Pig swallowed staple


Post   » Fri Nov 30, 2007 11:39 pm

I left some stapled papers too close to a pig cage, and one of the pigs pulled the papers through and ate not only some of the paper (which I know is okay for pigs) but also the staple. I'm very concerned that the staple could perforate some part of the digestive tract as it passes through.

If my regular vet was available, I'd ask her what we should do, but the only veterinarians available at this hour have very, very little knowledge of guinea pigs. I don't know whether I should take the pig to one of them anyway for an x-ray and emergency surgery, or wait and hope the staple passes through on its own.

I'm also uncertain whether there are foods I could give the pig that would smooth the staple's passage through the digestive tract and reduce the risk of perforation. Foods I have available include Bene-Bac (which I'm thinking may help since it's oily), Critical Care, Cavy Cuisine, Cavy Performance, timothy hay, romaine, and green bell pepper.

There are two guinea pigs in the cage, and I don't know which one ate the staple. Both guinea pigs are approximately two and one-half years old (exact age unknown), and are intact males. They have had no previous health problems.

Any guidance would be greatly appreciated.

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GL is Just Peachy

Post   » Sat Dec 01, 2007 12:14 am

Are you SURE they ate the staple? I would look around in the bedding for a discarded staple. Today I discovered tons of little orange and black beads in the bedding, and two safety pins, because a little bagged Halloween beading kit fell in the cage and Jackie decided to eat the bag. (Moron!) But I think most pigs would rather eat the paper or bag, and just eat around the metal things.


Post   » Sat Dec 01, 2007 12:44 am

I ran a strong magnet over the bedding to see if it would pick up a staple, but had no luck finding anything that way. I'm now going through the bedding piece by piece. There are many, many little hay fragments that at first glance look like staples, and it's a big cage, so it's going to take a while.

I also called the Animal Poison Control Center, since it's the only place I could think to call that has vets on call 24/7. The person there just said to give the pigs lots of hay and take them to a vet tomorrow.

What really scares me is that my vet doesn't work every Saturday, and even when she is at the hospital, her staff won't squeeze in emergency appointments once the schedule is full, so I don't know if she'll be able to see the pigs tomorrow. There's another vet several hours away, but getting there means waiting in the cold for a train, and that could result in hypothermia.


Post   » Sat Dec 01, 2007 1:00 am

Well, the good thing is that the staple would have been folded up instead of sharp and pointy. I sure hope you find it, though.


Post   » Sat Dec 01, 2007 1:21 am

Assuming the staple was in fact swallowed, one question in my mind is whether to encourage or discourage exercise. Exercise is supposed to help with keeping stuff moving through the digestive tract, which would seem to be a good thing because it would get the staple out of the pig sooner. On the other hand, it seems like exercise could lead to the staple stabbing its way through the wall of the intestine. I don't know whether to keep the boys quiet or allow them to continue with their usual routine of running and jumping.

I'm going to go to bed shortly, but will check this forum again as soon as I wake up.


Post   » Sat Dec 01, 2007 1:49 am

Why? Why do pigs do things like this that make our hair turn gray?

Stupid question: did you check the fur and toes and between the toes to make sure the staple isn't just hanging on?

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Supporting my GL Habit

Post   » Sat Dec 01, 2007 8:34 am

Their digestive system runs pretty quickly. He certainly should have pooped it out the first time by the time you get up. The question is if he'll eat it yet again for the second pass-through!

I agree, TWP, that they do this on purpose just to stop our hearts.

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Post   » Sat Dec 01, 2007 9:38 am

And how do they always seem to know when the "good" vet isn't on call?

Sending good thoughts your way, Carrottop.

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Post   » Sat Dec 01, 2007 9:40 am

PooksiedAnimals raises a good point. It might be useful to use towels or fleece to easier monitor output until your mind is at ease.


Post   » Sat Dec 01, 2007 1:40 pm

Thank you to everyone who has responded.

I've examined both guinea pigs and am breaking apart every dropping they leave, but so far haven't found any sign of either the staple or internal bleeding. I'm continuing to go through the litter that was in the cage yesterday, cursing myself for keeping the pigs in a large cage with generous amounts of Carefresh! I'm wondering if a highly-sensitive metal detector would be able to find the staple, if it is in fact in the litter, but am not sure where to rent one.

I called the vet hospital, but the only vet who sees guinea pigs isn't working today. The tragic irony here is that the lack of local vets who have a clue about guinea pigs is what led to there being stapled papers next to the cage in the first place! The stapled pages were printouts from this very web site on safe medications for guinea pigs, printed out so that the information would be readily available if there was an emergency and we had to go to a vet who isn't familiar with the protocols for treating guinea pigs. I printed the pages just a few days ago, and last night moved them a few inches while reaching for a folder that's also kept next to the cage.

I'm aghast at my stupidity in leaving stapled papers within range of the guinea pigs. I've been taking in guinea pigs for over a decade, and am very well aware of their tendency to eat things that are unsafe. I have new sympathy all of a sudden for parents who do stupid things like leave their kids locked in hot cars. There's no excuse for these mistakes, but I now know firsthand that even someone who is usually conscientious can have a momentary lapse of concentration with disastrous results.

I'll post an update if/when there are any developments.


Post   » Sat Dec 01, 2007 2:31 pm

I am guessing that a staple would show up beautifully in an x-ray, which is probably something even a slightly less cavy-savy vet could handle. If you don't find it, it might give you piece of mind to get the x-ray done.

