Guilt over euthanasia

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Post   » Fri Jun 29, 2018 11:50 pm

I adopted my two male pigs who were brothers- Elvis and Presley- about 3 years ago from a breeder in my hometown.

They were my first pets and I initially got them as classroom pets for my students, but decided against it and kept them at home instead. My family was initially against the idea of pets because of the potential lots we could all face eventually but they came to accept them as part of our family and we took really good care of them- be it taking turns to clean out their cage 3 times a day, to feeding, to playing with them, to mild sponge baths everyday, and grooming them. Elvis and Presley were really happy with this routine and they came to enjoy it. We did nothing short of giving them a great life. Barred no expense when it came to their comfort and building a home for them and everyone who came home adored them because they were quite friendly. They loved running up to us and jumping on us so we would catch them. They loved being held and they trusted us completely to never let anything happen to them.

All of this came to an abrupt halt when they were both diagnosed with malicious tumours (carcinoma) 2 weeks ago. The vets were the best we could find in our city and they recommended we operate and remove the tumours to stop them from spreading, as carcinoma is quite aggressive. We barred no expense in medical care and did everything we could- biopsies, ultrasounds, and xrays to determine if surgery was the right course. We finally decided to do the surgery. And the surgery went on smoothly (according to the vets) and my babies were placed in an incubator right after for about half an hour and we took them home. The older one- Elvis- did not seem to be reacting well too the surgery and refused to eat. We hand fed him and gave him the right medicines that were required. The younger one- Presley seemed to be recovering pretty quick, but was attacking Elvis by biting him so we separated them for a while.

A week after surgery, Presley was doing well- he was playful and was recovering, and I remember feeding him carrots, which he ate off my hand, and going off to the office. My mom calls me when I was in the office and says Presley became very weak all of a sudden and he was limping and wasn't active. His brother Elvis was sleeping next to him to comfort him. My parents took Presley to the vet at about 5 pm and the doctors immediately put him on drips and kept him in the incubator because his temperature was quite low. At about 7pm, we were informed that Presley had passed due to a cardiac arrest and bad bacteria in his intestines. I came rushing home from the office only to hold my beloved Presley, wrapped in a body bag.

We brought Elvis home in grief as well. Elvis was with his brother in the incubator while his brother passed away. So he probably knew and was grief stricken. He ate a little bit at night when we continued hand feeding him and the next day he completely gave up eating. His systems shut down completely and he kept whimpering in pain at home. My sister and I took him to the vet and he was really weak and felt like lava liquid in my hand. I asked the doctors what the best course of action was, and they suggested that they could either: 1) do an x-ray and then inject him with drops and poke out the gas which had built up in his stomach (he had developed a bloat) or 2) they could painlessly euthanise him. I asked them if he would be fine if they removed the bloat. They said it was highly doubtful that he would recover as the bacterial infection was quite bad and that he would be in even more pain and would die in even more pain after. I asked them how euthanasia was done. They said that they could either administer a gas through a tiny gas mask or inject his heart which would cause pain. The gas mask would knock him out and he would be asleep and painlessly pass away. I called everyone at home and we made the decision to put him to sleep.

When I took him to the operating room to get this done, he was in pain and didn't want to go in because of the familiar smells from the surgery. My sister and I said our goodbyes to him and apologised profusely while the vets waited outside for us. I stood by him through the euthanasia and the vets gently stroked his head. And for about 5 seconds, Elvis squealed and twitched, like he didn't want to be put down and I watched helplessly. His tiny head was struggling to get out of the mask and fight for life. I cried my heart out when i saw that. He finally gave in and slept peacefully while the vets monitored him.

I thought this was the best decision I made for him. Why do i feel like i signed his dearth warrant? I felt so guilty when i saw him twitch for those 5 seconds. Like he didn't want to go but i was forcing him to die. I lost Presley just 24 hours ago at about 7pm. And Elvis passed away too under my watch, the next day at 7.15pm. They were truly brothers to the very end.

