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Thread: Paralyzed Guinea Pig, Won't Eat

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    Unhappy Paralyzed Guinea Pig, Won't Eat

    Hi. So, I suppose this is now my medical thread for my four year old male guinea pig, Maple, who is apparently paralyzed from about the middle back.

    Recently I realized that he was not using his back legs properly when he walked. I thought it was because we had put off trimming his nails for too long, and they were getting in the way of him walking. So my mom and I made trimming them a priority. That was quite the ordeal, and from how much he hated it (he always has), I am fairly sure he had at least some feeling in his back legs at that point. I thought he would start walking properly again once his nails were shorter, but that was not to be the case.

    I gave it a little time, hoping it would sort itself out (bad idea), but instead the problem got steadily worse until he wasn't using his back legs at all (he was scooting himself around with his front feet), and then he stopped drinking or eating anything but vegetables. Once I realized he wasn't eating, I started to get really worried, so my sister (who was home for fall break) took him back to college with her and brought him to the vet. The vet determined that he had no feeling in his back half. I believe she said that it could be a spine problem, like a slipped disk, or it could be a tumor pressing down on a nerve. She sent a nutrient supplement and and anti-inflammatory back with him (I believe the latter is for reducing the tumor if there is one--I heard all this second hand so I'm not sure of anything).

    That was last night. We put him in his cage, made him a new house with three doors so he could get in and out more easily, lowered his water bottle, moved everything in his cage closer together. He lives in half of a 2x6 C&C cage with a barrier down the middle separating him from my other male guinea pig, Steve. They're good friends, but Steve couldn't respect Maple's valued personal space, so they didn't make good roommates. They've both got fleece bedding. (I don't know how much of that was relevant, but I figure some history might be helpful).

    Steve was very happy to have his brother back, and Maple was happy to see Steve again after his days at the vet. He was also quite thirsty, and happily drank from his now lowered water bottle. Besides his back legs, Maple seemed none the worse for wear. We gave him some hay, some pellets, and a few pieces of celery (he ate the celery very happily).

    So early this morning my mom and I took Maple out and tried to give him his nutrient supplement (Oxbow Animal Health, Critical Care Fine Grind), via a syringe-thing. He seemed eager for it at first, then he decided he didn't want it (which I can understand--it's weird-smelling, icky green goop). No problem, right? That's why they call it "force-feeding." Well, unfortunately it was much harder than expected. The syringe-thing (I don't know what to properly call it) had a rather short, wide-ish opening due to the consistency of the supplement, which made it very hard to get it in his mouth when he wouldn't hold his head still. All we managed to do was get green goop all over his face and the towel we were holding him with. Then we tried the anti-inflammatory and he totally freaked out, but I managed to get it into him by sheer will-power and a much thinner syringe.

    Once he had calmed down we tried the supplement again, and again had no luck. So I tried piping some onto a stick of celery and offering him that. He was very excited until he realized what it was, at which point he tried chewing the edge of the celery without getting any supplement. When that didn't work he gave up and looked around for something else. So I put the celery into his cage with him in hopes that he would eventually get hungry enough to eat it.

    Fast forward to this evening. I took away his house for awhile to encourage him to look around, and he walked (or rather, scooted using only his front legs) all the way to the other side of the cage for apparently no reason, which seems to me like a good sign. He's been drinking water fine, he's socializing with Steve, and he seems happy to see me when I walk in the room (probably hoping I have vegetables, because the poor pig must be starving). He ate a very little bit of the nutrient-celery, but I guess decided it wasn't worth it. He still has no interest in his hay or pellets. He's not using the bathroom very much, but I imagine that's because he's hardly eaten (I'm supposed to be monitoring that, because the vet said the paralysis thing could mess up his bladder and kidney functions).

    So now I don't know what to do. The time is approaching for him to be fed again (or at least, I guess it is--the vet gave basically no instructions on that. *Throws up hands in exasperation*) and I have no idea how we're gonna get anything into him. And I just don't understand why he's not eating. I mean, I guess I wouldn't be interested in food either if I was paralyzed. But the really weird thing is that besides the not eating, he's way more himself than I'd think he would be under these circumstances. The front half of him at least is the exact same guinea pig I've known since I was 12. He's not lethargic, he doesn't seem depressed, he still loves celery, he socializes with Steve, and he's as stubborn as ever (hence we can't feed him).

