POST OPERATIVE CARE
Be Prepared To Care For Your Guinea Pig Following Any Surgery
Some guinea pigs seem to recover well from surgery and are up and eating right away. Recovery takes more time for other animals. A guinea pig in pain may not eat. Food is extremely important to any recovery so hand feeding a guinea pig that is not eating is vital.
It is not unusual for guinea pigs to be more quiet, less active than usual for the first 24 hours after surgery. Appetite is often down, but you should syringe feed to keep digestion moving properly. Often a guinea pig hasn't eaten since early morning so there may be little stool. Fluids given SQ post operatively should carry hydration over just fine until the next day. Look for pee stains on the bedding to ensure fluids are moving through.
Make absolutely sure your guinea pig begins eating as soon as possible after surgery. If your guinea pig is not eating that evening (following surgery earlier in the day), be sure to hand feed. Read the information on Hand Feeding at this site.
- Food and water should be available at all times.
- Provide extra vitamin C (perhaps 50mg/day).
- Supplement your ill or recovering guinea pig with Oxbow Critical Care if you have access to this product. Vicki of JPGPR is convinced that Critical Care has pulled through many of her guinea pigs: it is an appetite stimulant, with probiotics and needed fiber (to keep things moving through the digestive system).
- Have a scale handy and monitor weight at least a couple times during the day.
- Note: If your guinea pig is receiving post-surgery antibiotics, watch for antibiotic intolerance which may also result in anorexia.
- Towels. Keep the guinea pig on towels, change as needed. This helps monitor pee and poop output and bleeding more easily -- white towels work best.
- Temperature. Keep your guinea pig warm. The room should be comfortable. Use a wrapped water bottle or light (for its radiant warmth) at one end of a cage. Any heat source should be positioned so the guinea pig can move away from it if uncomfortable. Thermacare wraps (See:
www.thermacare.com) can provide additional heat for up to 8 hours.
WARNING: Children and pets should not ingest this product as it may be poisonous when consumed.
- Space. Place the guinea pig in a confined area to restrict movement and avoid creating adhesions (scar tissue) at the incision site, especially important if your guinea pig has had abdominal surgery.
- Picking up your guinea pig. Handle carefully. The author's pig struggled terribly when she would pick her up and so to avoid her pet tearing the incision, the author devised a kind of open sided drawer from a couple of boxes. Once she would walk in, the entire box could be picked up, later sliding out the drawer on a counter where she could be hand fed. A box with a side that could be lowered to allow the pig to walk in and raised to secure it would also work.
- Feeding your guinea pig. Vicki of JPGPR finds pigs feel more secure when they have their feet on a hard surface. The author used this technique of placing the pig on a towel on the counter, corralled in the crook of the arm when feeding and administering antibiotics.
- Pain. Observe your guinea pig for signs of pain. Ideally, your vet will have provided you with post surgery pain medication. If not and your guinea pig is in apparent pain, call your vet.
- Few or no droppings. Some pet owners report seeing few if any droppings in the cage all day. This may be caused by your guinea pig eating almost all of them as a way of returning needed nutrients to their system. Observe your pet to see if this is the case. Your veterinarian may prescribe motility drugs like (reglan and propulsid) if your pet is not passing droppings normally.
PROBLEMS WITH THE INCISION
- The incision is opening up: contact your vet. Incisions are typically closed with sutures, surgical adhesive, or staples. Staples seem to be the most secure. Some pigs will pull out external sutures. View the detailed photos of Snowflake's incision (closed using surgical adhesive) as it healed. Some inexperienced vets who neuter boars do not suture the inguinal ring: a rupture is very serious and requires emergency treatment.
- A lump is forming in the incision area: contact your vet. The swelling may be a seroma (a collection of fluid at the incision site which is basically harmless), an infection, or a hernia (sudden and extreme swelling). Visible pus and inflammation (hot to the touch) are signs of infection.
- An internal dissolvable suture is visible: contact your vet. Some guinea pigs may have a reaction to the suture material. Trimming the suture material may be sufficient to allow it to heal.
Occasionally a guinea pig will bother an incision -- and in rare cases, even rip out its sutures. Kleenmama was able to fashion a collar, stapled together, to prevent one of her pigs from chewing on an injury. Vicki of JPGPR has coated incisions with Preparation H (her vet's advice) - which was supposed to help soothe and heal. Then dabbed an evil tasting veterinary lotion called Banquard around the incision, to further discouraged licking and chewing. She has mentioned that the incision heals quicker if it is exposed to air and unless absolutely necessary, one would not wrap it.
