We had a 1 1/2 year old guinea pig go through bladder stone surgery and didn't make it. We are really struggling with it and wanted to reach out to this community for any thoughts or insights to help us have some closure to the incident.
He (Frank) developed a stone and we visited an exotic specialist who prescribed some medications to see if the stone would move, or even pass. When we discovered that it didn't, we went the surgery route. The vet mentioned he had performed this surgery hundreds of times and even mentioned a 95% success rate. We understand there is a risk with all surgeries, but the vet's reaction gave us no reason to be concerned.
When we picked him up after the surgery, the receptionist (the vet didn't meet with us) told us he hadn't been eating well after the surgery, and that if he wasn't eating by the morning, to call them. When we were handed the crate with Frank, his rear was pressed up against the door - it seemed he was placed in the crate, they closed the door, and he didn't move at all. He didn't move from the time we picked him up to the time we brought him home. When we picked him up and placed him in his cage, he still didn't move, other than some occasional movements of the head. He was essentially lifeless other than breathing. We offered him some lettuce and placed pellets near him, but he refused. When I went to bed that night, he still hadn't moved. We were getting concerned, but the only guidance the receptionist gave us was to call in the morning if he wasn't eating, so we had faith in what they were telling us was the only thing we needed to worry about.
I woke up in the middle of the night to check on him, and my wife said he managed to drag himself into the corner, but he was being even less responsive than before. That's when we started researching on the internet and read about trying to force feed with a syringe and mashed pellets with water. We attempted that, but he wasn't taking any of it. We called the 24 hour animal hospital and they said the vet on staff was not an exotic specialist, but if things got worse to bring him in. We did some more research and read about Critical Care. We called the hospital again and they had some, so we drove there and brought it back to give that a try. This time we lifted him out of the cage and rested him in my wife's lap to try to feed him and cover him to keep him warm. He couldn't even lift his head. We had to lift his head, and we couldn't even open his mouth much to try the Critical Care. He wasn't taking the Critical Care.
We called the hospital again and they said to bring him in because it sounded like he wouldn't make it to the morning. Once there, they tried to measure his blood sugar, but it didn't even register because it was so low. I believe they gave him glucose through IV, and he started to lift his head and look around. They also had him in an incubator to try to get his temperature up. We left him there and they would call us with updates. When we explained the whole situation to the hospital staff, they stated they were perplexed that the vet would have sent him home in that condition.
We called a few hours later and Frank had just died; they couldn't get his temperature up. The hospital vet offered to "open him up" to see if he could find anything, and we agreed. He let us know later that everything looked fine with the surgery, but his penis was full of blood clots, and that he would call the vet who performed the surgery to let him know. The vet who performed the surgery called us later that morning to answer any questions. When we asked questions about whether or not he should have come home yet, he stated that although he wasn't eating well, and that they had to force feed him, he was showing indications of recovery. He also stated that Frank wasn't moving much, and didn't know if that was normal. Another response he gave us was "I gotta go home sometime."
We fully understand that complications can arise with surgeries, but the vet's comments on Frank's progress post surgery don't reconcile with the condition he was in since picking him up after the surgery - essentially lifeless other than seeing him inhale/exhale. We also understand that they facility was not equippped for 24-hour monitoring, but if Frank was not in prime condition to come home, some addtional guidance on how to care for him (other than "if he isn't eating by morning, call us") should have been given, or, we could have taken him to the hospital.
We feel we were wronged, but if any of you have any thoughts or insights on whether this is a legitimate feeling or not, that may help us deal with this in a healty manner, and perhaps this post will help others who are faced with bladder stone surgery to be better prepared.
Thanks for reading.
- Supporter in 2018
I don't have any insights or thoughts about the surgery. Three of my pigs had surgery and recovered just fine, although one did develop an encapsulated infection that had to be removed removed 3 weeks later.
Rest in peace, Frank. You are loved and missed.
- And got the T-shirt
It sounds to me as if he was given too much anesthesia, or perhaps an inappropriate kind of anesthesia for a guinea pig. When I had a pig that had a stone removed, I waited while the surgery was done, and she was awake and moving around 20 minutes later. I took her home, and she was nearly as awake and active as normal, if a little slow moving around.
I don't know what recourse you've got. If it were me, I'd want to know if the exotic specialist was the one who actually did the surgery and the anesthesia, and what he thinks went wrong.
I can't help but agree with you that in the condition he was in, he should not have left. I am so sorry he didn't make it. I do not know what caused his death. Did you get a full necropsy report?
His behavior to me indicates he was in pain.
And it certainly could have been related to the anesthesia, as bpatters suggests.
- For the Love of Pigs
Is the vet an experienced gp vet? The vets I went to with my first several piggies treated "exotic pets". They knew the basics, no penicillin, etc. But when I switched to a vet listed on this forum, I realized how much more they knew about gp's.
One of the dedicated vets there who did stone surgery on our pig, took her home with her over the weekend right after the surgery. The pig ended up dying anyway a few weeks later due to complications . I don't know how many vets would be that dedicated, though.
As for Frank, I'm thinking pain, anesthesia & possibly obstructed penis.
Once again, so sorry about your loss.
They did give us some medication; it looks like it's anti-inflammatory (Loxicom?) I really don't know/remember if any pain medication was given during or after the surgery, but I can ask; we've been trying to get the vet to call us back with some additional questions. The vet did mention that Frank did urinate after the surgery, and I think he urinated after we brought him home. When he did at home, I believe it was a little red, and the receptionist mentioned that might happen. If I remember correctly, the hospital vet did say his bladder was full when we brought him there. We didn't get a full necropsy report, just what the hospital vet told us over the phone.
The vet appears to be a very experienced gp vet, both from what we've read and how he spoke with us...which is why the hospital staff were perplexed that he sent Frank home to us in that condition, and why we're so confused. We understand that surgeries aren't 100% successful, it just seems Frank shouldn't have been handed over to us in that condition with no more instruction than "if he isn't eating by the morning, call us." We're beginning to wonder how much of the work was actually performed by the vet vs. other staff in the practice.
Thank you all again for reading and for your kind words. Hopefully this thread will help others in a similar situation prepare and know what questions to ask.