Also, check the carpet around your desk. Those staples are really good at hiding in carpet and being almost invisible. Until you step on it barefooted.

Wheekness for Pigs

Post   » Sat Dec 01, 2007 2:50 pm

I gather that the staple was closed since you said it came off of a paper...If it was ingested, I would think that is better news as the folded portion of the staple is less likely to perforate that the original pointed ends.

Even if you ran a magnet over the bedding, if the staple is embedded in or stuck to a little piece of wood, the magnet might not be strong enough to lift the combined weight. I assume all staples are steel, but if not, then a magnet might not work.

I know when I went in search of Evelyn's bladder stone, I practically had to sift through every little piece before I found it. Hopefully, you will find it soon as I am sure it will bring you a lot of peace of mind.

Good luck.

You can quote me

Post   » Sat Dec 01, 2007 3:40 pm

How I empathize with your frustration at the irony here. You obviously take magnificent care of your pigs, and this happens.

Ditto TWP. I would think a staple would show up bright as day on radiograph if you don't find it, or if it begins to seem an impossible task to sort through *all* of that bedding.

For what it's worth, a rescue we have came from an abusive breeder bust. He had an ear tag, and I planned to have it removed when he first needed a vet trip. One day we noticed it gone; he had evidently decided to remove it himself.

We searched and searched and never found it. If he ate it, it hasn't to date done him any harm. This was a couple of years ago.


Post   » Sat Dec 01, 2007 7:06 pm

"There's no excuse for these mistakes, but I now know firsthand that even someone who is usually conscientious can have a momentary lapse of concentration with disastrous results."

It's called being human ;-)

We've all, despite trying our best to be excellent animal guardians, had those, er, lapses. Or just made dingy mistakes.

It's part of life and so try not to beat yourself up too badly. It's obvious from what you write these pigs are well-loved.

I'll add in another irony, though. If this had happened at a hoarder's or breeder's, the pig would be just fine, with no intervention.

I swear, it seems that way, anyway. I know the reality is, the pigs are either fine on their own, or they die, since they get no medical care. But it just seems they hang on until they make it to good care, then they do everything to make us lose our minds with worry.

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GL is Just Peachy

Post   » Sun Dec 02, 2007 3:07 pm

I thought staples were made out of aluminum...


Post   » Sun Dec 02, 2007 3:28 pm

In which case, a magnet wouldn't find them. The Wikipedia article doesn't specify what they're made of.

GuineaPiggy, try sticking your magnet to some remaining staples and see what happens. If it doesn't stick, then you know that your staples are probably aluminum and your magnet won't pick up the one in the bedding.

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Post   » Sun Dec 02, 2007 3:29 pm

No, steel/iron (I just used a magnet to pick some up -- they will rust). If they were aluminum, they would be too soft to use in a stapler.


Post   » Sun Dec 02, 2007 4:19 pm

Good news: The piglets were x-rayed today, and the x-rays show no sign of the staple!!!!! I'm still at a loss to explain what happened to it, as I couldn't find it in the litter the pigs were on at the time of the paper-eating incident, and there's been no sign of a staple in any of the droppings the pigs have produced since then. But, whether it was ejected from a pig's mouth at the time of the paper eating or has passed through the pig's body since, it's now certain there's no staple inside either pig. I'm so very, very relieved. I did another complete litter change before putting the pigs back in the cage, to make certain the staple won't be anywhere the pigs can get at it.

Most of the veterinarians in my city flatly refuse to see guinea pigs no matter what the situation is. The city's only emergency clinic open 24/7 is especially adamant that it won't see guinea pigs, or even sell supplies it already has on hand to people who have guinea pigs. I've never understood why they're so adamant about this, but suspect it's at least partly a result of the city being home to a staggeringly high number of lawyers, some of whom bring frivolous lawsuits against small businesses they feel dissatisfied with. Anyway, I found a small clinic with weekend hours that was willing just to x-ray the pigs, with the understanding that if the staple was detected, we'd then proceed to an exotics hospital hours away. I'm very grateful to the vet there for making an exception to the "no exotics" rule.

I have a staple from the same batch as the one that went missing, and it's weakly attracted by a strong magnet, so I believe it must contain at least some iron. The attraction was weak enough that I'd have preferred to use a much stronger magnet in searching through the litter, but I couldn't think of anywhere to buy an industrial-strength magnet on the weekend.

By the way, I've previously wondered exactly how many droppings a guinea pig produces in a 24 hour period, and having counted the droppings one time while breaking them apart, I now believe there are approximately 80 droppings per pig per day. Just a bit of trivia for anyone else who may have been wondering.

THANK YOU to everyone who has written with support and suggestions! I cannot tell you how much your support means to me. I used to be active in online guinea pig discussion groups, but left after being harshly condemned for things like taking my pigs to the "wrong" veterinarian. All of you here seem so much nicer, and as time permits I plan to spend more time in the Guinea Lynx forums.

You can quote me

Post   » Sun Dec 02, 2007 4:40 pm

What a relief. Thank you for posting the good news.

Welcome to GL. I think I can say we'll all look forward to you being an active member here.

" ... being home to a staggeringly high number of lawyers ... "

My BIL lives there. 'Nuff said. ;-)


Post   » Sun Dec 02, 2007 5:52 pm

I'm so glad you received good news! You realize, of course, that you're now destined to find it by stepping on it.

We're happy to have you here.

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