Mashy: Spontanous overheating, URI and lethal query.

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Flock of Piglets

Post   » Sun Jan 17, 2010 6:33 pm

Hi I really hope someone might be able to give us some advice on how to help one of our guinea pigs, mash. It's rather a long account, I'll try and be brief but succinct.

Mash is a rescue pig, currently 14 months old. For the last 8 months (although probably longer) he has routinely suffered heat stroke, regardless of environmental temperature (he's done this with a 15C ambient temperature before!). Out regular vet doesnt know why this happens and says he's not aware of any other reports of this happening in guinea pigs.

We keep his long fur short and if he starts to feel too warm, we cool him down with cool water, frozen bottles etc, and he has an antibiotic/anti-inflam injection if it looks like its got to proper heat stroke. We have a dehumidifer running and work hard to ensure the ambient temperature is always cool and stable. Our other 3 piglets (including his full brother) have no problems so I don't think it's his environment. Our regular vet says that his heart and lungs sound totally normal. Normally he has no nasal discharge.

3 weeks ago he developed a URI (only symptom was a yellow nasal discharge, lungs were clear apparently although he sounded "nasally"). He was treated with 2 weeks of baytril which didn't work, so last week he was prescribed norodine. He also had a decongestiant (Bisolvon) which helped shift the congestion. The yellow discharge started clearing up, but today he had bloody diarrhoea and stopped eating. The emergency vet put him back on baytril to treat the gut issue, withdrawing the norodine as this appeared to be upsetting his stomach. He's now a bit better this evening thankfully and eating again, although he's got some nasal discharge back again.

I guess there are 3 questions we would really appreciate some advice / opinions on:

1. Has anyone any knowledge of guinea pigs being unable to control their body temperature? Vet doesn't think its a brain tumour as he's been like this so long if it was a tumour he'd be very ill/ dead by now. He has no other neurological signs.

2. Could it be possible he is a lethal? And could this be causing whatever hypothalamic or whatever the problem is that is causing the recurrent overheating? He is albino with very dark pink eyes, teeth and hearing are OK as far as we are aware but we're pretty sure he doesn't see well, if at all. He's a very affectionate piggy and sleeps lots on my lap. This is him if it helps (asleep as usual!) hope this works:


He has some odd behavioural "quirks" e.g. he continually bites (well tears) his skin at two precise points just in front of his hips. Nowhere else, and he's been checked out for all the usual mites etc. He'll often walk round his cage squeeking really loudly for no reason then go back to sleep. His mother was kind of roany - see below.


3. This URI - we feel the norodine helped the URI but has perhaps caused this big GI upset. Current plan is to treat the gut upset with baytril, then retreat with norodine if required, then probiotic (is it true they can't be used together?) Does this sound the right approach to you?

Anyway, thanks for reading :) We love little mashy so much and really want to help him. Other than being ill with the gut upset this weekend he's happy and pretty healthy. The emergency vet suggested asking regular vet for a referal to a GP specialist so we are going to try and sort this out Monday (we are in Surrey but willing to travel of course if anyone knows of any?).

Thank you

You can quote me

Post   » Sun Jan 17, 2010 7:19 pm

He doesn't look like a lethal to me, at least not a full-on one, but I'm not an expert.

Your second link doesn't work. Here it is, fixed:

Better yet:



I've never heard of anything like being unable to regulate body temperature in any pig other than a skinny or baldwin. This sounds neurological to me, but I'm not an expert there either. How do you know (or how does your vet know) that what he is experiencing is actually heat stroke and not something else?

Googling Norodine shows it appears to be sulfa trimeth. Usually, sulfa trimeth is tolerated much *better* than Baytril, not the reverse. Baytril and Norodine should be able to be used together, although Baytril and Doxycycline often work very well together on truly tough, well-established pneumonias.

GL-recommended UK vets, Surrey

Other names for doxycycline

Flock of Piglets

Post   » Sun Jan 17, 2010 7:33 pm

Hi many thanks for the reply, and the drug advice. Will certainly ask about treating with both drugs. When he overheats he pants, is hot to touch, and is lethargic. Exactly like what you would see with a pig left in a hot room or similar apparently. Anyway thanks again for the advice, and sorting out my rubbish links!


You can quote me

Post   » Sun Jan 17, 2010 7:36 pm

Perhaps it could be a metabolic disorder, or endocrine (think hot flash for a menopausal woman). I would assume that would show on a blood test ... if there are norms for such for guinea pigs. Not sure if there are, ask your vet.

Does he perk up when this happens and you cool him down?

He's cute. Good luck to him and to you. Please keep us posted.

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Post   » Sun Jan 17, 2010 7:48 pm

Are your guinea pigs housed outdoors or indoors?

How big is the cage?

He doesn't look like a lethal to me. BTW there are no albinos. You have a PEW. pink eyed white.

You may want to look into heart issues.

