(Continuing the story after the total-collapse episode of last month as described in CharmeC's previous posts.)
(Note please that in spite of any prior confusion, careful research shows that Going Merry is 4 years old, plus or minus a month or two.)
After her first total-collapse episode a month ago, I had noticed that Going Merry seemed to have lost interest in fresh vegetables, and pretty much confines herself to eating hay. Her weight has been fluctuating but showing a downward trend.
We also noticed that, if we were were handling her, then, when we put her down, she would make an odd sound, that was sort of a choking/coughing sound. I have also heard her make a sighing/wheezing sound (which was certainly not a vocalization.)
Several days ago, I had noticed a very faint wheezing but it was so faint that we had to have our ear touching her fur in order to hear it. She does not make this wheezing sound all the time.
On this past Friday evening, Charme thought that Going Merry had deteriorated, and so decided to take her to the vet. She thought that the problem was a respiratory infection but I was pretty sure it was her heart. She called the vet on Saturday morning at 9.30AM and we got an appointment at 10.30AM.
Once at the vets', a simple physical exam did not reveal anything, so we agreed that x-rays would be necessary.
We had to wait a bit because the x-ray was being used for a bird who, unsurprisingly, refused to remain calm and stay still. Soon however it was Going Merry's turn, and we waited for the results. After yet another while, the vet came out and said that while attempting to position her for the x-ray, she had some difficulty breathing, and it was necessary to give her oxygen, let her calm down, and then try again.
Naturally, we were alarmed.
Eventually the vet came back with Going Merry, and she looked like a damp dishrag. She was in such bad shape that I would not have been surprised if she died right then and there. I assume that she had another total-collapse episode quite similar to the one which nearly killed her last month, and the only thing that gave me any hope that she might survive was that she survived the previous episode - from which she recovered in about an hour, with no *apparent* ill effects. (I emphasize "apparent" because, for example, if any heart tissue died or if there were any scar tissue that formed as a result of that previous episode, we would not and could not know about it.)
(I am wondering if the this episode and the previous total-collapse episode might properly be classed as heart attacks.)
The vet said that the x-rays were not great because Going Merry would not assume the optimal position for x-raying. Nonetheless they revealed lots of fluid in the thoracic cavity, causing breathing difficulties, and lesions in her lungs, probably either primary or metastatic cancer.
The vet also told us that Going Merry was probably in quite a bit of pain, due to the labored breathing, and said that we might want to consider euthanizing her that day. Even though anyone seeing Going Merry at that instant would have thought the vet's suggestion to be reasonable and humane, we immediately replied that we had no intention of doing that and what other options were available? She said that we could try Lasix which *might* *possibly* help drain some of the fluid in her thoracic cavity and ease her breathing difficulties, but not without the possibility of serious side effects. The other option was to do nothing and let nature take its course. We all know what this euphemism means, right? When I asked about aspirating the thorax to remove at least some of the fluid, she told me that Going Merry's general condition made this an extremely risky procedure.
We opted for the Lasix. As per the vet's advice, we have sequestered Going Merry in a small-ish enclosure, 20 x 24 inches, so that her food and water is always nearby and so that no one harasses her - as she was at the very bottom of the pecking order, this was an important consideration, and will remove much stress. I kinda feel bad about sequestering her like this, but on the other hand, she has always been a very sedentary girlie, and not very sociable at all. In the last few days she seems to have been trying to hide from the other pigs, and so maybe she will prefer the current arrangements.
(Oddity: having got her home from the vets' and put her with the rest of the pigs, three of the four immediately came over and started barbering her. We have only ever observed one of pigs barbering any of the others and only a very very few times when being introduced into the herd, so this barbering frenzy was quite remarkable. I wonder if Going Merry had picked up some strange scents at the vets' office. Naturally, we immediately took appropriate measures as Going Merry surely did not need that particular stressor.)
If she is in pain because of breathing difficulties due to fluid accumulation, then at the point of seriously considering having her euthanized, we could, instead, opt for the aspiration. Then, in the worst case, if the aspiration is unsuccessful and she dies, it will be equivalent to putting her to sleep, but in the best case it will improve and extend her life. Because of the need for anesthesia, the risk of an aspiration is too great for it to be anything other than a last resort.
The lesions in the lungs, whether primary or metastatic, are a different matter entirely. The vet seemed to think that they are not sufficiently advanced to be causing pain. But if there is an advanced primary cancer elsewhere, then she could be in pain from that. She has been losing weight lately and it possible that her loss of appetite is due to pain, but the vet thinks that the pain she might be experiencing is from breathing difficulties.
But we are not 100% sure that she is in pain. Although I can understand why the vet would have thought she was, seeing Going Merry in the throes of what appears to have been another collapse episode - and as I said, when the vet brought her back to use, she looked awful and at death's door - now, having had time to recuperate, she seems to be in pretty good shape and not terminally ill and not obviously in pain, even though she is clearly not in great health. We have *no* reason whatsoever to think that she is in pain so great that euthanasia is appropriate. We could be wrong...
Although not back to where she was before the first total-collapse near-death episode, she seems as though she might have significant time left her. As before, she still has no interest in anything other than hay: she has refused blueberries, uncooked oatmeal, romaine, green pepper, tomato - not a really good sign. However, just a li'l while ago, I gave pellets to the rest of the herd, and Going Merry, in her sequestration box, heard me opening the can of pellets, recognized the sound, and immediately started wheeking - so that's very good indeed! And we bought some Critical Care for her today. Needless to say, she has not interest in it - even mixed with mashed blueberries.
Time will tell...
Also, I neglected to mention that we were also given a ten-day course of Baytril for Going Merry on the off-chance that the fluid is due to an infection of some sort. We do not know if a 10-course of Baytril will require it but we are considering giving her pro-biotics to make up for the gut flora that the Baytril might kill off. I would prefer not to give her pro-biotics because her appetite is so poor that it might be better if anything she does eat is more nutrient-laden, but then again she will need to efficiently digest whatever she eats.
Both Charme and I are quite upset. She was our second guinea pig, adopted when she was about 6 months old, so it is fair to say that she did a considerable part of her growing up with us. We had her with us for approximately 3 1/2 years.
Not only was she a very striking looking pig, but she was very intelligent. She was not very sociable, and not very aggressive - for which reason she was low pig on the totem pole.
She had one little habit that always made us laugh: whenever we put a bowl of food out, she would always grab the rim of the dish between her teeth and pull it towards her, so as to make sure that she didn't get cheated out of her fair share of the treats! She also did this even if no one else was around - thereby showing an ability to plan for the future (which is, I am compelled to say, an ability that not even all people have)!
Although it is tempting to say that we will always love her and always remember her, the truth is that we love all our animals and miss them all. And though she certainly never knew this in life, we can only hope that now she will know how much we love her.
Charme and I and of course Going Merry too would like to thank everyone who participated in this thread; we are grateful for your help.
Thanks to all.
And thanks to Going Merry too, for the time she spent with us.