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Elderly sick guinea pig.. Help

Cinnamon

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Hi everyone,
I’m struggling a lot at the moment. My boy, Alvin who’s 8 1/2 is very ill. The vets suspect it is renal failure/disease as this often occurs in elderly piggies but obviously can’t do blood work to rule this out as he is so old etc. He’s been having vitamin c injections as I could see scurvy was starting from him not eating properly and he brightened up a lot after the initial injection. I’ve been syringe feeding him critical care every few hours and trying to keep his gut moving. He’s been eating on his own also, but not enough to sustain him. All of a sudden today he’s start regurgitating his food, I have no idea why but even with water he’s doing it. You hear a gurgle then all of a sudden he’s regurgitating. It’s been going on for a few hours now and I’m worried he’s going to be extremely dehydrated and hungry. He stopped for a few minutes and then I thought okay it’s stopped and tried to give him water but it started again. My vets are closed now and we have to wait till the morning to see anyone. I’m wondering what I can do in the mean time and if there’s anything I can do to help this. His teeth are fine as I know this can cause issues (I’ve had my fair share with my other piggies). Please anyone help.. I’m so desperate and I hate watching him be in so much pain.. the next step could be for him to be put to sleep but I’m just so torn.
 

Bill & Ted

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Oh, poor Alvin this sounds awful for him, hope you can get an urgent vet appointment today. Sending you hugs, what an awful time you are having. I’ve no experience of this will tag @Wiebke she might know what’s happening to little Alvin x
 

Wiebke

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Hi everyone,
I’m struggling a lot at the moment. My boy, Alvin who’s 8 1/2 is very ill. The vets suspect it is renal failure/disease as this often occurs in elderly piggies but obviously can’t do blood work to rule this out as he is so old etc. He’s been having vitamin c injections as I could see scurvy was starting from him not eating properly and he brightened up a lot after the initial injection. I’ve been syringe feeding him critical care every few hours and trying to keep his gut moving. He’s been eating on his own also, but not enough to sustain him. All of a sudden today he’s start regurgitating his food, I have no idea why but even with water he’s doing it. You hear a gurgle then all of a sudden he’s regurgitating. It’s been going on for a few hours now and I’m worried he’s going to be extremely dehydrated and hungry. He stopped for a few minutes and then I thought okay it’s stopped and tried to give him water but it started again. My vets are closed now and we have to wait till the morning to see anyone. I’m wondering what I can do in the mean time and if there’s anything I can do to help this. His teeth are fine as I know this can cause issues (I’ve had my fair share with my other piggies). Please anyone help.. I’m so desperate and I hate watching him be in so much pain.. the next step could be for him to be put to sleep but I’m just so torn.
Hi!

I am very sorry! Please stop feeding Alvin; he is sadly no longer able to process to process food and has very likely gone into organ failure. I know that this is not the news you'd like to hear, but please concentrate on keeping him comfy, warm (but not hot) and as calm as possible without stressing him out any further.
Speak to your vet clinic and see a vet re. possible pts/euthanasia if Alvin is in any discomfort.

You can find all the necessary advice in this guide here, including detailed advice if your piggy is dying: Emergency and Bridging Care until a Vet Appointment

Try to be proud that you have cared for Alvin so well that he has lived to a very grand old age; but his small body has now reached the limit and is too old to cope. Once one major organ is packing in, the others will unfortunately follow. The realisation that your piggy may dying is always a gut punching moment. I feel for you! We tend to concentrate so much on keeping a beloved pet alive, but you need to be now very strong to make the end as kind for Alvin as possible.
 