You can quote me

Post   » Sun Jan 17, 2010 7:52 pm

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Post   » Sun Jan 17, 2010 10:03 pm

I'm sorry he is having these problems. How can you tell he gets hot? Do you take his temperature? You've check to see if there is an infection causing an increase in temperature? See gl/diarrhea.html too. If you haven't read the heart page, you might want to check it over. gl/heart.html

Flock of Piglets

Post   » Mon Jan 18, 2010 7:13 am

Hi, thank you all so much for the responses and your interest, will try to answer each point in turn. Yes my first thought was a heart or endocrine condition so have been looking at the resources and previous posts on the guinea lynx site and others (I am a cardiovascular researcher by trade coincidently, so my brain automatically thinks that way anyway). However our vet thinks it’s unlikely to be a heart issue as his heart and lungs sound fine on examination, although no x ray or blood tests have been done. I should add that he doesn’t normally have a nasal discharge, this is a very recent thing. Other than the overheating (and this URI) he is fit and well. Anyway, our vet is referring us to a specialist now so hopefully they will be willing to do a full blood screen and any other diagnostic tests they can. The main brick wall we seem to be hitting is that no one appears to have ever heard of this in guinea pigs, hence my posting.

Thanks for the advice re being a lethal – I know what you mean he doesn’t look like a lethal exactly, it was just that I was reading the fairy thread and some of his behaviours seem similar. Plus we are pretty sure he doesn’t see well if at all. If you hold some carrot in front of the other piglets they run straight to it and grab it. Mashy sniffs it out and often takes a few exploratory bites to get hold of it. If you walk quietly past the others watch you, mash doesn’t look until you make a sound. He doesn’t respond to torch light in the eye (but his pupils do contract). If things are moved in his cage he gets confused and has problems getting round things. So all in all I wondered if there is a spectrum for lethals and if so, if he is on the spectrum somewhere as a neural tube defect might explain a brain abnormality that might be causing all this. I don’t know, just searching for theories really. Thanks though.

So just to describe what happens in more detail. There are 2 stages, where he initially overheats and then if that isn’t nipped in the bud, he can go on to develop full heat stroke. Firstly he’ll be lethargic and breathe heavily (and be grumpy). He also feels hot to touch. On application of cool water, the water warms up quickly from his skin. At this stage he complains a bit when cooled. Body temperature at this point is a little above normal (apparently). I don’t routinely take his actual temperature myself, but he is so hot to touch and his ears and feet so flushed that there’s no doubt he’s overheated. 99% of the time cooling him works, and he’s back to normal in minutes and perfectly happy, eating and being a guinea pig.

However, occasionally he’ll develop full heat stroke e.g. lying still, burning hot to touch etc. Cool water on his skin quickly becomes actually hot. Obviously if this happens we do emergency cooling (to which he doesn’t complain so I guess he must “feel” too hot or not up to complaining) and run him straight to the vet who diagnoses heat stroke, confirms pyrexia and gives him an antibiotic/ anti inflammatory injection to prevent against secondary problems (he’s had GI upsets a couple of times before after full heat stroke).

I can’t see any pattern with these episodes and weather or any external issues, although as expected it happens faster in hot weather. He has very dense fluffy fur which we keep very short (with a clipped belly) which helps cool him faster but doesn’t prevent it from happening.

In terms of frequency, he goes through spells of overheating a couple of times a day for a week or two, then settles down for a bit before starting again. I’d say he was more often than not liable to overheat. As I say we have tried everything we can think of – the room really is honestly cool and about 17C, maybe 20 at most. We have a dehumidifier running (which I think has reduced the frequency a bit). But he can be burning up while our other piggies are huddled up with fluffed up coats looking cold and annoyed (both his cagemate and the two in the other cage).

He is housed inside in our main living room. We have minimal heating which is only on when one of us is present to ensure the room doesn’t warm up too much. We have 2 big cages, with 2 piggies in each not sure of exact dimensions but I think about 5.5ft x 3.5ft. Although once we move we hope to build two bigger enclosures. We’ve tried different bedding but the only one he seems not to eat (honestly, he should have been a goat!) is (non-cedar) wood shavings and of course hay. I realise shavings isn’t the bedding of choice of a lot of people but to us the dangers of him eating material / paper / paper pellets etc or overheating from too much insulation outweigh the disadvantages. We have a thin layer of this (changed frequently) to reduce any insulation. There is also a bedding free area should he choose to go there but he doesn’t – I don’t think he’s actually aware that he’s too hot. Due to behavioural issues (i.e. full on attacking any guinea pig he was put with) which I think stem from neglect and food competition in his early life, he was housed alone for a while, but now he’s finally bonded him with another rescue pig, a young female (who he adores and squeaks for) so he has company now. But again, being alone or having company doesn’t correlate with the overheating pattern. We try and strike a balance between exercise outside of the cage and him heating up, so for short periods only (obviously running about brings it on). We limit the duration of cuddles for the same reason as our body heat increases his a bit too.

