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Thread: Pig seems to have trouble eating

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    Cavy Slave onefutui2e's Avatar
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    Pig seems to have trouble eating

    Hey all,

    My girlfriend noticed that one of our guinea pigs has been eating really slow lately. So we took him out and weighed him. Over the course of 3 days, he lost 10% of his weight (peak of 54oz, now at 49oz) so obviously that puts us into alarm. His poops have also been incredibly wet, gross, and just really mushy.

    I've started on the Critical Care (giving him about 1ml per hour) but I've been observing him and it looks like he still at least tries to eat some of his favorite foods (pepper, lavender, carrot, etc.) but it looks way more labored than normal. It's almost like he's having trouble chewing, and he makes that motion with his mouth/cheeks that he makes when he has too much food in his mouth...except I he doesn't have that much.

    I have also observed him munching on a strand of hay, then pulling away from it and the strand's still there. When I take the strand and break it up into small pieces, he eats them no problem. Same thing with seed heads. If I give him a whole piece, he struggles to eat it, but if I rip off pieces of it he has no problem. When I give him lavender, it takes him a lot more time than usual to eat it. And I have to give it to him end first. Otherwise, he tries to pick it up from the middle, then drops it over and over again. When I give my guinea pigs more hay, he walks up to it and will try to nibble a few things. In other words, it seems like he's trying to eat, but something is bothering him and he can't??

    His behavior otherwise hasn't really changed too much, except that he's spent more time hiding under a blanket in the corner than usual. His interactions with his roommate have largely remained unchanged, though I see that the roommate has been trying to take advantage (he's been the beta).

    We had brought him to an exotic vet (the doctor had previously owned guinea pigs) last week and she said that his mouth looked fine.

    So...a few questions.

    1. Has anyone else ever observed this behavior with their guinea pigs?
    2. I understand that guinea pigs need to have food in their systems, otherwise they risk GI stasis and die. To that end, I'm planning to continue supplementing him with Critical Care regularly. However, is there still a risk that he'll develop malocclusion since he might not be eating his hay?
    3. I called my vet and the earliest time they have would be an appointment on Monday (today is Friday). What can I do to maximize the probability that he not only survives until then, but is still in position to be saved?

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    Cavy Champion Guinea Pig Papa's Avatar
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    Re: Pig seems to have trouble eating

    It sounds like your little guy is suffering from malocclusion already.

    Weighing him steadily right now will be key. Personally right now while he is ill, I would weigh him every morning. If he is unable to eat anything else on his own, he will require steady feedings. In this case, his daily requirements will be determined by his present weight. Pigs require roughly 100 grams of dry Critical Care for every kilogram (2.2 lbs) of body weight per day. This should be spaced out roughly every 4 hours. 1ml per hour is definitely nowhere near enough.

    I had a boar named Sly who dealt with malocclusion. He endured 11 dental procedures in all, and I will link here to his thread. You may wish to read it so that you will have an idea of what you are up against.

    https://www.guineapigcages.com/forum...ly%27s+medical

    Check his incisors. They will likely be angled, but not necessarily. Your vet more than likely had a quick look in his mouth and every appears fine, yet I've had the same visit and been told the same thing only to go back a few days later and have them whiff him under with gas for a closer look and find all was NOT well.

    Don't trust him to anyone who doesn't have extensive dental experience with pigs. Planing the molars is a rather precise procedure and it must be done at a correct angle. If done wrong it can even make the problem worse. The incisors really shouldn't need to be touched, as if the molars are corrected the incisors will straighten themselves out.

    Keeping him fed regularly over the weekend is the key to his survival. I wish you the absolute best of luck. If you have any other questions feel free to post here.

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    Administrator bpatters's Avatar
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    Re: Pig seems to have trouble eating

    Vet, ASAP, for a dental x-ray, both top and sides.

