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Does Anyone Have Any Experience With Guinea Pigs With Leukaemia?

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DisneyPig

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Does anyone have any experience with guinea pigs with leukaemia? Last week I took Merida to the vets as she had lost a lot of weight in a short time. I adopted her last year at 6 years old and a tiny 750g. I bonded her with a neutered boar and a sow and she transformed into a happy and settled piggy weighing 1.2kg. Just before Christmas I noticed she'd dropped down to 1.1kg and I found a large lump in her groin. I took her to the vets (my usual vet wasn't on so I saw a different vet) and she went to take a sample and it appeared to bleed out. Merida was fine afterwards and the lump was gone. A few days later it returned and a week later her weight dropped to 940g.
I rang the vets and requested to see Aiden my normal vet, he gave Merida a thorough health check and couldn't find anything to indicate the weight loss but was concerned as it was so much in a short space of time. I made the difficult decision to let him give Merida a general anaesthetic so that he could re-drain the cyst and take bloods. He is very experienced and I trust him with my piggies. The lump was in fact a benign cyst that has not returned since he drained it properly. Merida's bloods showed that all her organs were working fine but she was producing very high levels of lymphocytes which could be because of two reasons, an internal infection somewhere or that she has leukaemia. He said the best thing to do would be to treat her with some antibiotics and if she starts to improve, then it's likely that it is an infection but if she continues to lose weight then he'd like to re-do the bloods to confirm the diagnosis is leukaemia.
It's been a week since Merida was put on antibiotics and there has been no improvement. She's actually lost a bit more weight and is now around 915-920g. I am certain that she does have leukaemia as she seems to be deteriorating rather than improving. She's showing less interest in her veggies, although she is still eating and is still munching away on her hay, she just doesn't seem as active as she was. He said they do go downhill very quickly once symptoms of leukaemia start to show. I'm reluctant to take her back to the vets for more bloods as she is 7 years old, I don't want to cause her any more stress than absolutely necessary. She still has an appetite and is still active and although it's not as much as she used to be, she's not quite given up yet.
I just don't know what to do for the best :(

Here's my gorgeous girl!
photo.JPG
 

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Pebble

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I am so sorry to hear this news and completely understand how worried and upset you must be.

HUGS

Didn't want to read and run - but I'm not well atm and my sight isn;t good tonight so I'll be brief ('scuse the typos)_

Firstly - Aiden is an extremely experienced piggy savvy vet so it's good that he is treating your lovely old lady Merida. I am however going to post a reply for the benefit of others who may read this thread and do not enjoy having one of the best piggy savvy vets in the country looking after their pigs!

Secondly - I think it's worth amphaising - Merida, at 7 years old, is now a lovely old lady cavy who has had a wonderful life with you to date.

Thirdly: what antibiotic is she on? Many of my own pigs have been found, on swabs/culture, to have infections resistant to baytril and septrin - I would want to discuss this scenario with Aiden in terms of trying a new antibiiotic (perhaps doxycycline, azithromycin or marbocyl)

Fourth -high lymphocyte count can be indicative of not just infection or leukaemia but also lymphoma. Once you have treated with antibiotics to rule out infection (perfectly reasonable) you need to consider whether it is leukameia or lymphoma (I have had piggies with both)

Fifth: Treatment for leukaemia/lymphoma - there are two options: both with side efects/implications
1) steroids (prednisolone) to "delay" the progression of the disease - will not cure
2) chemotherapy - - unlike humans chemo in animals is designed to delay progression rather than cure

I personally opted to treat my guinea pigs with steroids (oral prednisolone) to help manage their diseases. (i.e. give them a slightly longer life
I refused chemotherapy (asparaginase) because
a) we have only, to date, got one case history where asparaiganse has been effective in a piggy with lymphoma.(Big Boy on Guinea Lynx in the US) and
b) my vet wouldn;t administer chemo without regular blood tests under GA to monitor organ function
c) my pigs were only 4 yrs old

However be advised that steroids render a piggie more prone to infection.as they suppress the immune system. Willow (leukaemia piggie) did get an infection (after 4 months problem-free on steroids) and we went through an exhausting 4 weeks of constant care 24hrs a day helping him fight it with all types of abx and syringe feeding etc. which he did recover from...... but sadly he still had to be helped to the Bridge some 2 months later when the leukaemia finally got too much.

