Last weekend vet aspirated Inca's neck lump. Seemed to go well, yet while in the hospital Inca developed "grunting" breathing plus tachycardia (fast heart). Vet's only thought was that if the lump is her thyroid (or a thyroid tumor), we may have caused a mini thyroid storm with the needle, causing her heart to speed up and, perhaps as a result, fluid affecting her breathing. I asked for lasix, in an effort to help Inca's breathing, and the audible breathing stopped after 2 days at home -- whether from lasix or resolving on its own. Interestingly enough, after Inca's last hospital visit, something similar happened, where Inca came home with noisy breathing that resolved after 2 days. I dunno -- maybe something in the hospital ward causes it...some kind of "kennel cough"?
Anyway, lab results said lump is a cyst, not her thyroid. Likely benign, though biopsy would be needed to tell. I've decided to just monitor the lump, due to Inca's age and the setbacks she's had (for whatever reason) at the vet. But meanwhile, now seems we are not dealing with hyperthyroid as we assumed. Her T4s were OK, tapazole doesn't seem to be helping, and now we know the lump is not her thyroid. The hospital's "Thyroid Guru" (cat endocrinologist) suggested we cut the tapazole dose in half to see if Inca declines; that would show it may be helping.
After that, I want to shift to Plan B, which is heart meds. My vet is not quite on board yet doesn't have other suggestions so may go along with it.
Inca has been holding her weight around 650-675g (her lowest was 600g), with supplemental feedings from me (mostly baby food mixed with Critical Care). Doesn't feel quite as boney as she did. And, most importantly, she's in good spirits and acts normally. I'm thankful she's not uncomfortable or suffering.
We skipped the Boston Pignic last weekend (when her breathing was abnormal), but I'm hoping to bring Inca and her sisters to the Blessing of the Animals (outdoors) next Sunday...if our weather cooperates Hey, some Divine Intervention doesn't hurt, right?!
Will post again if Inca improves or declines. Thanks for your support!
Inca has been holding around ~650g (at her peak she was ~1050-1100g), and I'm still giving tapazole since that may be the reason she leveled off and didn't keep losing. Even though the lump in her neck is not related to her thyroid, my vet explained she could still have hyperthyroid. So I've been nervous about stopping the tapazole. It's a cheap and easy "treatment" for the rest of her life, and makes me feel better since I'm not great with "benign neglect" (non-treatment).
I'm also giving supplemental feedings of veggie/fruit baby food mixed with as much Critical Care as it will hold -- a thick, dry consistency where I can give her clumps with a popsicle stick or form little balls -- she loves the stuff! Sometimes I give her junky pellets, too (with a few seeds and colored bits, although I remove the corn and nuts) -- she will be spoiled for all her remaining time with us!
I can still feel her bones, and in fact Inca's walking has become stiff so now I'm also treating for arthritis with a liquid glucosamin/chondroitin product (juice for humans, with dose adjusted for piggies). No verdict on that yet since it's once been a few days. Admittedly the stiffness may be that she has so little muscle mass left, but my vet says the arthritis supplement is safe to try.
And finally, Inca's neck lump is slowly getting bigger. We've gone from "pea" size to a "marble" to now maybe a small "gumball." I mistakenly wrote in an earlier post that it's a cyst, but it's actually a mass (solid) so cannot be drained periodically as I had hoped. Only treatment would be removal, and I won't risk surgery with Inca due to her age, ongoing health probs, and low weight. If the lump or further weight loss (or anything else) diminishes her quality of life, I will just say goodbye to my girl to spare her pain and suffering.
For now, though, she's hanging in and doing OK! Loves to be pet, which is a relatively new thing. Just wants me to rub her all over (gently) whenever I visit the cage or remove her for lap/chest time. I feel very lucky she has lived this long, considering I've worried about one thing or another nearly her whole life (with my very experienced vet often stumped).
Thanks for your cheerleading and brainstorming over the years!
I had tapered off her tapazole starting around early March, since (1) aspiration said the mass was not her thyroid; (2) T-4 tests were normal; (3) med didn't seem to be helping; and, most importantly, (4) Inca really hated the tapazole toward the end, and I wanted to spare her the stress of daily doses plus retain a loving owner-piggy relationship for the rest of her life (rather than have her run from me, head-butt, squirm around, resist the syringe, increase her heart rate, etc.).
