Why are my piggies getting sick?

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Post   » Thu Feb 21, 2019 1:25 am

I've had experience with Guinea Pigs before. My sister and I raised at least 6 of them with no medical issues ever. We fed them lettuce, tomatoes, hay, and hay pellets. We let them graze on the lawn often and there were never insecticides or fertilizer used on our lawns. We kept their cages clean and always paid them plenty of love and attention. They all lived anywhere from 5-9 years (a dog that my dad's friend brought to our house got to the one who only lived 5 years). So naturally I thought I knew how to care for them.
My babies are 2 years old and 5 months apart in age. I got them from Petco when they were 2 months old and got them 5 months apart because I read that you should never own just one because they are social and require company of other piggies. I change their bedding and wash out their cages religiously and they get plenty of floor time. When it's not too hot or cold, I take them outside to run around as often as outside conditions allow. I always watch them very carefully to avoid other animals harming them and I bring them inside at the first sign of trouble.
The younger one, Scruffy suddenly became lethargic and stopped eating and drinking about 3 days ago. I noticed that he had bloody diarrhea that night. I took him to the vet first thing the next day and they told me that he had came down with a bad infection in his digestive tract. He is currently under treatment strong antibiotic and I have to syringe feed him every 4 hours. The doctor gave him a fifty-fifty chance it is a fight for his life. I was told that this was caused by the guinea pig pallets we had been giving him. It is the wild harvest brand. I choose it because it is supposed to be fortified with Vitamin C and several other nutrients. Turns out it has lots of other stuff in it that are high in sugar. It was too much sugar for him and it fermented in his bowels and caused the infection. He has been undergoing this treatment for 2 days and he is finally starting to poop out black pellets. He is still not eating or drinking so I have to continue force-feeding him. He just hides under his house when in his cage, but he's a bit more curious and mobile when I take him out to feed him. I also take him out to hold and comfort him for 5-15 minutes at least every hour. Everything else I fed him was the same things that we've always given our guinea pigs. Scruffy also had arespiratory infection at the time I bought him and I didn't notice. Petco paid to have that treated and he had not had any other problems until now. He has always been very active in a little bit high-strung. It was always the cutest thing.
The older one, Mr. Bubbles seems to be pretty healthy right now, however he has had two eye infections that were treated by the vet with drops. With what is going on with his brother, Scruffy I have been watching him a more carefully. I was petting him and I know it is something hard in his ear. I looked up problems in guinea pigs ears and found this forum. I saw several pictures of cyst's and polyps, but his doesn't look like any of them. His is a hard, black mass. It almost feels like a large clump of hardened ear wax. It felt scratchy when I pet him. There's no noticable head lean. He doesn't seem to be bothered by it. He's eating, drinking, pooping and peeing normally and he's as bubbly as ever. I'm taking him to the vet to find out what it is, but I'm very perplexed about why my Guinea Pigs keep having these medical issues. Is it something I'm doing wrong or do they keep having these problems, perhaps because I got them from a national pet store chain? Petco gets their piggies from a Guinea Pig farm. Some farms are notorious for over breeding and less than optimal living conditions for the animals. When I go to that pet store to get supplies, I see piggies that look nearly identical to mine; even after 2 years which suggests that they have the same parents as mine. The vet gave me a good, variety diet, which I have implemented, so if Scruffy pulls through this infection, I'm hopeful that there won't be any more problems.


Post   » Thu Feb 21, 2019 3:41 am

Based on the issues we had with our girls I would say the problem is the usual one with pet shop bought piggies. They typically have allsorts of medical problems.

We got our girls from Pet Stores and we lost one within 3 weeks due to serious lung, liver and digestive issues and the other 3 had numerous health issues for about 6-7 months.

Weigh them regularly and watch for weight loss.
Give them plenty of hay
If they aren't eating or are losing weight get some critical care a make sure they eat plenty of it.
We feed our 3 Oxbow Pellets and Treats and have not had any issues on that side (touch wood)

Watch for any changes in behaviour, If they seem to be lethargic or having breathing issues and look ruffled and fluffed up get them to a vet, make sure they are eating plenty, weigh them regularly (every day if need be) and watch for drastic weight loss, if they are losing weight syringe feed them Oxbow Critical care.

There is more info on what to watch out for here


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Post   » Thu Feb 21, 2019 9:49 am

Petco gets their pigs from breeder mills, the same as all large chain pet stores. They are bred and raised in horrible conditions, and sold missexed (with the baby sows often pregnant), sick, and/or with parasites.

The only brands of pellets we recommend are Oxbow or KMS Hayloft (only available on line). All the others either have far too much calcium or sugar, or contain nuts and seeds which guinea pigs shouldn't have.

Keep handfeeding your sick one. It may help to give a probiotic or poop soup about an hour after every dose of antibiotic.

The ear problem may resolve on its own, but keep a close eye on it and if it gets larger, then see a good exotic vet.

Good luck, and keep us posted on how they're doing.