Cinnamon

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Thank you @Bill & Ted x

@Wiebke Thank you so much for your reply. Most definitely is gut punching as he’s been apart of my life for so long.. and his personality is one that I will forever miss. Although they are so small they leave a big hole in your heart when they leave. I do feel bad for keeping him alive for so long, I just would hate myself if I hadn’t tried my hardest to help him though - if this could of been solved. I guess I just need to accept when it’s their time to go. Thank you once again, I can always rely on this wonderful forum to help me when I need it most <3
 

Wiebke

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Thank you @Bill & Ted x

@Wiebke Thank you so much for your reply. Most definitely is gut punching as he’s been apart of my life for so long.. and his personality is one that I will forever miss. Although they are so small they leave a big hole in your heart when they leave. I do feel bad for keeping him alive for so long, I just would hate myself if I hadn’t tried my hardest to help him though - if this could of been solved. I guess I just need to accept when it’s their time to go. Thank you once again, I can always rely on this wonderful forum to help me when I need it most <3
It is tough, especially the first time round when you have never experienced it before.
Older piggies often die very quickly, either by multiple organ failure (i.e. their body closing down) or by an issue blowing up really badly out of nowhere because the immune system can no longer cope in my own experience.

The one tip that I would give you from my own experiences with looking after older piggies in their last weeks/months is that if you start support feeding, not to do it with a syringe, but to let your piggy either eat from a spoon or a bowl, or take the feed willingly from a syringe without you squirting it in. The balance between supporting and forcing food down is such a delicate one.
I know from my own experiences how difficult it is to get it right in terms of quality of life. But this way is a fairly obvious one that works as a pretty good guideline to allow the piggy to say when its quality of life is no longer there. I find that of all the ways I have tried over the years it works best in allowing the piggy to call the shots.
Crucially, guinea pigs don't have a concept of living a long life; but they have very much a concept for having a good day. Give your elderlies as many good days as you can, but allow them to go when their time has come. When, what from and how they pass is ultimately out of your control.
I put the clock back to zero whenever one of my gets terminal news that one or the other body part has started to go into failure (renal failure is very common) or has a very narrow escape. Every day from then on is a special and treasured blessing. I find that this helps me cope best in caring for terminally ill or very fragile piggies that can go suddenly downhill anytime.

HUGS
My thoughts are with you!
Human Bereavement - Grieving, coping tips and support links for guinea pig owners and their children
(includes a chapter about looking after a terminally ill piggy)
 

tabelmabel

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I am sorry to hear what's happening to Alvin @Cinnamon

I don't want to hijack your thread at all but @weibke's reply to you has, i think, answered a question i have too.

My Benson has liver failure and weight is dramatically falling off him even though he is eating himself still.

Hope it is ok to pop a question for @weibke here (or anyone else who can answer)

I weighed Benson this morning and he is only 636g. Last Tuesday he was 770g.

The vet said he won't just die peacefully, he will need to be euthanased as he will go into gut stasis and will be in pain. At this rate of weight loss, i am thinking that is going to be very soon isn't it. Will he definitely stop eating? Will it just happen suddenly that he just stops? What weight can he go down to before he is critically ill?

At the moment, he continues to eat (slowly) and seems fairly lively as in he is moving about the cage and interacting with his cage mate. I don't think it is time to euthanase just yet but i expect things will change very rapidly at the end.


Apologies @Cinnamon to add these questions here.
 

Wiebke

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I am sorry to hear what's happening to Alvin @Cinnamon

I don't want to hijack your thread at all but @weibke's reply to you has, i think, answered a question i have too.

My Benson has liver failure and weight is dramatically falling off him even though he is eating himself still.

Hope it is ok to pop a question for @weibke here (or anyone else who can answer)

I weighed Benson this morning and he is only 636g. Last Tuesday he was 770g.

The vet said he won't just die peacefully, he will need to be euthanased as he will go into gut stasis and will be in pain. At this rate of weight loss, i am thinking that is going to be very soon isn't it. Will he definitely stop eating? Will it just happen suddenly that he just stops? What weight can he go down to before he is critically ill?

At the moment, he continues to eat (slowly) and seems fairly lively as in he is moving about the cage and interacting with his cage mate. I don't think it is time to euthanase just yet but i expect things will change very rapidly at the end.


