Ianto and the broken femur


Post   » Sat Apr 18, 2009 4:09 pm

Hello, I'm a long time lurker and first time poster. I've had guinea pigs for five years and have been incredibly fortunate to have healthy piggies throughout.

It seems like April's been an awful month for cavies in my house, though. Mister B, one of our two five year old boars, passed away early in the month, leaving his lifelong friend Pingpong distraught and alone. In order to keep Pingpong company and help him with his (and our) grieving, we adopted two 2 year old boars, Ianto and Jack, from a local shelter. They've been here about a week and have been having a great time with Pingpong-- you'd think they'd been together forever.

Then last night, we had an accident. I've been spending time cuddling Ianto for a bit every day, as he's been very shy in the new environment. (My partner's been cuddling Jack to help him along too, though you'd think Jack had never lived anywhere else!) I've been stretching the time out a little every night, and last night I think I just went a little too long-- he became suddenly agitated and clearly wanted to go home. So I traveled from the living room back to the pig room carrying him in the normal fashion, burritoed in a towel and held close to my chest with both hands.

We were almost to the enclosure when he decided he was uncomfortable and did an amazing twist in which he totally reversed himself, so that his butt was poking out of the top of the towel and his head was pointed down and just started trying to scramble out of my grasp. I contorted to try and keep hold of him, but he still managed to leap out of my arms and onto the floor. Yikes!

There's apparently nowhere in the county that will see guinea pigs for emergency visits at 9:30 on a Friday night around here, so we had to wait to take him in to the vet (not our normal vet, who isn't in on Saturdays) this morning. She agreed with our assessment that he's doing very well considering the circumstances-- still eating and drinking, still hopping about, not crying in pain; however, upon x-raying him, she discovered that his right femur is broken. Oh no!

Because of where the break is, it's not really possible to splint it without severely hindering his movement. Her opinion is that we should take him to a small animal hospital about an hour away to have a pin put in. We are 100% okay with covering the costs for this and with driving that far, as we are dedicated to keeping Ianto a part of our family.

So why am I even posting? Well, because I am very, very worried about the surgery. I've never known a piggy who had a pin put in and know very little about the procedure except that it involves anesthesia (always a scary thing for our pigs, and Ianto is particularly small-- about 700g-- which worries me extra) and, of course, risk of infection afterwards. I'm also not clear on how the pin thing works. Will they need to take the pin back out after the bone has healed? Or does it just stay in?

Has anyone else had a pig who had to have a pin put in? If so, could you tell me a little more about it? I would, um, particularly like to hear happy stories as I feel incredibly awful about dropping poor Ianto and incredibly worried about the outcome of this all.

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Brenda B

Post   » Sat Apr 18, 2009 4:47 pm

I am sorry that you are going through this! I have no advice as I am relatively new to piggies but want to offer comfort to you if I may.

I have had a puppy with a pin (I know, far cry from a pig) but I was still worried and he made it fine and lived a good long life.

I also have a yorkie that was born with a severe heart defect. We decided to do surgery. The vet said his prognosis was "guarded". I was a nervous wreck but he came through and the vet said it was his easiest surgery ever. He was only supposed to live 1 year and he turned 8 last month!

Some experts will be along soon to offer advice. Until then, stay positive. And make sure the vet is the best in exotics you can find!

Sending good wishes and skritches your way...

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Post   » Sat Apr 18, 2009 4:53 pm

Was a pin highly recommended? Did the end of the bone break the skin? Some guinea pigs actually heal up (though not perfectly) on their own for clean breaks. Do restrict movement for him. Is he limping?

Meanwhile, read over gl/handling.html I used to walk around with my guinea pigs securely pinned in my hands so they could never jump. It takes a while to get used to handling them.


Post   » Sat Apr 18, 2009 6:22 pm

Yup, we always carry them very securely-- like I said, we've had pigs (though not these two new guys) for five years now. GuineaLynx was actually one of our first resources back when we were deciding whether or not we would get piggies. :) But thanks for linking it again.

The local vet is not sure about the pin. She doesn't feel confident that it can be splinted and thinks there's potential for further injury if it's left how it is; however, she says that the doctor we're going to see at the small animal hospital is a guinea pig specialist and has had a really wonderful body of experience and is better prepared to make the decision for surgery vs no surgery.