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Post   » Thu Feb 21, 2019 3:43 pm

Thank you everyone for the information!
Scruffy is showing many signs of improvement. He's a little bit more attentive today and let me hand feed his oxbow recovery food easier. He's pooping more, although it is still black on the outside and the normal color and texture on the inside. Still not as much as he usually does.

His urine is cleared up now too. He still won't eat or drink water on his own, other than nibbles of his Timothy hay and the occasional lick on his water bottle.

He's a little bit more receptive to the syringe than when I first started hand feeding him. He's been on the antibiotic for 3.5 days. I'm giving him extra water and about 50 mg once per day of vitamin C with his morning dose of medicine. He gets the meds every 12 hours. I also dilute the recovery food with a little bit of extra water.

I'd feel like he's making better progress if he'd eat and drink more on his own. I was really excited to see him nibbling on his cage when I gave Mr. Bubbles his morning lettuce (when he's healthy he does that whenever he wants food or attention)!

I gave Scruffy a bite sized piece of the lettuce and he ate it. He didn't want any more than that. When I touch base with the vet this evening, I'll let her know and hopefully she'll tell me good news about his prognosis.

Mr. Bubbles is the same. No change in the ear, no weight change, same healthy appetite. Happy and healthy. I'm keeping an eye on him for the same thing as Scruffy has because they were on the same diet. I changed his as soon as I found out what caused Scruffy to get sick. He's not overly receptive to the new oxbow pellets, but he eats plenty of Timothy hay and fresh veggies, so I'm not concerned about it at this time.

I will keep my eye on it. I cut back on the carrots and give him red and green leaf and romaine lettuce (no iceberg), bell peppers and parsley once a week. He gets more hay and less veggies. I hope that is enough to keep him from suffering the same thing as Scruffy. I'll update tomorrow or if anything major changes.

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Post   » Thu Feb 21, 2019 6:03 pm

Just to clarify the above post about Mr. Bubbles regular diet; he gets the lettuce every day. The bell peppers once a week and the parsley once per week on a different day than the bell pepper. It's winter, so there's no grass and it's too cold outside anyway. I give them wheat grass 2-3 times and month as an extra treat. When Scruffy gets well, he's going on the same modified diet.

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Post   » Thu Feb 21, 2019 6:06 pm

He needs bell peppers every day. They're the best source of vitamin C for pigs, and they have to get vitamin C from their diets. Like humans, they can't manufacture it themselves.

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Post   » Thu Feb 21, 2019 8:46 pm

Ok. Is there an issue with sugar in bell peppers? After what it did to Scruffy, I'm terrified of giving them too much of anything high in sugar.

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Post   » Thu Feb 21, 2019 10:01 pm

You got good advice from your vet to switch from Wild Harvest food. From what I can find online, Wild Harvest has colored pieces of ground up fruit combined with sugars and flours to make pellets kind of like kibble. The seeds, grains, and peanuts should not be fed to guinea pigs and are actually a choking hazard.

Hopefully Scruffy’s digestive tract will heal with the Oxbow pellets and the antibiotics. The antibiotics could be causing some nausea so that could also be why Scruffy’s appetite isn’t as good as it should be.

Green peppers are needed daily, and as your pigs are convalescing, they would benefit from Vit. C supplements like the Oxbow Natural Science. Actually a cup of fresh veggies daily is recommended with 2 tablespoons of pellets and unlimited hay each day.

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Post   » Thu Feb 21, 2019 11:17 pm

Renonvsparky, I broke up your long post into multiple paragraphs with a line of space between the paragraphs. If you add more paragraphs, it makes a big difference in the readability of your post.

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Post   » Fri Feb 22, 2019 3:09 am

Thank you. I will keep that in mind when I make long posts.

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Post   » Fri Feb 22, 2019 3:45 am

I spoke with the vet this evening and she says she will look for the best probiotic to counter act the antibiotic. She was pleased when I informed her that his stools were the normal size and color this afternoon, but I may have spoken too soon. They have returned to the darker color and smaller size they were before. As long as he's still pooping at all, it's a sign that his bowels are working.

A stoppage in his bowels is what we need to avoid. I don't know why his droppings went normal, then back to the bad ones. He's only got two more doses of antibiotics left to take and when it's done and he gets his probiotic started (should be tomorrow) maybe they'll go back to normal for good. Still giving him the recovery food every 4 hours so hopefully that will help too. He ate and drank a bit more on his own today.

I am exhausted and a little bit disappointed about the step back with his stools. I hope it's not something I'm doing wrong. At the same time, I'm encourged that he still purrs when I pet him, he's eating and drinking a little more even though it's still not enough and he's not totally lethargic. His activity level is low, but not lethargic. He shows some curiosity when he's outside his cage. He sniffs around and tests things by nibbling on them. He looks up when I come up to his cage, but he doesn't come out to greet me like he usually does.

I will never give up on him. I'm determined to see him through this, whatever it takes. Even if it means no sleep for me. Thank you all for your support. It helps to post updates and to put my thoughts here. I'm very appreciative. I will continue to post updates as they happen.

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I dissent.

Post   » Fri Feb 22, 2019 6:48 am

He can start probiotics now -- no need to wait until after the antibiotics are finished.

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