    So what am I supposed to do? I've tried all of the tricks I can think of. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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    Cavy Slave LemonySnickers's Avatar
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    Re: Paralyzed Guinea Pig, Won't Eat

    Guinea pigs need food in their system to function properly. I know it's hard, but you have to keep trying with the Critical Care while he's not eating. I had to force feed my gp when he had a URI, and most of it ended up anywhere but his mouth, so I can relate to the struggle. But it's imperative that he eats, so keep trying. Did he see an exotic animal vet that has experience with guinea pigs? I would get a second opinion about his back and about his not eating problem. Hang in there.

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    Administrator bpatters's Avatar
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    Re: Paralyzed Guinea Pig, Won't Eat


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    Re: Paralyzed Guinea Pig, Won't Eat

    Quote Originally Posted by bpatters View Post
    Thank you! We've been doing most of that, but not exactly. I'll show that to my mom and we'll try to change our method. The hardest thing is keeping his head still.

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    Re: Paralyzed Guinea Pig, Won't Eat

    Thank you...I'll keep trying.
    In answer to your question, I don't think so. I've never actually met the vet, but I just looked her up, and it doesn't say she has a specialty in exotic animals. But I don't know where to find one who does, and in all honesty, I don't know if we can even afford to go to one. Assuming there even is one in my state, which I half doubt. This was the best animal clinic we know of.

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    Re: Paralyzed Guinea Pig, Won't Eat

    Update: There is now good news! Which is quickly followed by bad news and a few questions.

    Here's the good news: He ate the goop celery! He'll now eat celery or lettuce with goop (and by goop I mean Critical Care). Which is good. But it's clear that he prefers them without goop, and I don't know how long it'll be before he gets bored of them and won't eat them anymore.

    Here's the bad news: I was feeding him some lettuce this evening (with Critical Care spread on it of course), and I noticed he seemed to be having trouble eating. A very short investigation proved that this was because his teeth had grown ridiculously long. I know that rodents' teeth grow fast when they're not chewing things, but I didn't know they grew THAT fast. Unfortunately Maple is a pig who has never been into chewing things like random wooden blocks, or wooden pears, or wooden carrots, or even eating his house (which Steve loves to do). So I guess all this time he's been keeping his teeth down by chewing pellets and hay, but now he's stopped, and celery and lettuce aren't helping him much. And it just so happens that the only vegetables that will actually help grind his teeth down, carrots, are the vegetables that he really doesn't care for. I fed him four baby carrots last night, and he only ate 3 out of 4 (which is better than none, but I doubt I can convince him to eat again them tonight.)

    So I resorted to desperate measures. A long, long time ago, when they were still using aspen shavings, I used to give them little Snak Shak treats. Maple loved them. They were one of the very few things he would chew. But then I started noticing red marks in his aspen shavings, and I nearly had a heart attack, because they looked a whole lot like blood. Apparently those were because of the Snak Shak treats. I didn't give him anymore of those. But today, I decided that these are desperate times, and so I gave him one. He seemed interested. I hope it works. I also baked them some pine cones, one of the other three things he's willing to chew (the third thing is ice cubes, but I didn't feel like those were a good idea).

    And then I have the questions:

    1. I know that guinea pigs are only allowed to eat a certain amount of vegetables a day, or they could get sick/bloated. But as of now, vegetables are the only effective way to get Critical Care into Maple. So if the vegetables are hyper-nutritious, and he has stopped drinking as much (which I believe he has), is it okay to give him more vegetables than usual? How much is too much? I don't want to give him any more problems than he already has.

    2. When I first switched to C&C, I cut some blue poster board into a wave pattern and stuck it behind the coroplast on the wall side of the cage so the guinea pigs wouldn't kick hay between the cage and the wall. But I had to remove it because the guinea pigs were eating it, and I wasn't at all convinced that it wouldn't poison them. However, I left a bit of it in an out-of-the-way place, and for probably two years neither pig touched it. But this morning, at 6 am, Maple woke me up very loudly eating poster board. He won't eat hay, he won't eat pellets, he wouldn't eat most of his carrots, but he'll eat poster board. I took it away from him for the same reason I did two years ago...but does anyone know why he did that? I offered him some wood blocks and a cardboard tube stuffed with hay to chew on after I took the poster board, but he had no interest in them. I don't understand it. Why will he eat that but not his food?