Apologies @Cinnamon to add these questions here.
You will know when the time has come for Benson when he has no interest in food at all and is looking very ill. I agree that it is likely to be very soon. It is always extremely difficult when you have to call the shots. I have 2-3 of my piggies to liver failure or suspected liver failure over the years; and yes, one of them sadly went into GI stasis/twisted guts all of a sudden overnight. She was already very frail. They have all had to be pts in the end when they fell very ill. :(

There is a grey zone a little before you reach the point of emergency pts where you can euthanise as soon as you feel that his discomfort is seriously impacting on his quality of life. In the latest stages is a constant assessing and reassissing because it is more like a constant up and down rather than a steady going down as with most illnesses. As long as you do the weighing up with your boy's enjoyment and quality of life as your priority, you cannot go wrong. ;)
 

tabelmabel

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Thanks @weibke. He did have a bad day last week where he really looked very poorly and his eyes were looking almost sunken. However, the next day an amazing transformation had occurred during the night: came down to find him eating pellets and his eyes all bright again. Since then, every day has been good but the weight loss is incredibly rapid.

During the morning, i am separating him from his cage mate, Mike, and popping him ina carrier with some veg. Benson is managing to eat all the veg but it isn't stemming the weight loss at all.

Mike is a very fast eater and benson has no chance of getting to anything unless fed on his own. I have a massive amount of hay in so that's not an issue.

Thanks for your help. I am glad i did have the tests done so that i know the cause of this weight loss. And he is on loxicom for the arthritis so hopefully he will not be suffering in pain even at the end.
 

Cinnamon

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It is tough, especially the first time round when you have never experienced it before.
Older piggies often die very quickly, either by multiple organ failure (i.e. their body closing down) or by an issue blowing up really badly out of nowhere because the immune system can no longer cope in my own experience.

The one tip that I would give you from my own experiences with looking after older piggies in their last weeks/months is that if you start support feeding, not to do it with a syringe, but to let your piggy either eat from a spoon or a bowl, or take the feed willingly from a syringe without you squirting it in. The balance between supporting and forcing food down is such a delicate one.
I know from my own experiences how difficult it is to get it right in terms of quality of life. But this way is a fairly obvious one that works as a pretty good guideline to allow the piggy to say when its quality of life is no longer there. I find that of all the ways I have tried over the years it works best in allowing the piggy to call the shots.
Crucially, guinea pigs don't have a concept of living a long life; but they have very much a concept for having a good day. Give your elderlies as many good days as you can, but allow them to go when their time has come. When, what from and how they pass is ultimately out of your control.
I put the clock back to zero whenever one of my gets terminal news that one or the other body part has started to go into failure (renal failure is very common) or has a very narrow escape. Every day from then on is a special and treasured blessing. I find that this helps me cope best in caring for terminally ill or very fragile piggies that can go suddenly downhill anytime.

HUGS
My thoughts are with you!
Human Bereavement - Grieving, coping tips and support links for guinea pig owners and their children
(includes a chapter about looking after a terminally ill piggy)
Thank you @Wiebke for these wise and wonderful words. Sadly, I've had a few elderly piggies pass away the similar way and it still seems to be as hard each time to say goodbye or realise when it is the time to say goodbye.

I called my after hours vet and arranged for him to be put to sleep shortly after that phone call. I think in the end, it was the best thing to do as I know you suggested. He didn't seem to be in horrible pain, but I wanted the end for him to be as peaceful as possible. Whilst saying goodbye he lifted his little head like he knew, which did indeed break my heart. I hope he's running free with his brother Willow now, eating all the dandelions and grass that their little tummies can hold. He and his siblings were a result of a pet shop pregnancy, so to say the least I'm glad I rescued his mum (Cinnamon) that one fateful day that started a guinea pig love I don't think I will ever grow out of.

"Guinea pigs don't have a concept of living a long life; but they have very much a concept for having a good day." I love this and this will definitely resonate with me. I hope I gave all my piggies those good days they deserved.

