Ruby's thread: unsteady on hind legs

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Post   » Sat May 14, 2016 11:30 pm

Ruby is a 6 year old, intact, female, albino smooth hair. I adopted her in 2012. Since then she has been living alone (tried multiple times to introduce her, but she is a sworn people pig) on fleece bedding in a 2x4 C&C cage.

No majour medical past - just intermittent wheezing. She has seen the vet for this, they aren't worries and suspect its not harmful. There are no other signs or symptoms that indicate a URI.

Just now (5/14) I have noticed her become unsteady on her hind legs as she tried to run around her cage. She kind of slumped to the side and was struggling a bit to get up. She wasn't seriously flailing or anything but just seems unsteady.

She hasn't lost a substantial amount of weight, though she does feel potentially smaller around her bottom. It feels as though her hind legs may be weak. She has been eating and drinking and peeing and pooping normally and, as I say, has not had any alarming weight loss (just normal fluctuation, within 1-2 oz - we do monitor more when this much weight is lost but don't go on alert unless the loss is continual or up to 3oz - she has seemed to go up and down within this range)

I've been monitoring her and she seems to be ok most of the time and would probably look fine to someone who didn't know her well, but to me she does look a bit unstable on her hind legs. I've just given her some vit C - though I'd be surprised if it were lack of C since her diet and appetite is good.

Any ideas? I'll call the vet on monday to make an appointment. But does this strike anyone is seriously urgent?

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Post   » Sun May 15, 2016 12:24 am

Older pigs don't process food, including vitamins, as well as younger pigs. A vitamin C supplement is often helpful for any number of issue with them. I'd give her 100 mg of vitamin C every day for a week, then cut back to about 30 mg a day. If you see some improvement, then just continue with it.

One of my senior pigs needed extra vitamin C. It made a world of difference in the quality of her coat, her general activity, and her weight.

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Post   » Sun May 15, 2016 9:19 am

And just a comment on your claiming she is an "albino". White pigs with red eyes are pink eyed whites (PEWs). They are not albinos.

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Supporter in 2014

Post   » Sun May 15, 2016 9:22 am

An x-ray would rule out arthritis. I've had 2 pigs over 5 years old suffer from arthritis.

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Catie Cavy
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Post   » Sun May 15, 2016 9:32 am

This happened to my Fluffy a few weeks ago. She suddenly became wobbly and had trouble fully using her back legs. I totally panicked but as it was the weekend, I was hesitant to take her to an ER vet. Talishan said it had happened to a few of her guinea pigs. She speculated it might be a TIA or mini-stroke. She suggested keeping the room quiet and giving her a few days to see if she would recover on her own. Sure enough, 3 days later she was totally fine.

If Ruby is otherwise fine, I don’t think this is necessarily an emergency. I'm not even sure what an ER vet could do.

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Post   » Sun May 15, 2016 10:46 am

Ditto the advice you have received.

I've nothing to add but best wishes to her. Please keep us posted on how she's doing.

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Post   » Sun May 15, 2016 11:40 am

Thanks all,

Lynx - that interesting! Thanks for correcting me!

I'll keep on with the vit C and see how she goes. She still seems slightly wobbly today, but hasn't had any falling episodes like last night.

I was thinking arthritis too. I'll get her an appointment tomorrow. I agree that the ER vet wouldn't do anything most probably.

Thanks for all your help and I'll keep you posted!

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Post   » Wed Jun 01, 2016 8:51 pm

Last week (around Wednesday the 26th of May) Rubys had some sort of episode.

It was about midnight and i heard scrambling in her cage. When i looked I could just see her legs waving around so I went over and saw that she was on her back with her spine and neck twisted as though she were straining.

I picked her up, righted her and sat with her on my lap, comforting her. She was breathing hard and fast and the veins in her ears looked more pronounched. After a minute or two she started to relax her spine, and her breathing normalized. Her neck remained twisted - her head tilted to the left - for a little while longer.

