sometimes euthanasia is the only way to do that. It sounds like you made the right decision. Rest in Peace, Alfie.

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    Re: 7 yr old piggie - lethargic, lurching, watery eyes, but no idea what is wrong...

    I was reading through this thread that so closely parralled the journey I made with my Bella recently. I am so sorry for your loss. You laid aside your want for Alfie to stay with you and made the most difficult choice any of us will ever have to make for our fur children. It is natural to feel guilt and to second guess yourself, wondering what more could have been done. All I can offer is to reflect upon the joyful times you shared. For me it lets a smile catch some of the tears.

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    Cavy Slave rolandinthehay's Avatar
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    Re: 7 yr old piggie - lethargic, lurching, watery eyes, but no idea what is wrong...

    Thank you for the kind words, everyone. I appreciate it <3

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