If Merida was my piggie, then given her age, my own experence, and what I know now, I personally would
a) discuss different antibioitics to rule out infection - give 2-4 weeks of other abx with supportive syringe feeding etc
b) at the same time, discuss with the vet whether it is actually leukaemia or lymphoma (lab should have kept bloods - a histology blood smear might prove useful if not already done - which I suspect Aiden has already sorted given he mentioned leuikamia)
c) discuss the possible further treatment (after abx) of steroids vs chemo with the vet but mindful of her age and the risks

If, after trying other abx, there is no improvement then I'm sorry to say you are going to have to make some important decisions on whether to treat Merida palliatively, in full knowledge that sadly you cannot cure her of this type of disease.

Any decision I make would be based upon what her expected quality of life might be for the various treatments - which again given the above would be as foillows::
Abx - OK, with supportive care - changing abx is worth a try
Steroids - bit riisky for a 7 year old piggy but maybe worth a try
Chemo - no way

You have given Merda a really good life...she is a grand old lady at 7 years old which is a tribute to both you and her.
Whatever decisions you make - you know Merda best and I know you will make the right one for her. It's all us piggie slaves can ever hope to offer our precious furbabes....at all times we act in good faith

I'm sorry I cannot provide you with a more saisifactory answer - but hopefully this information (however bluntly expressed - for which my apologies) will help guide you an undestandnng of the possible types of decisions and options available to you.

Sending you lots of hugs
x
 

DisneyPig

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Thank you so much for such a thorough reply, I really appreciate it!
Aiden gave her Engemycin 0.3ml per day which we've nearly finished. I've actually just been in to weigh and feed the piggies (I hadn't weighed her since last night) and she's now 898g and wasn't interested in her food. She nibbled some pepper and went back upstairs and burrowed herself into the hay. I feel she may be giving up, which at 7 years old I can totally understand.

I'm going to re-read all the info you've given me so I can take it in properly and consider the options. Thank you so, so much for giving me such a detailed response! I hope you feel better soon! xx
 

Pebble

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I'm so very sorry Disney..
If you think she has given up then it sounds like she "might" be entering into her "swansong"
IF so - Please consider PTS rather than letting nature "eek" out it's course...... as it's not fair on the pig.
Sorry if that's a bit blunt but believe me, this is said with kindness and support based upon my own past experience
More hugs!
xx
PS I don't often say this but PM me if you want a chat on the phone
x
 
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DisneyPig

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I'm so very sorry Disney..
If you think she has given up then it sounds like she "might" be entering into her "swansong"
IF so - Please consider PTS rather than letting nature "eek" out it's course...... as it's not fair on the pig.
Sorry if that's a bit blunt but believe me, this is said with kindness and support based upon my own past experience
More hugs!
xx
PS I don't often say this but PM me if you want a chat on the phone
x
Thank you so much Pebble. Merida being the character that she is, is now pottering around her cage with her fellow piggies and munching on some greens! I can't keep up with her!
I'm going to closely monitor her tonight and give Aiden a ring tomorrow xx
 

Pebble

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You have a briliant vet
You are a brilliant owner
You will know when she is finally ready (it might be 6-12 months!) - but in the meantime Merida will be cherished and know she is ,much loved..
You're doing everything you can
x
 

Elwickcavies

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I can't add anything to the info that Pebble has given you, but having recently had to make the awful decision to pts, rather than keep fighting when Puffle had given up, I know how hard it is. All I can say is that you will know when the time is right and you have done the very, very best for your lovely old girl. Hugs x
 
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