@caseypig @piggieminder Thank you for the love x

@tabelmabel I'm so sorry to hear about your beautiful piggie Benson. Treasure your days together. Do not apologise for hijacking my thread, if you can get the help you need then that's the most important part! Sending my love, I know the pain all too well. x
 

Wiebke

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Thank you @Wiebke for these wise and wonderful words. Sadly, I've had a few elderly piggies pass away the similar way and it still seems to be as hard each time to say goodbye or realise when it is the time to say goodbye.

I called my after hours vet and arranged for him to be put to sleep shortly after that phone call. I think in the end, it was the best thing to do as I know you suggested. He didn't seem to be in horrible pain, but I wanted the end for him to be as peaceful as possible. Whilst saying goodbye he lifted his little head like he knew, which did indeed break my heart. I hope he's running free with his brother Willow now, eating all the dandelions and grass that their little tummies can hold. He and his siblings were a result of a pet shop pregnancy, so to say the least I'm glad I rescued his mum (Cinnamon) that one fateful day that started a guinea pig love I don't think I will ever grow out of.

"Guinea pigs don't have a concept of living a long life; but they have very much a concept for having a good day." I love this and this will definitely resonate with me. I hope I gave all my piggies those good days they deserved.

@caseypig @piggieminder Thank you for the love x

@tabelmabel I'm so sorry to hear about your beautiful piggie Benson. Treasure your days together. Do not apologise for hijacking my thread, if you can get the help you need then that's the most important part! Sending my love, I know the pain all too well. x
BIG HUGS
I am very sorry for your loss, but happy if I have been able to make the end a little bit easier and less painful for both you and Alvin.
Alvin will have known that he was much loved right to the end!

He will always be with you. Try to make an album or diary of all the special moments you remember, so you never lose them.
Any piggy born with you is very special; I dread the day I am having to take leave of my own surprise baby Tegan - she is a rather frail 7 1/2 years now...

Past the pain of your loss, which is never getting any less, no matter the number of piggies passing through your life because each bond is unique, take pride in seeing Alvin live to such a wonderful age. He is a true testament to your good and loving care and - together with his mother and sibling - couldn't have found a better home.
You have to also acknowledge the extra pain from losing your last direct connection to Cinnamon and Willow; you are also grieving for them, too. :(

You may find the grieving guide link in my first post helpful in the coming days.
 

piggieminder

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I am so sorry you had to let your boy go @Cinnamon I have no doubt you have done the right thing by him. I hope you can find some comfort in the fact that you had given him such a long and happy life. That saying of Wiebke's helped me in January when I had to let Bracken go aged 2. I may not have been able to give him a long life but I hope it was a happy one.
Run free at the Bridge with Willow dear Alvin. X
 

Swissgreys

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I have nothing to add really, but wanted to say your story and descriptions of your boy and his life with you were deeply moving.
Clearly he could not have had a more devoted owner or a better life filled with love.
Sending huge hugs from Switzerland today.
 

Cinnamon

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@Wiebke You helped me so much. I am incredibly thankful for your knowledge and advice. Thank you for the links also, there is a wealth of knowledge on this forum and the incredible support that follows from all its members.

I most definitely will commemorate Alvin somehow. I'm an arty person so I could use that to my advantage.

Tegan is incredibly lucky to have you as her owner. I was absolutely dreading the day Alvin would leave me.. I was never prepared, and I guess you never are really.
Thank you for the kind words, I thrive to look after my piggies in such a manner that they are loved and live the best life they can as I'm sure many piggie lovers do! :)

@piggieminder I'm so sorry to hear about Bracken, he most definitely had a good life and was very loved x (thank you also for your lovely words)

@tabelmabel @Hannah_xx @Flutterby @Swissgreys Thank you all for your kind and lovely posts, I really do appreciate it. He was so very special and I will miss him every day as I do all my Rainbow Bridge piggies. :(
 
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