Elder guinea pigs with severe athritis - when it is selfish?


Post   » Wed Jan 08, 2014 8:00 am

I have recently read an article about the overuse of euthanasia in pets, and I thought it made a great point about how euthanasia basically is often done as a replacement for pain management (and a lot of vets use it that way as well because they are not really good at pain management).

Pain management can be tricky to get right, but I would focus on throwing everything into that - trying out different medicines for arthritis management as well as pain and also trying things like maybe accupuncture or water therapy, etc. If it were me, I would definitely make that my focus.

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Post   » Wed Jan 08, 2014 8:57 am

Pardon me while I wax a bit philosophical, but this is a topic I've been thinking alot about.

The thing about animals being sick is that in the "wild" a sick animal is easy prey and often becomes someone's meal pretty quickly. An animal doesn't really suffer long in it's natural habitat.

Euthanasia is such a difficult, personal, and painful decision to make. I understand that my above thought doesn't exactly relate, since we're talking about domesticated pets here. I guess the point I wanted to throw in is that it isn't "natural" for animals to suffer long, or to deal with chronic physical conditions. They get sick and either recover veryquickly or die.

We intervene and bring them to the vet, give them medications, and wean them through their sickness. But that's our need, not theirs. .

Does anyn of that make any sense? Like I said, I've been thinking alot aboiut this, so it's still a thought inprogress. . .

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Post   » Wed Jan 08, 2014 9:16 am

I think euthanasia is overused a lot for many reasons. For many people it's that or paying the vet bills, and for some it prevents them the heartache of looking after an ill pet.

I definitely know what you mean jacqueline. Piggies are prey animals and can hide their illnesses well. They can seem find one moment, and the next they've passed away. They don't suffer for long, they wouldn't be able to in the wild. Although they are domesticated they still have a lot of natural instincts from their wild relatives, such as hiding away from the "eagles", herd behaviour. So, it should be one thing to consider when having to make that decision.


Post   » Wed Jan 08, 2014 3:27 pm

For me it's when we keep them when they need more and more meds for the good days. When the bad days out weigh the good days.

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Post   » Thu Jan 09, 2014 12:51 pm

Many people just can't afford the ongoing treatment that some pigs require. Like my Timmy, who had to have an eye removed and then had recurring infections that needed treatment and the total was well over $1500. Many people have spent even more.

If someone can't afford, or even are unwilling to pay for vet care, wouldn't it be better for the pet to be humanely euthanized? Shelters will euthanize a sick pet that comes in. Rescues don't have unlimited funds to care for all the sick animals that people can't take care of.

I've let some guinea pigs pass away "peacefully" on their own. Others were in definite pain and required euthanasia. I've been more upset at the thought that I let some go too long than the thought that I had it done too early.

Sorry if this seems a bit off topic. I've been thinking about it a lot since I had my bunny euthanized.

Cinnabuns Legacy

Post   » Wed Mar 12, 2014 3:57 pm

Lisam, I have also felt really bad because I put cavies through so much (x rays, "man handling" at the veterinary office for exams and the x rays, hand feeding, giving them medications they do not care for) and had them get to the point of no recovery anyway. Money was the least of my concerns, I just was hoping I could help them live longer, fuller lives. I did not want to feel like I was just giving up on them.

Now I am at a difficult place with Phantom. He is five years old now (or very close to, his exact age is not known but he was thought to be about a year old when I got him, and his former household had him for 10 months). He has kidney issues from age and probably also from the use of pain medication that he needs. I have put him through laser treatment to relieve the arthritis pain and he has had two full treatments (divided into multiple sessions over a couple weeks' time) costing $1,000 total.

He is losing muscle mass from the arthritis. He was having good days up until today where he would not even eat his favorite food, cucumber. I had to hand feed him, he fought it so part of me thinks "he still has determination", but I thought that of others too before they just gave up themselves.

I am not sure if I should drag him out to a veterinarian an hour away (he does not like car rides) and have them x ray him which he also hates, and put him through a somewhat complicated surgery. But if I do not, then I feel like I did the wrong thing, that I "just gave up".

Is it selfish to make him keep going, or would it be selfish to have him humanely put down? I do not know what the best course of action is. If he was a year younger, no or just minor arthritis, and did not have the start of kidney disease/damage the decision would be so much easier.