After she was back to normal, she wandered around ok, though she seemed tired, and she ate some carrot.

We got her in to see the vet the next day. They took a CT scan of her head and checked her blood. Her blood came back normal, and her CT showed a small amount of fluid in the ear.

The vet had the following thoughts:

- it's unclear that the episode was a seizure. I didn't know to test for consciousness while it was going on, so she may have been fully conscious. In addition, if she had had a seizure that lasted as long as her episode did it would likely have left her very out of it - which she wasn't.

- the fluid in the ear might indicate a cause, but may not. Sometimes fluid in the ear can be normal for pigs.

- the CT didn't show substantial brain damage, which indicates it may not have been a true seizure.

- the weakness might indicate a 'demyelinating disease' which damages the coating of the nerves in the spinal chord, and can cause weakness. It may be that she lost her balance and was flipped onto her back and started freaking out because she didn't know what had happened - and that was the episode I saw.

The vet gave us antibios for the ear fluid and metacam for any pain from a possible ear infection. I will watch for another episode, and if it happens i'll check for consciousness and report back. Otherwise, I'll call with an update in 2 weeks.

Any experience on here with demyelinating disease in guinea pigs? Would a body CT help?

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Post   » Wed Jun 01, 2016 9:10 pm

Another possibility is vestibular disease. I had a pig with a presumed episode of that, but once she'd recovered from the initial occurrence, never had any problems with it again.

I don't know that a CT scan would help. Even if you knew it was demyelinating disease, I don't think there's anything that can be done for it. That's essentially what multiple sclerosis is, and I don't think treatments for that have improved much in the last 40 years.

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Post   » Wed Jun 01, 2016 9:15 pm

I wonder if guinea pigs get muscle cramps like we do (charlie horses, etc.). They can be painful and contract the muscle so strongly a guinea pig might not have enough control to keep its balance.

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Post   » Wed Jun 01, 2016 10:36 pm

The vet said much the same thing about the body CT, come to think of it. He said there's nothing to do for demyelinating disease and he wasn't even sure if it would show up on a CT. (i'd just forgotten he said this)

She does look smaller around her rump and feels a little skinnier there. The vet also did a test where he held her slightly on one side and kind of moved her along a horizontal line - the idea was to get her to feel a falling sensation and try to catch herself - the front legs were normal and the back legs were much slower.

Would demyelinating disease be a terminal disease? She doesn't seem to be in pain at least...

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Post   » Wed Jun 01, 2016 10:49 pm

Eventually terminal, but maybe very eventually. I think the severity of it depends on what's being demyelinated.

I've had a friend with multiple sclerosis for fifty years. I've also got a friend with Alexander disease who's gone from fully functional to nearly comatose in about four years, although she had some minor symptoms before the diagnosis. Demyelinization in the brain is much worse than that in the rest of te body.

I don't even know whether they know there's such a thing as a demyelinating disease in guinea pigs.

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Post   » Thu Jun 02, 2016 12:26 am


It also could have been something along the lines of a mini-stroke, something somewhat analogous to a TIA in a human. We've had several pigs with those at our house.

I will say that depending on how the pig is shaped, while most can right themselves if they get on their backs, some can't do so easily (or at all), and can really flail. It does freak them out.

I'd give her the meds (probiotics too) and keep an eye on her.

Without reading back, how old is she? Their body shapes change as they age, becoming skinnier in the back and hips/butt, and more poofy in the belly, like a cow or horse.

Best to her and please let us know how she's doing. You may never see it happen again.

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Post   » Fri Jun 03, 2016 1:20 am

The body shape you describe, Talishan, is about right for her body shape. She's around 6 y/o based on her age at adoption (but she was already reported as 2 and a half at adoption, and people can under estimate so maybe she is older).

I have some metacloprimide in stock that I've been giving her - her digestive system is suffering a little from the antibios: small poops.