    3. I don't know if anyone will know about this, but when Maple is sitting with his legs splayed out behind them I feel the need to put them back under him. And when I lift them to do so, they vibrate. Does that mean anything about his paralysis maybe getting better? Or is that wishful thinking?

    4. Would it be a bad idea to give him some alfalfa hay? I know it's only supposed to be fed regularly to pregnant or young guinea pigs, but I feel like Maple can qualify in this situation. He's become very skinny, and he needs something to wear his teeth down.

    And then some random information: I weighed him today, because he's definitely been losing weight and I should have been keeping track of this a long time ago. He weighs 955 grams (unlike Steve, who's more like 1,378 grams). Also, he seemed really lethargic during his feeding today. I offered him some bell pepper with goop (he's never liked bell pepper before, but I did my trick that has worked in the past with getting him to try new things.) He kept nibbling it, then taking a nibble of the Snak Shak treat, then staring into the distance and listening to Steve wheeking in the background. He sat with a piece of lettuce under his nose for a minute or two before eating it.

    I don't know what to do with my poor pig child.

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    Administrator bpatters's Avatar
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    Re: Paralyzed Guinea Pig, Won't Eat

    1) Don't overdo the veggies. It's more important to work on getting him to eat hay.

    2) Guinea pigs often chew on odd things when they're in pain. Did the vet give him any kind of anti-inflammatory medication, like Metacam?

    3) I don't think putting his legs back under him will either help or hurt. Have you tried giving him a vitamin C supplement? Like 100 mg. a day for a week, and then cutting back?

    4) You could offer him some alfalfa hay and see if he'll eat it. If he does, then try either meadow or orchard grass and see if he'll eat that, as they have less calcium than alfalfa.

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    Re: Paralyzed Guinea Pig, Won't Eat

    Quote Originally Posted by bpatters View Post
    1) Don't overdo the veggies. It's more important to work on getting him to eat hay.

    2) Guinea pigs often chew on odd things when they're in pain. Did the vet give him any kind of anti-inflammatory medication, like Metacam?

    3) I don't think putting his legs back under him will either help or hurt. Have you tried giving him a vitamin C supplement? Like 100 mg. a day for a week, and then cutting back?

    4) You could offer him some alfalfa hay and see if he'll eat it. If he does, then try either meadow or orchard grass and see if he'll eat that, as they have less calcium than alfalfa.
    1. Got it. So I'm gonna have to get this force-feeding thing down.

    2. Yes, the vet gave us an anti-inflammatory. The bottle says "Eloxil/Meloxi." We're giving it to him two times a day.

    3. We have not tried giving him a vitamin C supplement. Would that be something we put in his water? Could I find it at a drug store?

    4. I'll try that, then. I'm sure we can find meadow or orchard grass hay at Tractor's Supply, too. They've got that kind of stuff.

    And speaking of grass, I went and picked him some fresh grass today (and washed it very very well, of course) and he's eating it very happily. Also, he ate a few of his pellets today, which is good. I think eating is becoming a struggle for him now, due to his increasingly long teeth, but at the same time he seems to be getting his interest in food back. I think the amount of holding him my mom and I have been doing has helped him.

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    Administrator bpatters's Avatar
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    Re: Paralyzed Guinea Pig, Won't Eat

    No, DON'T put vitamin C in water. In the presence of light and water, vitamin C degrades in just a few minutes, and then all you've got is funny tasting water that the pig may not drink.

    The best way to dose is to get liquid Oasis Vita Drops of plain vitamin C, and syringe those to him. They come in an opaque bottle, so no light is involved, and it's a stable solution.

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    Re: Paralyzed Guinea Pig, Won't Eat

    Quote Originally Posted by bpatters View Post
    No, DON'T put vitamin C in water. In the presence of light and water, vitamin C degrades in just a few minutes, and then all you've got is funny tasting water that the pig may not drink.

    The best way to dose is to get liquid Oasis Vita Drops of plain vitamin C, and syringe those to him. They come in an opaque bottle, so no light is involved, and it's a stable solution.
    Man. I knew vitamin C broke down in heat, I didn't know it did in light and water too.

    Okay, I will look for that--thank you.

