Midnight's Medical Topic

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AviN4
Supporter in '21

Post   » Sun Aug 01, 2021 6:36 pm


I have a slight concern about a pattern of weight loss I've been seeing in Midnight. He's lost around 7 oz over the past 3 months, including 4 oz over the past 1 month. Here is a chart of his weights over time:

Image

And here's the spreadsheet with the data.

And here's a photo of him. You can see his weight still looks normal, despite the weight loss.

Image

A few more details:
  • He is now 49 oz, the lowest weight I've seen him. The previous low was 50 oz, shortly after I adopted him. He has been as heavy as 57 oz at times.
  • I have not been as diligent as I should be in terms of weekly weighing. My weighings have typically ranged from once per week to once per month. I am now trying to do better.
  • He seems to be behaving normally and eating mostly normally. He and his brother Moon seem to be leaving over more green leaf lettuce than usual, but they seem to be eating bell peppers, pellets, and (I think) oat hay just fine.
  • He looks healthy physically. He's been a chubby boy for a while, and now he looks closer in body shape to Moon.
  • His diet has not changed significantly from here, though now I hand feed him carrots too as a treat.
  • A few weeks before his weight began declining, I accidentally tipped an almost full Midwest cage box onto him. I took him to an emergency vet (not specializing in guinea pigs) and they could not find any problem with him. This visit included x-rays, reviewed by a vet radiologist who specialized in exotics. (It was an expensive visit.) He behaved very frightened after that, but went back to normal a few days later.
  • I took him to his usual vet a month ago. The vet said he looked very healthy and saw no issues that concerned him. I have a positive impression of this vet in terms of his knowledge about guinea pigs, so I think he probably knows what to look for. I did not mention weight loss during this visit because the trend was not yet obvious.
Should I be concerned, or is this okay? Is there anything else I should do, other than resuming weekly weighings? At what point should I start being concerned?

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Lynx
Celebrate!!!

Post   » Sun Aug 01, 2021 9:15 pm


Have you looked over the guidelines for evaluating condition/weight? They are kind of in the middle of this page (a veterinarian sent me these guidelines):
http://www.guinealynx.info/weigh.html

Are you noticing any teeth issues?
http://www.guinealynx.info/malocclusion.html

Any time you are especially worried about health, I would start a once-a-day weighing. 7 ounces is quite significant. As guinea pigs age, there is a tendency toward weight loss. I am sure you want to catch and identify any illness so he can be treated if needed.

I don't know that he would be considered an "Old Timer" (possibly - I think you got him as an adult about 3 years ago?) but Vicki of JPGPR had some general advice that could help.

bpatters
And got the T-shirt

Post   » Mon Aug 02, 2021 12:04 am


How old is he?

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Lynx
Celebrate!!!

Post   » Mon Aug 02, 2021 3:11 pm


I forgot to add a link to Vicki's article on aging:

http://jpgpr.guinealynx.info/jpgpr400.html

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AviN4
Supporter in '21

Post   » Mon Aug 02, 2021 9:41 pm


Lynx and bpatters, thanks for the helpful replies.

I'll start weighing him daily until the issue is resolved. I've created a recurring calendar event.

I've read the instructions under "Determining The Correct Weight For Your Guinea Pig." I followed the instructions about running my hands down through his body. I'm finding it difficult to assess his bumps. But he does not have very noticeable bumps, so I don't think he's underweight. I'd be surprised if he was underweight at this point, since he's always seemed on the chubby side, and even now is still ~10% heavier than his cagemate Moon who is comparable in length. Also, the vet did this same process a month ago and said his weight was fine.

I looked through the "Signs of Malocclusion" page. It's not obvious that his behavior fits any of the problematic signs. If I feed him carrots while he's in his cage, he eats them, and I don't see any of the signs listed. I saw him eat other foods earlier today, such as hay, though not as closely. I will try to watch him more closely, and could try some experiments, e.g. feeding him apple slices to see if he can eat the peel.

I made an attempt to get a photo of his incisors. I've been unable to open his mouth properly to see his top incisors, but I got a photo of his lower incisors by pulling his bottom lip down. They look straight and even, but long. Is this the problem? Has his bottom incisors overgrown?

Image

I tried looking at Moon's lower incisors for a comparison, but he's having a tough day and is resisting my attempts to get him out of the cage. I could try again tomorrow.

Also, the vet looked at his teeth a month ago and didn't see any issues. But (a) maybe the problem was less obvious a month ago and (b) the vet had difficulty seeing his molars with food in his mouth.

On his age: I don't know how old he is. As Lynx said, I adopted him 3 years ago as an adult. So I assume he's at least 3.5 years old. But it's possible he's much older than that. He also has some minor issues with both split nails and spurs (discussed earlier in this thread), which might be signs of age?