The local vet talked with the other vet extensively on the phone today and the other vet thinks that it sounds like splinting may be the way to go, but won't know for sure until she's seen the x-rays and the pig in person. We're hoping for no surgery, but ultimately we're going to do whatever seems to be best for our guy.

In the meantime, we're just keeping him cozy and fenced off from the other two pigs, with his food and water very close at hand. He's had some Medicam to keep the pain and swelling down. So I guess there's not much to do at this point except wait and see what the specialist thinks.

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Post   » Sat Apr 18, 2009 9:48 pm

Glad to hear you have pain medication which will also help with the swelling. I imagine you will be moving quickly on this because bone starts to heal soon and you won't want to rebreak it.


Post   » Sat Apr 18, 2009 10:01 pm

That's a good point. I wish this hadn't happened on a weekend. (Or, indeed, at all. Sigh.) Our appointment at the hospital is first thing Monday morning. You can tell how much we love the little guy already... I can't remember the last time I saw 6:30 a.m. on purpose!

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Post   » Sat Apr 18, 2009 10:39 pm

One of my friends had a piggie with a broken leg that was pinned and did just fine.

I have a 3 legged pig who was not a candidate for a pinning due to a shattered femur. He is now fixed and lives with 2 ladies.

Emergencies always happen on weekends in the middle of the night, and on holidays ;)


Post   » Sat Apr 18, 2009 10:54 pm

Ah, good to hear stories of pinned piggies who recovered. (I'm Coldandsleepy's husband.) I think he'll be fine, but he's kind of a tiny little guy to start with so we're really worried. The vet did say that he's acting really normal for a pig with a broken leg, and we thought so too. He's eating normally and acting pretty normal overall, aside from favoring his leg. We have him separated from the other guys, mostly so they don't bowl him over and hurt him more.

Anyway, he may not need a pin-- a splint may be fine. We'd prefer that, because anesthesia is scary. We're taking him to the exotic clinic in Monterey first thing Monday. They're supposed to be really good-- they've operated on my co-worker's rabbits, and the rabbits recovered. If he stops eating, we have Critical Care ready to go (although he does seem to be doing well). We're watching his water to be sure he's drinking, watching his pellets and hay, and trying to check in enough that we know what's going on but not so much that he gets worked up.

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Brenda B

Post   » Sat Apr 18, 2009 11:02 pm

Can you "try" the splint first to see before making a decision?


Post   » Sat Apr 18, 2009 11:07 pm

Maybe. We can get a description, at least, and see what it'll be more or less. Part of why our local doctor isn't sure is that she wasn't confident enough to try to splint it herself, so she wanted the other doctor (who has more experience with pigs) to make that decision. The problem with trying it out first is that if you're not careful, you could cause more injury. At that point, I guess, we're at least where any surgery would take place anyway...

Let Sleeping Pigs Lie

Post   » Sun Apr 19, 2009 3:05 am

Sending good thoughts for Ianto, and I hope he has a speedy recovery.

Here are a few short threads that might be of interest:

Rosie's leg was pinned

Link to leg x-rays before insertion of pin

Izabo's broken femur/no pin

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Post   » Sun Apr 19, 2009 9:12 am

Good links! Are you going to fix up a links thread too?


Post   » Sun Apr 19, 2009 11:39 am

Thanks for all the links, tracis!

Reading through them, I'm so glad we have cavy savvy vets around here, and that none of them have suggested euthanasia (!) for him. I think that along with talking to the specialist about surgery vs splinting, we will also ask about the possibility that the bone could knit on its own. Before we separated him from the other two guys, he was getting around as well as ever (which is very well-- he is one of the fastest, most agile piggies I've ever seen) on three legs, so it's hard to say if a limp would deter him. Well, we'll see what the specialist thinks, anyway...