She, in general, is definitely weaker in her hind legs. If I am putting her back home after a cuddle and don't move my hand from under her belly one of her hind feet will often get caught on my hand and she will kind of drag it for just one step. As a better example, when she goes up on her haunches to clean herself she will often lose stability in her hind legs and have to come down again to catch herself. Her hind legs are just in general weaker and more likely to stay put if you move them out of place, if you know what I mean. Sometimes she will lie down with both of her feet poking out to one side - like a dog would lie - rather than tucked up under her belly.

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Post   » Fri Jun 03, 2016 2:13 am

Wanted to share my experience on caring for my sow (you can read her medical thread - Snowy) who lost the use of her hind legs and was paralysed for over a year before she died from old age. She was about 6.5 to 7.5 years old.

I found a daily gentle massage and gentle moving of her hind limbs helped (I was fortunate enough to be introduced to an animal therapist by my vet and she came weekly while I continued with the massage daily). You start very, very lightly and then with more firm strokes down the spine and around the hips. Whole massage should not take more than 15 minutes in total. You should also slowly try to manipulate her legs but let her be your guide and watch carefully for any signs of pain or destress and stop as needed.

Also, if she tends to lie on one side for long periods, you'll need to try and prop her on her other side so there's air circulation. My Snowy did develop a bed sore but once I started to turn her on her other side for a few hours, twice a day, we managed to keep things under control and prevent the sore from getting worse

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Post   » Fri Jun 03, 2016 11:44 pm

Give her some probiotics as well, about an hour or so after each antibiotic administration.

Ditto GP_mum. She may, slowly, lose strength and full function in her rear legs. If this is slow, you can help her deal with it. If she's otherwise comfortable, eating, drinking, urinating, defecating, behaving normally, interested, alert and responsive I'd just give her supportive care as needed.

Without reading back, has she been x-rayed? If something like a stone is pressing on a nerve, this could also result (although I wouldn't think that would cause the head curl you described).

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Post   » Sun Jun 05, 2016 12:28 pm

Thanks, all.

We didn't x-ray. The vet did consider arthritis but though it very unlikely given how comfortable she was having her limbs manipulated.

I'm now asking myself 'is it progressing or am I just looking harder...?' There hasn't been anything like her first episode since going to the vet, but she does seem in general to be weakening, and she's lost a little weight (though maybe that's muscle mass). And she has been a little crusty around the eyes and nose the last couple of days.

I'm planning on calling again on monday to give an update.

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Post   » Mon Jun 06, 2016 12:48 am

Keep us posted. Best to her.

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Post   » Sun Jun 12, 2016 3:24 pm

Ruby died this morning at around 3 am.

I'm in complete shock and i really don't know or understand what happened. She had been doing fairly well, her poops had been getting a little better and the antibiotics had finished two days ago.

As of 8 or 9 pm she was fine and normal.

At 11.30 she was hunched with laboured breathing and completely uninterested in food. I picked her up to see how she was and she was obviously painful, then she had some horrible, black, liquid poo. We phoned the ER immediately to let them know we were coming in.

After taking a look at her they put her on oxygen and let us know that it looked bad and they suspected pneumonia. I asked to say goodbye for the night and went to settle up at the front desk, by the time i had done that, she was on her side and in obvious distress.

They said it was very unlikely that she would survive the night and asked what I wanted to do. As I tried to decide I petted her and talked to her and she just died right there.

This is such a shock. I don;t know what happened. The vet told me that it is possible for pneumonia to come on that quickly, but it so hard to believe - in a matter of hours.

I feel as though i must have missed something, because I've been so focussed on Lucy... did she have pneumonia and I didn't even notice? How could I not notice??

This was my third emergency midnight trip to the vet this week. I'm just exhausted.

I asked for a necropsy but hopefully I'll be able to speak to the exotics team before they do it and find out whether we can learn anything from it.

I just keep thinking 'what happened?!"

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Post   » Sun Jun 12, 2016 3:27 pm

I'm so sorry you lost her.

But yes, it is possible for pneumonia to kill that quickly.

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