Thanks for the page on aging guinea pigs. I've read through it once, and will re-read it again more closely.

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Lynx
Celebrate!!!

Post   » Mon Aug 02, 2021 10:45 pm


The incisors would be an issue if they interfered with closing his mouth, were substantially crooked, or the lower incisors touched the roof of the mouth. Each guinea pig has somewhat different teeth so looking at pictures of the incisors of one guinea pig that is healthy may not tell you much about your guinea pig.

You do very detailed record keeping! I suspect if an issue shows up, you will catch it.

The picture you posted above does not look problematic to me. And it sounds like his weight is decent. Is he lively? Does he get a lot of exercise? It always helps to have a cage mate to encourage exercise.

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AviN4
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Post   » Tue Aug 03, 2021 1:35 pm


Thanks for the feedback on Midnight's teeth. I'm glad to hear you don't see an obvious problem with the photo.

Midnight and his cagemate Moon wander around in their cage between eating and naps. Years ago I would try to persuade them to leave their cage for floor time. However, to this day, they will not leave unless forced, either by moving all of their hideouts outside, or by physically removing the guinea pigs. I cannot not even persuade them with carrots, their favorite treat. Since they do not want to leave their cage, I decided I would not force them. So that limits the exercise they are getting.

They are both housed in a Midwest 8 sq ft cage. This was the best I could do in my previous tiny apartment (230 sq ft). Maybe I could get them a larger C&C cage now though.

I do have the vague impression that Midnight has become more active than he was previously, but it might just be wishful thinking on my part, to explain why he's losing weight.

One thing I did not mention is that I moved apartments at the end of April 2021. Maybe something about the new apartment has changed his activity level or eating habits? There's also the injury that happened at the same time (box fell on him), but as I noted above, none of the vets could find anything physically wrong with him (in neither April nor July) and he seems to have recovered fine behaviorally.

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AviN4
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Post   » Tue Aug 03, 2021 8:35 pm


Also: I fed Midnight apples for the first time today. He seems to like it and seems able to eat the peel just fine.

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Lynx
Celebrate!!!

Post   » Tue Aug 03, 2021 10:24 pm


Sounds like his teeth should not be an issue. If after a week his weight seems to have stabilized at this new, lower weight, you could switch to a standard weekly weighing. Weighing regularly is such a good way (besides observation) to monitor health!

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AviN4
Supporter in '21

Post   » Fri Aug 13, 2021 5:29 pm


I've been weighing Midnight (almost) daily for the past 12 days and his weight has been stable. So it seems like he's probably fine.

I'll try to be diligent about weekly weighings moving forward.

Thanks for the advice and support. :)

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Lynx
Celebrate!!!

Post   » Fri Aug 13, 2021 9:35 pm


And thanks for your support!

Weighing regularly and being observant make all the difference. Hopefully both Midnight and Moon will enjoy a fair amount of good health!

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AviN4
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Post   » Sun Aug 29, 2021 9:51 pm


Although Midnight's weight seemed stable for a few weeks, it's now declining again. This is for the past 5 months or so.

Image

Spreadsheet here.

I ran out of KMS pellets (out of stock) a week ago and that may be a contributing factor. I switched them to Oxbow which they don't seem to like. Today I started giving them Sweet Meadow which they seem to like better.

I also notice they have been leaving over more of their veggies, though I'm not sure when this started.

Is it time to schedule a vet appointment? The earliest appointment I can get at my normal vet (who I think is good) is 1 month from now.

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Lynx
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Post   » Mon Aug 30, 2021 12:14 pm


A month! That has to be a bit discouraging.

What vegs are they eating less of? Some greens/foods when seasons change become more bitter (taste some to compare).
Is there any change in behavior or ability to eat? If you check body condition, are you starting to feel boniness, or seeing condition loss? I hope the newest pellets make a positive difference.

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AviN4
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Post   » Mon Aug 30, 2021 2:18 pm


Thanks for the suggestions.

For the past few years I've mostly been feeding them green leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce, and green peppers. And my impression is that they are eating less of all of these, but maybe less green leaf lettuce than others. I just tasted a few of these. They all taste slightly bitter, but it's hard for me to judge whether they're more bitter than normal.

The choice for these veggies has been based on a combination of nutritional content, their willingness to eat them, and ease of obtaining them.

I also feed them carrots as a treat. It's by far their favorite food. But as I understand it, too many carrots can be bad for them.

Recently I began feeding them apples as well. Initially they seemed to like the apples but now they seem to have lost interest.

I don't see any obvious change in Midnight's behavior or ability to eat.