Ianto's doing about the same this morning. He's sitting inside his carrier (about the size of two grid blocks-- we don't have many extra grids right now, so this is the best way to keep him separate from the other guys) happily munching away at grass. We gave him a good amount of lettuce and dandelion greens before bed last night, and he vacuumed them all down. It looks like he's also hit his pellets. He's awake and alert and behaving pretty normally. For an injured pig, he is certainly taking this all in stride. :)

The thing that concerns me is that it doesn't look like he drank any water since last night. I know he got some liquid out of the lettuce, but I don't know if that's enough. He's currently resting on a bed of CareFresh and hay, so I can't tell if he's been peeing (looks like he's been making plenty of poo, though) or if his pee looks normal.

I really want to move him out of the carrier. We don't have enough extra grids to make him a whole second enclosure, but we should have enough to fence off 1-2 grids, which is about the size of what he's in now, and it'd be a lot easier to see him. The local vet was of the opinion that we should keep him in the carrier, but not being able to easily check in on him (he's inside it under a cuddle cup-- both he and his brother love hiding under the things) is making me really uncomfortable.

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Post   » Sun Apr 19, 2009 11:45 am

You might want to use towels to better monitor pee and poop output.

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Supporter in '10

Post   » Sun Apr 19, 2009 11:48 am

Do you have any small Rubbermaid tubs?

If he's not drinking, extra wet down some veggies.

I had/have a guinea boy who came to me with a broken femur. He was too little to do anything other than love on and vet watch. Now, he is three times his original size and has a small lump on his hind leg. He is also VERY FAST and jumps/popcorns throughout his cage. Nope, that experience hasn't slowed him down a tick. :)

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Post   » Sun Apr 19, 2009 11:50 am

I was thinking of something like that but realize you can't see out of them and they have poor air circulation. Something better is needed.


Post   » Mon Apr 20, 2009 2:50 pm

We ended up making him a little 1x2 apartment in the main enclosure yesterday morning. At first we were worried he would be agitated by being able to see his friends but not being able to get to them... however, he has continued to build his reputation as the most laid back piggy ever by not seeming to care. (His brother Jack, on the other hand, spent about forty minutes going NUTS about the return of Ianto.) He's continued to eat and started drinking noticeably, and he's peeing and pooing normally. Couldn't ask for much more on that front.

We went down to the specialist this morning and she said flat out that surgery would be a bad idea for him. It turns out he has a butterfly fracture rather than one clean break, which means pinning wouldn't work well-- they'd have to first piece the bone back together, which is a really complicated surgery even when the bone you're working on isn't teeny tiny. So, she recommended that we let her wrap it and let it try to heal naturally. She gave us another week's worth of Medicam for pain management.

So that's where we're at. We'll be monitoring him to make sure he doesn't pull the wrap off (so far he doesn't seem bothered by it at all) or readjust it in some way that cuts off circulation to his toes or anything, and in a week we'll take him to the local vet to be re-wrapped. And then if all goes well, in a few weeks, he should be as healed up as he's going to get. She doubts he'll ever get full use out of his leg again, but agrees that he's doing an admirable job of getting around on three to start with, so it's probably not going to diminish his quality of life.

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Remembering Nemo

Post   » Mon Apr 20, 2009 11:13 pm

That is as good news I guess as can be expected :( I wish Ianto a speedy and uneventful recovery!

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Post   » Mon Apr 20, 2009 11:48 pm

Sorry he isn't a good candidate for a pin.

Cadbury was in a similar situation with his leg. We opted to have it amputated - since he was doing great on 3 legs anyway! and so he wouldn't be tempted to use it.


Post   » Tue Apr 21, 2009 12:18 am

Not needing surgery was actually kind of a relief... We were worried because piggies are so sensitive to anesthesia.

Currently we have Ianto hanging out in his private zone and we're making sure he has his own hay, greens, and water close enough that he doesn't have to move much. He happily ate his pain meds this evening, which is nice because it means we shouldn't have to fight him to get him to take them... Of course, the tape wrap has started to come unravelled a bit, although only the end of it. I put a little more tape around there to keep it from getting worse very quickly, but we may have to have him rewrapped soonish if he keeps getting it free. I don't think he's unwrapping it himself, just moving around enough under his fluffy hut that it came free.

He's still eating, still drinking lots of water (which is good since it's been REALLY REALLY HOT today) and still a fairly perky little guy, even when I picked him to to retape him. He's so patient...

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