Over the last six months or so our little pig Abraham (male, almost 4 years old now) started to become less and less active. We thought he was just getting old, but he really wasn't very old. His cage-mate Kevin (male) is the same age and is much more active. Abraham was eating well and seemed happy so we didn't worry too much about it.
Roughly six weeks ago I started hearing him grunt and squeak when peeing. Hoping it would pass I let it go for a couple weeks. He didn't do it every time but more and more I felt there was something wrong with him. About 4 weeks ago we took him to a vet we have used for them before (for minor issues). I suspected a UTI or bladder stone but neither was confirmed (x ray didn't show a stone and urinalysis was inconclusive). They pointed out he has "some arthritis" in his upper spine towards the shoulders and sent us home with 10 days of Metacam, and Sulfamethox/ Trimetho antibiotic in case of UTI. We completed his medicine course and I started giving him Natural Science Joint Support tabs. He seemed about the same for the next couple weeks.
Now, four or five days ago I realized he was not using his hind legs. He would appear in different parts of the cage but I can't remember the last time I actually saw him walk. Maybe 2 months ago. I started paying more attention to him and noticed that to move he drags his back legs and then scoots back to sit on his haunches again. To be clear he has a small amount of mobility in his hind legs but cannot really walk and certainly can't hop.
At this point I started searching the internet for what might be going on and found a number of posts about this same thing and giving a calcium supplement for a few days can clear it right up. This is Peter Gurney's advice, and he says to give Osteocare calcium supplement. Amazon has several reviews for Osteocare from guinea pig owners saying it cured their paralysis so I ordered that overnight and started him on it.
Three days later (yesterday) and no improvement. I also started supplementing Vitamin C (they get enough from their bell pepper but wanted to give a little extra). Yesterday evening he was really grunting while urinating. He seemed in a lot of pain. I took a good look at him and discovered a huge sperm rod stuck in his penis and pulled it out. I thought that must have been the problem the whole time! But an hour later he was squeeking while urinating again, and again this morning so I decided to get him to the vet right away. Went to a different vet this time because the last one seemed to not be extremely competent in my opinion (inconclusive urinalysis and some other things).
So just got back from this other vet (exotics expert) and she took two more x rays and discovered severe disc degeneration roughly mid spine. She may have used another term for it, but basically said the discs were thin, uneven amd there seemed to be notchiness on the vertebrae bones. She said she never saw such a thing in a guinea pig and that he was probably in a fair amount of pain, especially while going potty since he would have to strain a little to go. His leg muscles, she said, were hard as rocks. She did accupuncture on him and told me to gently message his leg muscles every day.
She sent us home with a course of Baytril in case of UTI, Meloxicam .4 mls, and Gabapentin .23 mls daily. I guess the Gabapentin is supposed to be pretty strong for nerve pain.
So that's where it's at now. We're going to see how it goes for a couple weeks, but if he still has pain and is not enjoying life we'll have to euthanize him. If you have any advice please let me know.
PS I am also giving him some B complex vitamins since he may not be eating his ceacotrophs since he has limited mobility.
I'm so sorry your guinea pig is having these issues. I hope the pain medication helps. Are you weighing daily? Does your guinea pig have really shiny hair? Shiny haired guinea pigs are called Satins and can have bone issues. I worry that she said his leg muscles were hard as rocks. When you massage him daily, you could also considered doing it in slightly warm water to loosen the muscles.
Was any sludge present in the bladder?
I am not weighing daily but I can start. His weight is the same today as it was at his last visit, he's stout at about 1400 grams. No, he does not have very shiny hair. He has long calico hair but I don't think he's a satin.
I think I will give him daily warm water baths, just up to his waist and no soap, to help relax his muscles and keep him clean since he can't vlean himself very well. I've been doing that the past few days already.
We could not see any sludge at all on the x-ray, although his urine seems cloudy and perhaps gritty. Apart from the calcium supplement I tried his diet has been fairly, but not extremely, low in calcium. No spinach or alfalfa or anything like that.
He just started the gabapentin. I split his first dose in half to make sure he could tolerate it OK, full dose tomorrow. I'll keep you posted!
And this talks about a cart to help your guinea pig get around:
It will be very important to control the pain.
I'm thinking about the cart. I think the biggest benefit there will be that it may keep his back straight and more or less immobilized. Right now he has everything he needs placed around him and all he has to do is rotate but that may be bad for his spine in the condition it's in.
So a cart is probably a good idea.
I made a cart for Abraham but it he doesn't like it. He doesn't like the strap around his neck and tries to get his paws through it so I may need to redesign.
Anyway he is doing OK on his medicine. The gabapentin .23 mils seems to be helping as today he was pretty active and seemed happier than the past few days. I think there is room to increase that dosage in the future if he needs it. Also his leg muscles seem to have softened up. I'm giving him a warm bath every morning and he has a heat pad to lay on. Also going back for accupuncture on Wednesday.
Still though, I don't know if his quality of life is going to be very good with this chronic problem. We'll see if his condition can improve in the next few weeks but if not I'm not going to make him suffer.
Hoping things improve. I imagine the cart may be best used as a sometimes option for exercise daily - not a device you leave him in all the time.