I'd been spoiling her rotten, knowing her days were numbered. She ate whatever she wanted, including junky mixed pellets, rolled oats, Critical Care mixed with baby food, dried banana pieces, dried beets, sprigs of millet -- she loved it all! And we had a lot of quality time (snuggles) as she continued to decline. I stopped weighing her because it was just breaking my heart and we just couldn't stop the weight loss. As a last desperate grasp, I was considering trying heart meds even though echo said her heart was OK. Yet decided to just go for maximum quality of life for her remainder.
In the end, we think she may have had a thyroid storm: her heart was racing, couldn't pump efficiently, fluid build-up in her body (foam coming out of her nose, with coughing/sneezing to try to clear her pathways) -- just a horrible ER visit in the morn and a few hours in the hospital as they tried to manage the situation. I was heading back over to end her suffering (ETA 4:00), but Inca died about 10 minutes earlier. She had been fine just the night before -- standing up to greet me, eating enthusiastically, resting comfortably, moving around well, etc. This was just one battle she couldn't endure, and now she's at peace and free from bodily problems.
My vet did a gross necropsy and submitted both the heart and Inca's neck mass to the lab for analysis. (Her GI tract looked fine.) The neck mass was a "thyroid follicular adenoma with osseus metaplasia" -- that's a benign mass with mineralization so that it was almost bone-like, as I understand my vet's translation. About 2 cm x 1 cm. Heart showed "mild myocardial fibrosis" and also a small sarcoma within heart muscle that pathologist thought was probably incidental -- neither thought to be significant for her cause of death and health problems.
We think Inca had a definite thyroid problem from the mass that T4 tests did not reveal and an aspiration did not detect. The tapazole may have been helping somewhat, and perhaps Inca needed an even higher dose. If the tapazole was working, it did so for about 8 months. (All told, Inca lost weight throughout a 2-year period.) Removing the mass was always an option, yet I didn't think Inca would survive surgery (given her low weight, occasional respiratory problems post-anesthesia, and sometimes rapid heart) nor recover post-op unless we had achieved the proper dose of tapazole beforehand. I think we had time together that we wouldn't have had going down the surgical path, and she didn't suffer except for her final few hours of struggles.
All in all, I don't have regrets about anything we did or didn't do; I know my vet and I tried our best at every point. And I'm thankful that Inca was such a trouper to endure health issues that perplexed us throughout her life (not just the presumed hyperthyroidism) and all the diagnostics we did. I'm also glad that some piggies DO benefit from tapazole, though I hope analyses of T4 numbers improves for guinea pigs.
I may post a happier tribute to my girl in the Chat forum, and hope to update the T4 thread at some point.
BUT, as today marks the anniversary of Inca's death, I'm trying to celebrate the happiness she brought to my life for several years. And I realized I never posted a photo in her thread; I think I didn't know how back then.
Here's my little girl... who I hope is running and popcorning with lots of others in some Eternal Meadow. Miss you and love you, Inca.
- Supporter in '16
I miss him so much, as I'm sure you miss your Inca. The pictures made me smile. :)
- You can quote me
We honor and remember ours on the dates that they left us. Since we don't know for sure when any of them were born, we mark the date that they left. Honoring and remembering their being is the important thing.
Best to Inca, and to you.
DaveandTiff, yes, whenever I bring piggies to the Boston Pignic I am always sure to take several grassy photos. That way I can really visualize them at the Eternal Meadow, when the time comes. I have a photo collage in my bedroom of all my departed piggies on the grass, and it's comforting to think they are together -- grazing, exploring, taking turns with Follow the Leader, etc.
Talishan, I try to celebrate them on their estimated/designated birthdays (or actual b-day, if I know), their adoptions days, and the dates they left. With 11 piggies on my roster, that makes for lots of celebrations throughout the year!
Lynx, wonderful memories for sure... though Inca had challenges for much of her life, even before hyperthyroidism. But a real trouper; she just went with the flow. So very sweet... and very trusting of her Mama through all our ordeals (major miracle when she survived bloat, for example).
I do miss Inca and all the others -- doesn't go away but hurts less over time.