Blimey that was long sorry! I realise some of these things might seem a bit unorthodox e.g. clipping his belly fur and his bedding but please believe me when I say we are truly trying to do whats best forhim, unfortunately its really trial and error as there’s no set advice to follow. However any insight gratefully received, and thanks again for the comments / suggestions so far. And the PEW thing – I didn’t know that thanks, but it makes sense as I guess his hair is actually coloured bright white rather than colourless.

Thanks again everyone.

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Post   » Mon Jan 18, 2010 7:47 am

How about a blood panel and check his thyroid?


So, it sounds like he is blind? Do you have some confirmation? You could get a skin surface temp with an infrared thermometer (riskier with sighted pigs - it uses a laser to point at the location the reading is being taken from).

An example of an infrared thermometer: Amazon

Flock of Piglets

Post   » Mon Jan 18, 2010 2:44 pm

Hi thanks - no, no formal confirmation on the eyesight, but we are now referred to a guinea pig specialist on Monday who have already suggested an x ray and full bloods. Regular vet is kindly getting his nasal swab done by then too, although his nose is much better today. We'll obviously be making sure that they include thyroid and heart markers, as well as a general liver and kidney marker check. And whatever else they are willing to do!

Thank you all again!

You can quote me

Post   » Mon Jan 18, 2010 8:56 pm

That is just plain weird. And obviously you know what you're talking about, know what you're doing, and know how to visit your research properly.

We have a longhaired ruby-eyed white pig who "looks" hotter than our others from time to time ... ears turn red, skin that can be seen through the part in his fur on his back turns bright red, feet become warm ... but nothing like this.

I don't think there is a blood marker for heart compromise. Most vets cannot discern heart problems properly through either listening to the heart and lungs (always "sound good") or even looking at an x-ray. If you strongly suspect cardiac involvement, lobby (lobby hard) for a trial of human benazepril (an ACE inhibitor, which you probably know) based upon clinical sign.

Thyroid tests (T4) require more blood than a regular panel. If it can be done safely, they'll need more blood and it is not a standard test (it's a special request, at least in the US). Mention this to the vet before you get started, especially if they will sedate him for the draw.

Also consider bedding him on fleece, or fleece over towels, if you have not thought about trying it.

Yes, there is a "range" in lethals ... some are far worse off than others.

Flock of Piglets

Post   » Fri Feb 12, 2010 4:59 pm

Hi I just thought I’d update on what we have found out from the cavy specialist in case anyone ends up in this situation in the future especially as this seems to be a very rare problem.

His heart is perfect – no enlargement at all, no signs of lung oedema or anything. Vet even showed us reference “normal” images to compare and its exactly the same. Thanks to Guinea Lynx we were also familiar with x rays of enlarged hearts and it definitely looked nothing like those. However what the x ray did show up is that he has arthritis in both rear knee joints (which appeared as a small extra bit of bone in the joint). In hindsight his probably explains him biting his skin over his hip bones.

The x ray also showed that my 1230g piglet is very obese (large areas of dense fatty tissue were apparent under his belly and chin). We think he’s lost muscle tone though (probably due to lack of exercise as the result of discomfort, which we mistook for general lethargy) so as a result looks a normal size as he’s all fat and no muscle IYSWIM. We were shocked by this.

Bloods mostly came back as normal, very high glucose (13.8mmol/l!) but urine tests have all been negative so the vet thinks this was probably just stress. The vet concluded that his sight was very poor but he isn't blind e.g. he reacted to a strong torch in the eye but nothing else.

The vets theory is that for some reason, he is more prone to heat stroke than normal pigs, although there's no published precedent to suggest why this is. It could be his lovely fluffy coat, could be a developmental "fault". Either way, the specialist feels that the initial heat stroke in June caused brain damage resulting in the loss of most of his sight, and probably damaging the thermoregulating parts of his brain, leaving him fundamentally unable to control his body temperature. I feel awful and very responsible that this has happened to him when he was in my care, particuarly given his traumatic start in life.

We are currently treating him with 0.1ml metacam 1.5mg/ml solution twice daily, controlled diet and exercise. He’s on ad lib hay and normal veg rations, but less fruit and only a few pellets every other day. Which he thinks is extremely cruel obviously. Its working wonderfully and he's a different pig, jumping around, popcorning, running laps of the exercise pen, squeaking louder than the others for food, climbing up the bars, on his cage toys, and his poor girlfriend – you name it. He is loosing weight steadily but increasing tone - he actually feels bigger now he has some muscle. Interestingly (touch wood) his temperature has been pretty stable too. Interestingly he seems to be able to see more too! Or he's just much more alert of course.

Thanks everyone again – fingers crossed we’ll get there now. Thank you also Lynx for a great site, the information here has been invaluable. I'll also add a quick post to the arthritis thread with his treatment details. :)

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Post   » Fri Feb 12, 2010 9:20 pm

Yes, fruit can be fairly sugary. And some pellets are designed to put on weight. I am happy to hear he is exercising, losing weight slowly, and feeling better. The extra fat might also have made it more difficult to regulate his temperature. So glad you are seeing improvement. Thanks for the update and detailed information you provided. We'd be happy to have periodic updates of his weight/behavior/health.

Go Mashy!

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