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guineapigsorority

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this past tuesday, a guinea pig i took in from a neglect situation passed away. she was very clearly sick when i got her at around 4 months old - had been fed only pellets, literally sitting in her own pee, being kept in a hamster cage, chunk ripped out of her ear, visibly underdeveloped and underweight. i bathed her and changed her diet immediately. i did my best to increase her weight, although it became clear after a few weeks that she wouldn't be growing much more or gaining much more weight. compared to my other guinea pig, she was maybe half the weight and half the size. she behaved normally, very energetic and bouncy, curious about everything. i put hours and hours into her recovery, intending to give her the fullest life i could.

mid-december of 2020 i noticed that she seemed to have difficulty breathing. each breath made her body jolt a little. she didn't have any decrease in weight or appetite or energy, so i wasn't sure if it was abnormal or just something i hadn't noticed before, but i took her to the vet anyway. there is only one vet in my area that will see guinea pigs. the vet diagnosed her with pneumonia and gave us antibiotics and pain medication. this made sense because she liked to be outside, and in december it gets pretty cold. a month passed, and she hadn't gotten better. she'd jumped off the stairs and cracked a front tooth, so her diet decreased for a while, but she recovered from that eventually with hand and syringe feeding. mid-january i brought her to the vet again (in secret - my parents would not pay for another vet visit, and can see my credit card history. i arranged something with a friend so that i could use their card to pay for the visit. i'm 19, not a minor, but my parents hover). i explained that she still had the same breathing problems, and it hadn't gotten better with antibiotics. a different vet diagnosed a URI and prescribed different antibiotics from the first time, and the same pain medications. with some research, my sister and i determined that we should give her probiotics as well. both vets suggested a chest scan, both times i declined (i'm a full time college student. not only could i not afford the cost, i'm pretty traumatized from my experience with my past guinea pig being put under for a scan. she had to have an overnight stay and was nearly too weak to come back to consciousness. with this guinea pig being underweight and already very sick, i didn't trust that she'd come back out if they put her under). the second vet suggested bloodwork as well, which i also declined (again, college tuition goes crazy. i couldn't afford it.)

two weeks of that medication passed. she still had not recovered, rather, she'd gone on a steady decline. energy drastically decreased, slumping over whenever we picked her up, sharp decrease in appetite. my dad is a physician, and this past sunday he looked at her and said her symptoms looked kind of like the symptoms of heart failure in humans. i called the vet and scheduled an appointment for suspected heart failure on monday, realized i had work, and rescheduled for wednesday. i intended to take her without telling my parents a second time.

on tuesday, i removed her from her cage so that my sister could clean it out. she was alright for a while, crawling slowly over my shoulder and onto the arm of the sofa, then back around to sniff at my sister's face. still curious, even as sick as she was. there is a gap between the sofa and her cage that's too far a jump for her to make, and she knows it's too far. she has never tried to make that jump before, so when she extended her neck off the side of the sofa arm, i fully expected her to retract and turn around like she'd done every time before that. she tried the jump and fell to the floor. i wasn't concerned at first. it was a short fall, and she'd fallen further before when i wasn't quick enough to catch her. when i picked her up she was having seizures. she would not let me hold her. she squirmed to get away, and i thought that she just wanted to get back in her cage and get comfortable. but when i put her down, she fell to her side, all four feet limp and eyes half-white. i sent her to the vet with my dad, who is covid-vaccinated and makes most of our essential trips. i did not accompany him.

by this time i'm in almost full-blown panic. the vet calls me and says something like your dad just brought in your guinea pig, and we're calling you because you are the number on file for her. we need permission to go ahead with euthanasia, we're calling to make sure, because this is very sudden. i was thinking about the state she was in when my dad took her, twitching and half-conscious and on her side, and i give permission.

it's now saturday, and i've done an absurd amount of scouring of the internet for answers about what could've happened. i have this horrible feeling that i failed her - i know pet death guilt is normal, but euthanasia is new to me (the guinea pig i had before passed of old age). i think my dad was right in saying it was heart failure. perhaps that episode was a heart attack. she seemed stable enough when i called to make the vet appointment, and had i known this was going to happen on tuesday i wouldn't have rescheduled the monday appointment. i can't help but wonder if there was anything more i could have done when the vet called on tuesday night. if i should have asked them to administer heart medication, if i should have told them on the spot that i suspected heart failure, if i should have asked why they said 'this seems sudden'. i wasn't there to see it and i don't know if maybe something had changed during the drive to the vet and the time she spent with the vet. maybe i shouldn't have been so quick to give them permission to euthanize but she was in so clearly in so much pain and i didn't want her to suffer like that for too long. i keep telling myself that if something had changed, and she was sitting up looking just fine with the vet, they would have called and said 'why are you asking to euthanize, she looks fine'. and if they thought that heart medication would have saved her they would have suggested that, they already had 'suspected heart failure' on her file, i wouldn't have had to ask.

deep down i think i know i did the best i could. i'm not a vet - there's no way i could have diagnosed that on my own. as soon as i saw the issue i sought help. and i can't blame myself too much for not being able to afford the scans and the bloodwork, i have to pay for necessities for myself, too. so i guess what i'm asking for is, if this happens again (my other guinea pig is alive and kicking, 11 months old, so i don't expect it to be any time soon) - what i should be asking for. i'm not sure if heart failure is difficult to diagnose in guinea pigs or if the vet just didn't have much experience with guinea pigs in general. if anyone has any answers on why she was seizing up the way she did, that would be helpful as well, as i'm also feeling as if the fall she took triggered it. i can't seem to find any resources on it specific to the case. thanks in advance, and sorry for the really long post.
 

Pretzelpigs

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You did a great thing taking her in. Almost all of our sweet piggies death causes are unstoppable. No worries for the long post, that is what we are here for. You are a great piggy owner. <3
 

Freela

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I'm sorry for your loss. It sounds as though she had many things stacked against her- a poor start in life before you got her, a URI that was difficult to treat and may not have completely cleared, and a fall that may have frightened her badly or injured her in some way. Given the description of laying on her side and seizing, I think that the odds were very much against her recovering and you likely did the right thing by easing her passage. Again, sorry for your loss. Be kind to yourself, you did the best you could for her.
 

Bill & Ted

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Poor little mite, I think she was just so unfortunate until she met you, but sadly the damage caused by neglect from the previous owner was already done. I feel so sorry for you as despite all your best efforts she didn’t pull through, sending you big hugs, you improved her short life no end, never feel you let her down, you were a wonderful owner. X

Sleep tight little one 🌈
 

VickiA

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I am so sorry for your loss. Not every piggy can outrun the effects of neglect in their early life. As part of a rescue that often takes in from neglect situations we’ve seen more than our fair share of early deaths. But while that little piggy was with you they were loved and cared for and even though that time was shorter than you’d have liked that counts for a lot to a guinea pig.
 

Merab's Slave

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I am so sorry for your loss.
It sounds as if her previous neglect was just too much for her.
You gave her a second chance and filled her life with love and care.
That is a precious gift to have given.
Be gentle with yourself as you grieve.
 
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