I don't feel boniness. Midnight was previously a chubby boy, and now his weight seems to be getting closer to normal. But it could drop below normal if the trend continues for a few more months.

Maybe it's old age as you and bpatters have suggested.

It seems to me like I should:

- Try experimenting with different vegetables.
- Schedule the vet's appointment for a month out, in case the weight loss trend continues.

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Lynx
Celebrate!!!

Post   » Mon Aug 30, 2021 3:53 pm


"The choice for these veggies has been based on a combination of nutritional content, their willingness to eat them, and ease of obtaining them."
I know what you mean. It used to dictate the choices I made for my guinea pigs too.

I don't think the green leafy lettuce should be so bitter. I remember eating collard greens (because they are so good for you) in the spring and then getting more later and being disappointed at the toughness and change in flavor. Yes, some experimentation may help.

If you have blueberries around, test out a few as a treat (they are not as sugar dense as most fruits).

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AviN4
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Post   » Mon Aug 30, 2021 4:48 pm


Yes, I've tried blueberries in the past. I don't recall them liking them so much, but my memory on this is fuzzy.

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AviN4
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Post   » Wed Sep 01, 2021 4:00 pm


OK, new development. Midnight and his cagemate Moon normally go crazy for carrots, which I give them as a treat. Today I fed them small pieces of carrots. Midnight seemed interested but would not eat it. So I gave him shredded carrots instead, and he did eat that. I tried this experiment a few times with the same result. So I'm now thinking maybe it's been malocclusion all along, and has now become worse?

Also, he's lost almost another oz since Sun 8/29.

I have an an appointment with a different vet next Wednesday 9/8. I may be able to get an earlier appointment if I tell them it's an emergency. Should I?

I'll try to pay close attention to his eating habits in the meantime and ensure he can eat what I'm feeding him.

bpatters
And got the T-shirt

Post   » Wed Sep 01, 2021 4:47 pm


Yes, you should try for an earlier appointment. Teeth problems never improve, and the sooner they're treated, the easier it is for you, the pig, and your pocketbook.

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AviN4
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Post   » Fri Sep 03, 2021 8:19 pm


Thanks for the advice. I took it and got an emergency appointment yesterday. ($60 extra for an emergency appointment, which was insignificant compared to the total $435 bill. Yikes.)

The vet did an examination and could not find anything wrong with Midnight. He mentioned there was food in Midnight's mouth and seemed like he may have been skeptical that there was any problem at all. (I probably should have shown him the weight chart so he didn't think I was crazy.)

He said the examination included a look at his teeth, including his molars, to the best of his ability. He said this included removing the food from Midnight's mouth and using the appropriate tools. (Because of COVID-19 protocols I could not be in the procedure room at the time.) I asked if he could do an x-ray to look at Midnight's teeth. He said that would require general anesthesia, which has risks. Given his observations of Midnight, he did not recommend it either. So I did not request the x-ray. (He also said a CT scan would be better, but that they didn't have a CT scanner in the office.)

He said he could do a blood chem / CBC panel which may or may not require sedation. He also said he could do a fecal test. I agreed to both and should get the results in a few days. (Fortunately Midnight did not require sedation.)

They also gave me some Critical Care and instructed me to use it as needed, up to 3 times per day. I fed him some yesterday, but I don't think I'll continue. For now it seems unnecessary, given that I can see him eating at least some food and is still a healthy weight. Still, it seems good to have it around if he gets worse.

He still seems to be repeating the behavior I described regarding carrots: Refusing to eat the hard pieces but sometimes eating the shredded carrots. I think he's eating less overall but it's hard to tell for sure.

His weight is still declining (~1oz lost since 8/29) though there is nontrivial variability.

He seems to like celery so I've been adding celery to his diet, sliced and strings peeled off. Probably not the best long-term though given the high calcium content. I also experimented with tomatoes, cucumbers, and okra but neither him nor Moon would eat much of any of those.

I'm not sure if he likes the Sweet Meadow pellets any better than the Oxbow pellets, but it's hard to tell. It might be a red herring either way.

Is there anything else I should be doing at this point other than waiting for the test results?

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AviN4
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Post   » Fri Sep 03, 2021 8:45 pm


A few things I missed in the last post:

- The vet also suggested I separate Midnight from Moon temporarily to see how much Midnight is eating. They get stressed when separated though, and it seems like I'd have to do this a full day to get reliable results. So I'm not sure if this is worth it. But maybe I'll try it this weekend.

- Since they seemed to like KMS timothy pellets, which are now out of stock, I'm somewhat tempted to give KMS alfalfa pellets a try. Is this a bad idea, given the circumstances? The calcium in KMS alfalfa pellets is reported as no higher than the KMS timothy pellets. Plausible explanation here, though not sure if I'm totally convinced.

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