    Give him way more CC than that. A pig that's eating nothing else needs 100 cc of Critical Care for every kilogram it weighs, spread out into 6-8 feedings per day. He's close to 1.4 kg, so 140 cc per day. If he's eating a significant amount of anything else, you can decrease the CC accordingly.

    He probably has malocclusion already, since he's not eating. But once you get the molars straightened out, the incisors will probably even out, or the vet can even them. Just Do. Not. let the vet trim the incisors too short, or you'll be handfeeding for days.

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    Cavy Slave onefutui2e's Avatar
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    Re: Pig seems to have trouble eating

    Thanks! I'm calling a few other places to see if I can an earlier (emergency) appointment.

    On the subject of Critical Care, I've been doing 1cc per half-hour or hour because typically when I've had to do this, they'd take FOREVER to put it down. So I would give them a small amount, give them some time to process it and digest it, then rinse and repeat. Are there any tips and tricks to making sure your guinea pig is eating the critical care in a timely manner, or is it just a matter of being extremely patient?

    Also, how does malocclusion like this happen? Most stories I read about are people neglecting their dietary needs. My girlfriend and I give them plenty of hay, so was it basically just a case of like, "I don't feel great, so I'm not going to eat as much...oh crap, well, I guess I have malocclusion now."

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    Cavy Champion Guinea Pig Papa's Avatar
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    Re: Pig seems to have trouble eating

    When Sly had to be fed, it usually took awhile. Scooter and Punkin were absolute terrors to try and feed. They hated it.

    What I found that worked for me was to mix up a nice, thin batch of critical care in a 15CC Monoject 412 syringe. I would cut the curved tip off, far enough that the end would JUST fit into a 1ml syringe. I would then fill the 1ml syringe with critical care, which I was able to get further back in his mouth into his molars, forcing them to chew. Otherwise they were VERY good about spitting it back out. I even nicknamed Scooter "Goober" for a time because he spit so much of it back out.

    There can be any number of reasons why malocclusion happens. Hopefully the xrays will shed some light but if not, sometimes the teeth just go wonky for whatever reason. Sometimes they only require one molar planing and never again and other times, like Sly, it becomes a regular thing, and with increasing frequency. We never got an answer as to why his teeth went funny.

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    Cavy Slave onefutui2e's Avatar
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    Re: Pig seems to have trouble eating

    Quote Originally Posted by Guinea Pig Papa View Post
    When Sly had to be fed, it usually took awhile. Scooter and Punkin were absolute terrors to try and feed. They hated it.

    What I found that worked for me was to mix up a nice, thin batch of critical care in a 15CC Monoject 412 syringe. I would cut the curved tip off, far enough that the end would JUST fit into a 1ml syringe. I would then fill the 1ml syringe with critical care, which I was able to get further back in his mouth into his molars, forcing them to chew. Otherwise they were VERY good about spitting it back out. I even nicknamed Scooter "Goober" for a time because he spit so much of it back out.

    There can be any number of reasons why malocclusion happens. Hopefully the xrays will shed some light but if not, sometimes the teeth just go wonky for whatever reason. Sometimes they only require one molar planing and never again and other times, like Sly, it becomes a regular thing, and with increasing frequency. We never got an answer as to why his teeth went funny.
    Thanks, I'll give it a try. Luckily, my vet referred to an emergency center that I can go to. I plan to do it tomorrow morning. Hopefully things will work out. I've had 2 previous guinea pigs that passed away after not eating (fortunately they all lived past 5 years) for a few days. Trying to see if I can break the curse.

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    Cavy Champion Guinea Pig Papa's Avatar
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    Re: Pig seems to have trouble eating

    I'm hoping for a good outcome for your little one. As I said earlier, if you have any questions don't hesitate to ask, and please keep us updated on his treatment/progress.