It has been so painful to watch a cavy with so much personality, who used to be so robust and hardy, go down hill. Even before he got stones he was less energetic than he used to be. He has been having a lot of hit and miss days, but the past few days he was having really good days and seemed back to his normal self. Now he is having to be hand fed and will not even eat his favorite foods (such as cucumbers). But I have no way to know if it is from the bladder stone issue or from the arthritis which is getting more widespread and advanced (since now the muscle around the spine is deteriorating).

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Post   » Wed Mar 12, 2014 5:18 pm

Cinnabuns Legacy,

It is very hard to make the choice, but if he is starting to refuse food and is seeming fatigued all the time it is his way of saying that the time is near. Other signs (sometimes coming from severe pain) are if they do not fully lie down and kind of hunch with their fur all puffed out.

I am sure that you have plenty of interaction with your vet. See if he will prescribe two 0.15 cc doses of Versed. That is a lot for a pig, but no where near enough to trigger any alarms that a human was going to use it. It is a controlled substance so you will have to sign for it.
If your little one does go into distress you can give him a dose, and then one later if needed. It is a sedative, anti-anxiety and amnesic, so your little guy will feel no pain and will not be an hour away from relief when the time comes.
This is the stuff that is used in a lot of minor procedures in hospitals or that your Vet will use when they need to do xrays etc.

I am so sorry that you are going through this, we have had 3 go this year already (one just 2 days ago).


Post   » Wed Mar 12, 2014 5:57 pm

I know it's a tough choice.

I can only give you my personal story. At around 3 years and 8 months, my CinnaMoo girl developed unexplained digestive issues that were so severe that we had to have her stomach pumped about 3-4 times now and have gone to the emergency room twice within a span of a few months, never mind all the diagnostics, including a CT scan and an exploratory surgery (done at the time when she was spayed for cycts). All this happened in under a year, within the span of about 6 month. None of the tests never did determine what is causing her issue.

It was a tough time. And I definitely had to make a big adjustment. My life is definitely that of a caretaker right now.

It has been a year and 3 month. since the first episode. Cinnamoo is 4 years and 10 months now. I am really glad we didn't give up. I will say this - she is a unique pig in that she is a fighter - even the vets remark on how strong her personality is. I know without a shadow of a doubt that she wants to live.

However, there are days when she seems not well. And when she has one of her emergencies, she won't eat (because her stomach is overflowing with water). Plus, for the longest time, I feel like I had absolutely no way to manage her condition - there was no guidance, and no matter what I did, we would still end up with an emergency. When she was in a middle of an emergency time and recovering, it could be hard to watch, but she has always come back.

But, through trying and trying, looking for new solutions, seeing different vets, I think we both (she herself learned and adjusts her behavior when she is headed for an emergency, which I find amazing) have a much better handle on it than we did last spring. Does it mean we'll never have another emergency? I hope so! But I know it's not at all a guarantee, but they have at least become less frequent.

Also, when she is not feeling well, I don't know how, but even with all the vet trips and meds, I have always felt she knows I am trying to help. I have never felt she doesn't understand and is just in pain. In fact, she trusts me a lot more now.

I know her personality is really what's driving her, but I also think that maybe me not giving up on her helps.

I have come to believe solutions to tough medical problems can take months to resolve, but to me that's not a reason to give up. What helped us is constantly looking for new answers - supplememnts, acupuncture, etc. and trying them (as long as it's not something potentially harmful or invasive); and learning as much about her condition as possible - the cycles, etc. I think that can be applied to anything, observing, making notes of what helps or even just what are the patterns of pain or relief, etc.

I know I have rambled a lot in this post. For us, both of us, I am extremely happy I never give up. I hope we have many more years together.

Good luck to you both!

Cinnabuns Legacy

Post   » Wed Mar 12, 2014 7:23 pm

I am sorry to hear she is going through that Couchon. My Cinnabun was the same way with her fighting nature (she had a large inoperable tumor) and passed on her own at a little over 7 years of age. She was eating lettuce and grooming us even on the last day she was with us. You are obviously very devoted.

I guess I have to look at good days versus bad days, but these days it seems he has more rough days than not. Today has been really bad for him. Up until today there was only one other day where he did not want to eat on his own for most of the day, but he did that night and the next day he was back to his usual self. Now he has not even gotten up in 5 hours (when he was last fed). He was not even excited about brand new fleece in the cage, which he always has been before even on not so great days.

It is so difficult because I have tried so hard in the past with elderly cavies and age just got the best of them. So their last days were spent being force fed, x rays (which they hate with a passion), and given medications they did not like.

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