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    Re: Paralyzed Guinea Pig, Won't Eat

    Corn husks will give him some good fiber to chew on. Remove all the darker green husks where lingering pesticides may be and just use the lighter green inner husks. Tear them into narrow strips and offer them to your boy. It's o.k. to feed him the silks as well. Corn husks are one of my boy's favorite treats!

    With all the holding that you say you're doing, try gently massaging his back and legs. That might relax them and restore some function. Of course, if this causes pain, then abandon the idea.

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    Re: Paralyzed Guinea Pig, Won't Eat

    Quote Originally Posted by spy9doc View Post
    Corn husks will give him some good fiber to chew on. Remove all the darker green husks where lingering pesticides may be and just use the lighter green inner husks. Tear them into narrow strips and offer them to your boy. It's o.k. to feed him the silks as well. Corn husks are one of my boy's favorite treats!

    With all the holding that you say you're doing, try gently massaging his back and legs. That might relax them and restore some function. Of course, if this causes pain, then abandon the idea.
    Ooo, corn husks. I would never have thought of that. I would be very surprised if I couldn't find corn husks somewhere--corn is kind of a major thing where I live, and they didn't harvest it too recently. I'll try looking for some!

    The massaging is a good idea. Making a mental note to do that tomorrow morning.

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    Re: Paralyzed Guinea Pig, Won't Eat

    Another update:

    He willingly ate a few pellets today, and a little bit of hay! I think I might do a jig.

    And it gets better. All day, I've been noticing that I see him with his legs splayed out behind him less and less. And tonight, when we put him in the cage, he actually seemed to be using them some, and my mom claims to have seen him lift his back leg. I'm afraid to get my hopes up yet, I'm telling myself it might just be wishful thinking, but he is maybe just maybe getting some movement back.

    I am starting to get very worried about his teeth. They're clearly making eating a struggle. However, he's been chewing his Snak Shak treat, and he ate a hard alfalfa cube, and he's been chewing on the bars of the cage and his house, so I'm hoping it gets better...because I really do not want to trim his teeth. That wouldn't go well for anyone. And I don't know that our vet could do it either.

    Also, I have basically given up on force-feeding him with the syringe we currently have. It's just too short. It's impossible to get that little tube into his mouth without his complete cooperation, which he has no intention of giving. I thought maybe I just wasn't trying hard enough, but I showed it to my doctor father and he agrees that it's no use. But as I just said, my dad's a doctor. So he's going to try to get me a better syringe tomorrow. In the mean time, all of his vegetables have critical care on them. But I'm taking bpatters advice and trying not to overdo it, because he's starting to eat hay (yay!).

    Finally, I got him some fresh grass today and washed it reeeaaallly well, and he ate that very happily (this was even before I saw him eat hay). Again, trying not to give him too much, but I'm glad he's eating it because I really don't want him to digest his own stomach and give himself an ulcer. We can only handle so much at once.

    Overall, though, things are looking up! If it sounds from what I just said like I'm doing anything wrong, please say so. Also...any advice on the teeth? Or should I just keep doing what I'm doing?

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    Re: Paralyzed Guinea Pig, Won't Eat

    My piggy loves corn husks. I get them from grocery store bins and prepare as Spy9doc said and I freeze them. I spread them out on cookie sheets so they aren’t all frozen together, then put them in freezer bags. She seems to like them frozen.

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    Re: Paralyzed Guinea Pig, Won't Eat

    Quote Originally Posted by ItsaZoo View Post
    My piggy loves corn husks. I get them from grocery store bins and prepare as Spy9doc said and I freeze them. I spread them out on cookie sheets so they aren’t all frozen together, then put them in freezer bags. She seems to like them frozen.
    Frozen, huh. That's interesting!

    I'm not totally sure if I'll be able to find them--corn season is a little earlier here than most places--but I'll keep an eye out. Thank you!

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    Re: Paralyzed Guinea Pig, Won't Eat

    Quote Originally Posted by Maplepig View Post
    I'm not totally sure if I'll be able to find them--corn season is a little earlier here than most places
    Look in the produce section of grocery stores or big box stores like Costco, BJs, WalMart, etc. Even though prime corn season has passed, you can still find packaged ears of corn with the light green husks attached. We have to resort to this during the winter. Corn isn't that expensive and even if your family doesn't eat a lot of corn-on-the-cob, it may be worth it to get that good roughage into Maple.