Talishan recommends that to examine an abdominal suture, find a large hand mirror, clean well, and place on a flat surface. "Pick the pig up, as gently as possible, with both hands supporting the abdomen and back end. Once the lifting is done and your left hand is securely supporting the abdomen, then shift your right hand (I'm assuming you're right-handed; reverse if you're left-handed) up under the chest with one front leg between your fingers. Do this over the cage so that if she moves unexpectedly, she won't go far."
Infections are a post op complication for neutered guinea pigs. Erin has had good success with washing the neuter site 2 to 3 times daily with chlorhexidine solution (an antibacterial surgical scrub). Dilute per directions and pour over the neuter site. Rinse thoroughly. A gauze sponge can be used to wipe the area if there is drainage.
Using this protocol, Erin has had no boars develop post-neuter abscesses. Boars tend to mark territory and even the cleanest environment (towels changed frequently) can harbor bacteria. If chlorhexidine is not available, use diluted betadine or a good antibacterial soap and warm water. Be sure to rinse thoroughly after cleaning.
- See also: Antiseptic Solutions.
TALISHAN'S POSTOP ADVICE & PAIN MANAGEMENT
Post surgery advice from Talishan (adapted) from her post on Petunia's medical thread after a spay:
"Be thoroughly prepared for some very intensive aftercare. Arrange to take a couple of days off work right after surgery if you can manage it.
"Your guinea pig will likely come home from the vet chipper, bright, and eating. This is good. It will not stay that way. She may very well go straight downhill after that, and scare you half to death.
"Somewhere between about 24 and 60 hours postop they hit bottom, then begin to do better.
"Be prepared to:
- Forcefeed. Read the hand feeding links carefully, get some Critical Care now, and make about 3 or 4 1cc syringes with the tips cut off now.
- Have every med on hand you can think of.
- Reglan (metoclopramide) is a must!! It's a mild motility agent and you will probably want to give it to her even if she is defecating, because what she's defecating is what was in her system preop. Then the pipeline will be empty!
- 4 or 5 day's worth of a narcotic: buprenorphine, perhaps Tramadol, perhaps butorphanol, depends on what the vet prefers.
- An NSAID, probably Metacam, possibly Rimadyl (depends on what the vet prefers).
"You want to use the NSAID from the get-go to reduce swelling and inflammation as much as possible as soon as possible. You want to use the narcotic as little as possible, but as much as you need to keep her comfortable!!
"Consider asking the vet for a children's steroid (Pediapred, prednisolone) to have on hand. You cannot use this along with an NSAID, but you can use it instead of one at the beginning. Steroids are powerful anti-inflammatories and painkillers. She may need it at the start.
"Then, as she improves, stop the steroid (if you needed it); ramp down the narcotic and ramp up the NSAID. Then, as she further improves, ramp down the NSAID.
"You will likely be given a pre-emptive antibiotic. Try to get Bactrim. If they insist on Baytril, be sure you have probiotics as well to give her.
"She probably won't want to drink. Get some unflavored Pedialyte and ask the vet for a 6 or 10cc oral syringe. Be prepared to offer this to her (don't force it like the food). Most pigs like it and will readily hydrate with it."
As a side comment, people sometimes wonder if boars can still ejaculate post op. According to Shepherd, B. A. and Martan, J. (1983), Elimination of stored material from the seminal vesicles of the guinea pig following castration. The Prostate, 4: 215–221. doi: 10.1002/pros.2990040211, most of their castrated group ejaculated during the study and the only difference between that of castrated and uncastrated guinea pigs was the presence or absence of sperm. Therefore, "accessory sex glands" must be involved.
Boar ejaculate is frequently referred to as "boar glue" due to its rubbery gluing properties. When found, it can resemble a dried worm. If found on fur, the fur usually must be cut off or one must wait for the fur to fully grow out. It also reeks, whether it is fresh or old, a small or large amount.
Much of the advice on this page is was given to the author during Snowflake's recovery from a spay. See the spay page for photos showing incision granulation and healing. Thanks to Carol and other members of Guinea Lynx Forums for additional suggestions.
- See also: Cavy Spirit's page on Postoperative Care.