I feel like we did the wrong thing by agreeing to the surgery in the first place. And all those procedures- drips and xrays and tests. They were quite happy before the surgery. I remember the night before the surgery- just two weeks ago- Elvis, Presley, and I had this routine, where after cleaning out his home for the night, i would whistle to Presley first and he would come running from across the room and jump on my shoulder and i would put him inside his house. Then i would to the same to Elvis. They trusted me so much that they never feared jumping knowing I'd catch them and never let them fall. But the look on Elvis' eyes before when he saw me for the last time before I administered euthanasia was one of defeat. Like something that said "I trusted you, why are you doing this to me?"

Was I wrong from the start about my two babies? They were so young! I can never have another pet after this experience. I know I sound stupid and it feels like I'm speculating what they thought about me and if they ever thought about me at all. This is the first time I'm ever posting on any forum (forgive any typos you see), but I have no idea how to deal with this.

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Supporter in 2018

Post   » Sat Jun 30, 2018 9:28 am

I wish you well. You gave them the best life possible. The cancers would have taken them sooner or later and probably in a more painful way. If you truly feel you did wrong, forgive yourself. They certainly have.

Rest in peace little ones. You are loved and missed.

And got the T-shirt

Post   » Sat Jun 30, 2018 10:02 am

I'm sorry you had to go through this. I hope you can find comfort in knowing that you did what you thought was right, hoping to give them their best chance at living. There's no way you could have predicted the outcome.

If there's any fault here, it lies with the vet who didn't warn you that extensive surgery is often unsuccessful in guinea pigs, and that there's no real way to treat a malignancy in them. Chemotherapeutic agents are very harsh on the gut, and GPs have very sensitive digestive tracts.

The only other option would have been euthanasia without treatment, and you may well have wound up worrying that you chose that too soon, without giving them a chance. It was a very difficult choice to make, and you made it out of love and concern and wanting to do the right thing for them. There's absolutely no fault in that.


Post   » Sat Jun 30, 2018 12:18 pm

Thank you for the kind words. Really appreciate the perspectives.

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Post   » Sat Jun 30, 2018 12:21 pm

I am so sorry for your losses. I know you did all you could and tried to get the best treatment for them possible.

To help future readers, I'm hoping you could tell us more about their illness. Can you describe how they were diagnosed with cancer? Xrays? Ultrasound? Biopsy? Where in the body it was located? Precisely what medications/antibiotics were given? You mentioned bad bacteria in the gut. It is unusual both would come down with the same cancer.

You have all our sympathy.


Post   » Sat Jun 30, 2018 1:26 pm

Thank you so much. I'd love to help future readers with the experience I had, if it can be useful. For reference, these were the procedures and medicines:

Elvis first had a lump on his right mammary, and they didn't suspect malignancy. They thought it was an infection. They suggested we administer 0.2 ml of Enrofloraxin (anti bacterial medication) and 1ml of Kidpred. In my country Kidpred is the brand name of the syrup known to be a corticosteroid that helps to prevent the release of some inflammatory substances in the body. They told us to give this to him to see if the swelling came down. It did improve and the swelling seemed to be reducing.

6 months later, Presley and Elvis had both developed lumps. When we took them, that's when they did an ultrasound to check if the pattern of the lump formation was that of a malignant tumour. They suspected malignancy and then took samples for a biopsy. When the lab reports of both piggies came back, it was confirmed to be malignant and aggressive.

They told us to keep administering Kidpred for 5 days and then come back for the surgery. By this time Elvis had developed multiple tumours which had spread and Presley had one. The vets took our consent to operate on both the right and left mammary glands (for Elvis) and to administer general anaesthesia (for both). The surgery lasted for 20 minutes each after which they were kept in an incubator for another 20 minutes to recover.

Post operative medicines for both of them: Meloxicam (painkillers and anti inflammatory medicine) drops- about 2 to 3 drops once a day for 3 days and Enrofloraxin (anti bacterial medication) - 0.1ml once a day for 5 days. Also, normal food that we usually feed except tomato seeds (They might develop kidney stones is what we were advised). They loved eating the pulp of the tomatoes, but we had to remove the seeds.