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    Cavy Slave onefutui2e's Avatar
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    Re: Pig seems to have trouble eating

    Quick weekend update:

    On Saturday I took him to an emergency center. The vets there confirmed that his bottom teeth are overgrown. However, their exotic vet wasn't in that day, so they weren't able to help him. I tried to call my vet and see if they could move the appointment since we now know what's wrong, but I was told that as long as I can keep syringe feeding him and he's taking the critical care, we should be able to wait until Monday. Which sucks, but at least I know what's wrong with him now.

    My girlfriend and I have been feeding him around the clock now; about 20cc every 2-3 hours. We're using the approach you described, where we repeatedly fill 1cc syringes since those can effectively be "jammed" further into the back of their mouths. He's still relatively spry and alert, not quite as there as he usually is, but he's still able to run away when we pick him up, fights back when we try to feed him, and still loves to cuddle.

    His vet appointment is in about 7 hours, so hopefully this ordeal will be over soon!

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    Cavy Slave ItsaZoo's Avatar
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    Re: Pig seems to have trouble eating

    Good luck at the vet appointment today - I hope they are able to take care of the problem.

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    Cavy Slave onefutui2e's Avatar
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    Re: Pig seems to have trouble eating

    Quote Originally Posted by ItsaZoo View Post
    Good luck at the vet appointment today - I hope they are able to take care of the problem.
    Thank you! He was still really spry this morning and his weight has been relatively steady. So I think he should be okay assuming the vet visit is good. When I came over with lettuce him and his roommate both ran up to it. It was really sad watching him try to eat it, though. The upside, though, is that I was able to rip them into small pieces and feed it to him. So he's still got something there and I'm sure he appreciated having solid food for the first time in a few days.

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    Cavy Champion Guinea Pig Papa's Avatar
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    Re: Pig seems to have trouble eating

    Hoping for the best for your little man! Let us know how he fares with the procedure.

    How old is he, by the way?

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    Cavy Slave onefutui2e's Avatar
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    Re: Pig seems to have trouble eating

    In a surprising turn of events, according to my girlfriend the vet told her she's pretty confident there are no dental issues. She didn't x-ray him, but put him under some gas and inspected the teeth. No sign of caps, tongue entrapment, or spurs. She said the teeth look normal without signs of malocclusion. She noted that he has a lot of saliva. But ultimately she thinks it may be gas or GI-related, so sent us home with some anti-gas and stool mobility medication. She recommended keeping him under observation and to follow up next week.

    So that's a bit frustrating. I'm no expert, but watching him eat, I don't see how his struggles are gas or GI related. The upside is that he's back to eating solid foods a bit now. There were a few times where I would go to the cage and I'd see him chewing, so he must be eating something. He's eating bigger pieces of lettuce now (I still have to tear them up) than he was a few days ago and he's even started taking chunks out of a carrot on his own. Food still drops from his mouth from time to time; again, it's almost like he's trying to pull in the food but he just drops it.

    Going to continue supplementing him with Critical Care and hand feed him. Hopefully he gets better over time; there are a few encouraging signs so far.

    No idea how old he is since he's a rescue...but I would save at least 4 years old, if not 5.

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    Cavy Champion Guinea Pig Papa's Avatar
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    Re: Pig seems to have trouble eating

    Something in his mouth hurts.

    This is pretty much exactly how it started with Punkin. We thought he had malocclusion at first, and as it turns out he did, but only a mild case. His malocclusion was caused by pain in his mouth, and as it turned out in the end that he had an upper incisor infected. He also drooled a lot, most likely from pain.

    I would urge you to take him right back to the vet and have xrays done. They almost certainly would have pointed you to what the problem was.

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    Cavy Slave onefutui2e's Avatar
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    Re: Pig seems to have trouble eating

    Yeah, I think she was hesitant to do an x-ray unless it was absolutely necessary...I scheduled another appointment with a different vet for next Wednesday. Different office, further drive, but I think they're overall better with small animals.

    Was really hoping that we'd have solved the issue by now, but...oh well. Luckily I'm working from home so I can take care of him regularly and feed him. My co-workers are getting used to me doing it during meetings too!