    Regarding the syringes......just give up on trying to get enough Critical Care into him with what you have been using! Go to a pet store and ask for a "small animal feeding syringe" which is usually about 30 or 60ml. It will look huge until you actually use it. Mix the CC to a consistency that will pour prior to it before it thickens too much. You can pour the CC into the syringe and have a good amount drawn up without filling multiple syringes. Your Dad means well, but the syringes he has access to won't work for feeding a cavy........you need one with a longer "end", not a luer-lock syringe as is used for injections.

    As you may have discovered, the Critical Care thickens a lot during mixing. It take time to learn just how to mix it to ensure that it does thicken, but doesn't thicken so much that you can't syringe it and Maple can barely eat it. The trick when feeding CC is to mimic a cavy's natural eating pattern......a few bites of pellets and then a swig or two of water, and then more pellets. Fill a smaller syringe with water or unflavored Pedialyte and give him a couple mouthfuls of CC and then a squirt of liquid so that he can actually get the mixture down his throat without discomfort.

    It takes practice, but you'll learn how to do it in no time!

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    Re: Paralyzed Guinea Pig, Won't Eat

    You may need to rig up something like this:

    Name:  piginchair.jpg
Views: 61
Size:  10.2 KB

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    Re: Paralyzed Guinea Pig, Won't Eat

    Quote Originally Posted by spy9doc View Post
    Regarding the syringes......just give up on trying to get enough Critical Care into him with what you have been using! Go to a pet store and ask for a "small animal feeding syringe" which is usually about 30 or 60ml. It will look huge until you actually use it. Mix the CC to a consistency that will pour prior to it before it thickens too much. You can pour the CC into the syringe and have a good amount drawn up without filling multiple syringes. Your Dad means well, but the syringes he has access to won't work for feeding a cavy........you need one with a longer "end", not a luer-lock syringe as is used for injections.
    Yeah...I think I may have to do that. Dad gave me an end for the syringe I currently have, but it's too thin, and the stuff won't come out properly. He says he needs to find an "irrigation syringe" or something like that, because it's not made for attaching to a needle so it's not quite so narrow. But he's not sure he has one. If that doesn't work, I'll look for a proper pet feeding syringe when we're in town tomorrow.

    I've got a syringe I can fill with water, so if we can find a pet feeding syringe I'll try that method. Which reminds me that I need to be finding a vitamin C supplement. This is all so complicated...

    *Deep breath* Okay. We'll keep going. I'm learning a lot from this.

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    Re: Paralyzed Guinea Pig, Won't Eat

    Quote Originally Posted by rosspiggys View Post
    You may need to rig up something like this:

    Name:  piginchair.jpg
Views: 61
Size:  10.2 KB
    My brother suggested that! But I have no idea how to pull that off. Hopefully I won't have to--I could've sworn I saw him support his weight on his back left leg today. I think he's actually getting his motion back. I've definitely been keeping a piggy wheelchair in mind, though.

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    Re: Paralyzed Guinea Pig, Won't Eat

    Yet another update:

    My dad gave me a new end for my syringe, but it was just slightly too narrow. I watered the Critical Care down as much as I felt like I could without it being more water than nutrition, but it just wasn't working. He's looking for a syringe that isn't made for attaching to a needle so it will be wider, but he doesn't know if he'll find one. If he can't, I'll look for @spy9doc 's suggestion when we go to town tomorrow.

    Meanwhile, I woke up this morning to Maple eating his pellets. Or so I thought. Apparently he was just pulling his pellets out of his bowl and dropping them (I thought he was dropping them and then eating them, but when I looked the fleece was strewn with pellets). Why he was doing that, I don't know. At least he was showing interest in them? We called the vet again, and she says that if he's still making a sideways jaw motion when he chews (which he is) then the teeth probably aren't the problem. So now I'm not convinced he's really been eating his pellets, and I have no good way to gauge how much hay he's been eating. Ack.

    I am, however, becoming more and more convinced that he's regaining motion in his back legs. The vet gave us an exercise to do with him, so I guess we're doing piggy physical therapy now. Woo!

    Does anyone have any idea about the pellets? The vet didn't really say anything. Could his teeth be hurting him because he's not getting enough vitamin C? A vitamin C supplement is on my list for tomorrow, along with corn husks, a syringe, alfalfa and or orchard grass hay, and leaf lettuce (right now all we have is romaine).

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