We visited the hospital 2 days later for post-op consulation as advised by the vets. They administered Subcutaneous Fluid (for hydration), Ranitidine with IV Fluid (to prevent stomach infection), Belamyl (vitamin B12 dietary supplement), and Metoclopramide with IV Fluid (to prevent post operative nausea and gastrointestinal reflux.) We had 2 sessions of these drips on 2 consecutive days.

Presley was slowly recovering and eating but Elvis wasn't eating well, so we did an xray for both of them. Elvis, to find out what was wrong inside him and for Presley to confirm if everything was truly alright after surgery. The doctor found Presley's x-ray to be normal and Elvis had a lot of gas accumulated. The vet suggested we give him 0.1ml of Digyton (to stimulate digestion) so he starts eating again. But Elvis wasn't getting any better.

And when Presley had the sudden attack of low temperature about a week later, we rushed him to the vet and he was kept on an incubator with saline drops and passed away due to cardiac arrest right next to his brother.

Elvis' systems shut down the very next day and that's we decided no more medicines and no more poking and prodding him with syringes. The doctors also suggested they could do an x-ray and poke the bloat out. (He developed a bloat) but they said it's highly unlikely he will recover. That's when we administer euthanasia with the gas. Not the heart syringe. Didn't want him to be poked again.

As for how they both could have developed cancer, they were brothers born one cycle apart. Elvis was the older boy and Presley the younger one. The vets said it's quite common in guinea pigs and this must have been genetic.

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Post   » Sat Jun 30, 2018 7:18 pm

Thanks for taking the time to cover the diagnosis and treatment. Most mammary tumors are benign but not all of them. That Evis developed multiple tumors indicates this was likely a malignant and aggressive form.

I so wish they had survived.

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Thanks for the Memories

Post   » Mon Jul 02, 2018 11:11 am

My sweet Max had a tumor on his inner thigh that was determined to be malignant after biopsy. I chose not to have surgery, since it was near/on a vein. I also had to let him go when it was clear he was suffering. I understand how gut-wrenching it can be to be the one to make the choice to let a pet go, but also remember that you are doing the kindest thing by ending their suffering. I'm sorry you lost them both so close. I had pigs die very close to each other as well, and I know that is just a one-two punch to your heart. Try not to second guess. You did everything you could, and more than many people would have tried. My "little savages" were also brothers and died of different things at about the same age. Sometimes the genetic deck is not stacked in their favor.


Post   » Mon Jul 02, 2018 12:13 pm

It's really sad that you lost Max to a tumour as well! It's unfortunate that the tumour was located near a vein and that you lost both of them at about the same age. I agree, genetics doesn't favour some of them!

Thank you for the kind words.


Post   » Thu Jul 12, 2018 9:23 pm

I think I can help you understand what happened (We had to put our pig down this week, and I questioned 3 different clinics on how they do euthanasia)

When "masking" is used to deliver the gas, many often start with oxygen then slowly add the gas to the mix because some pigs don't like the smell (that info comes from the 2 places I trusted the most) I suspect that is what happened. We humans understand what's going to happen, but the pig didn't.

It must have been horrifying for you and understand why you feel so guilty.

I'm feeling guilty because I think I should have helped our pig die 12 hours sooner than I did.

These are just really tough choices; do surgery - don't do surgery, is it time or can we manage the pain enough that he can still enjoy life? Since they can't tell us how they feel - we always doubt our choices. The fact remains that we've done the best we could do.


Post   » Fri Jul 13, 2018 2:23 pm

Thank you so much for this information. I suppose I didn't want to ask the doctors what was in the gas because I was too scared to know it if would've been painful for them.

I'm really sorry about your pig. It may be really tough right now, but you said it- we did the best we could given the circumstances.


Post   » Sat Jul 14, 2018 1:28 pm

You're welcome Jordan. And thank you for your condolences.

And now we can focus on the remaining piggies!

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