    No major updates otherwise; he's taking the syringe well and he's eating lettuce and things I give him, but still struggles a little bit. Interestingly, his ability to eat improves as he continues eating pieces I give him, so I'm guessing there's discomfort in his mouth that makes it tricky for him to eat to start.

  15. "Thank you, onefutui2e, for this useful post," says:


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    Cavy Champion Guinea Pig Papa's Avatar
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    Re: Pig seems to have trouble eating

    I'm glad you're getting him in for another look. Please keep us updated. Fingers crossed for the little guy!

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    Cavy Slave onefutui2e's Avatar
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    Re: Pig seems to have trouble eating

    Mid-week update:

    His weight has been steady over the past few days, hovering between 48 to 49 ounces. He's eating a little bit of solid foods, but very gingerly. I gave him a small piece of lettuce and he ate it, but made that face he makes when there's something's stuck in his mouth, or if he took a huge bite from a piece of carrot/pepper. He's starting to get a little sluggish...but he still runs out of his hiding spot for some veggies. It's really sad :(

    His fur under his mouth is also really wet. I assume this is his drool. Is this okay, or should I clean/wipe it when I can?

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    Cavy Champion Guinea Pig Papa's Avatar
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    Re: Pig seems to have trouble eating

    I feel your pain. I went through this for many, many months.

    It's definitely his drool. I used to try and gently dry it as much as I could, because Punkin's skin would get SO wet and irritated and painful looking.

    I would recommend getting him on some sort of antibiotic. I'd almost bet the farm that something has either poked him in the mouth hard enough to make it hurt a lot, of something is jammed in his gums. I really think he needs to have his mouth inspected much more thoroughly.

    Your little guy sounds like Punkin all over again. It hurts me to think about it.

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    Cavy Slave onefutui2e's Avatar
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    Re: Pig seems to have trouble eating

    Weekend update!

    For a few days my girlfriend and I had taken to wrapping bits of hay in his lettuce leaves in order to "trick" him and make sure he's consuming hay. But he caught on after a while and started refusing it, so we stopped that.

    He lost an additional ounce between Friday and Sunday, so we've ramped the critical care back up. He's been eating more solid foods, though he still has trouble with bigger pieces and he needs to actively rip the lettuce apart to get them down to manageable size. He's eating slow, especially compared to his roommate, but he usually spends a good 20 minutes at it. So at least he still has his appetite.

    Yesterday night I went to get him for another feeding and saw him chewing on something; I don't think we had any veggies or fruit in the cage so hopefully it's a positive sign and he's eating his hay and/or pellets now.

    Fur below his mouth is still really wet.

    It's definitely been stressful keeping him on a 3-hour interval for feeding (we usually get about 20cc in per feeding) but we have a decent system down and it usually takes about 15-20 minutes per 10cc.

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    Cavy Champion Guinea Pig Papa's Avatar
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    Re: Pig seems to have trouble eating

    It's beginning to sound like your little guy is dealing with the same thing my boy Punkin did.

    It's not a happy read, but I'm going to link pumpkins medical thread here for you to look through. You can see some of the similarities yourself. Sadly, we lost Punkin after an almost 2 month fight. I hope you find something in his thread that helps you figure out what's wrong with your boy, and gives your vet some direction as well.
    https://www.guineapigcages.com/forum...medical-thread

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    Cavy Slave onefutui2e's Avatar
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    Re: Pig seems to have trouble eating

    Thank you for sharing that thread. I've been posting updates to keep people informed, but having a record is also really good for others in the future. The last days as you described for Punkin mirrors very much the last days of one of mine back in the summer of 2018. I remember it was incredibly heartbreaking...

    This little guy is still hanging in there. Honestly, aside from his wet beard look he looks exactly the same as he always has. One thing that worries me is if all these constant feedings carries the risk that maybe I jam the syringe in the wrong spot and make his mouth feel even worse.

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