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End of life care- PTS or keep at home?

Rufus&Edward

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Apologies in advance for the long post; it's been something of a rollercoaster.

My sweet 4 year old boy Rufus has had a really rough year. He was a normal, happy pig at the beginning of the year, weighing 1100g, but then everything went downhill.

He was diagnosed with a dental problem in January (and lost a bunch of weight in the process- he was about 680g at his lowest point) and now needs regular 6 weekly dentals (a 7-8 hour round trip each time).

Then in March time he stopped eating completely again. Several tests later he was diagnosed with bladder stones and had surgery to remove these. He lost even more weight during this time. I was told that he was now too thin to survive any further surgery should he need it, so I have been super careful with his diet.

Since January I've been either supplementing or completely feeding by syringe every 2 hours to try desperately to get his weight up. He's also been given oats and other higher-calorie foods in small amounts to try and help with this. I managed to get him back up to 760g with a huge amount of effort and round the clock feeding over a long period of time.

Then last weekend he again did another complete 180 overnight. The night before he was completely fine and happy, but in the morning he was *drenched* in drool and couldn't eat or drink at all. When I tried to syringe feed tiny amounts he just dribbled it straight back out. This time he was diagnosed with a respiratory problem and given Metacam and antibiotics (the only thing he managed to swallow, strangely). The following couple of days he was really sick- still unable to eat or drink anything at all either by himself or from a syringe. He was really quiet and sleepy and just wasn't a happy boy. I decided if he made it through the night I'd take him to be put to sleep the next day as he no longer seemed happy.

The next day the drool had completely gone and he's accepting syringe food and drinking water again. He's even doing happy squeaks when I get him out. Completely baffled, but giving him the benefit of the doubt, I start regularly syringe-feeding him again (V small amounts each time and given vv slowly as I didn't want to upset his poor tummy). He perked up after this and still seems relatively happy.

Which brings me to today. He's still eating from a syringe and drinking, but he's now just so so thin, and I fear that having gone 2-3 days without eating anything at all will have done him damage that can't be undone. He now weighs a tiny 530g which is so upsetting to see. I know it's very unlikely I'll be able to get his weight up again now.

I know he's likely not got much time left at all, and am now left with the dilemma of which option is kindest to him- to keep him comfortable at home (he's on painkillers too) or to take him to be put to sleep. Ordinarily I'd have thought PTS would be kindest, but he's extremely attached to his brother and gets a lot of comfort from being with him (they've not left each others' sides since the latest bout of illness), and he doesn't seem to be suffering as he's happy to be held and is still squeaking often... though I know they're good at hiding pain.

I'm also mindful that with Covid, taking him to be PTS would mean taking him away in a box on his own, and having to leave him on the vet's doorstep with noone who is familiar to him. I'm really worried that his last bit of time would be really stressful and upsetting for him.

I suppose I'm looking for advice on what I should do, as currently both options feel like I'm letting him down :( I can't tell you how much my boy means to me, and I just want to do the very best for him. I don't want to be dragging this out for him if he is indeed suffering, but I also felt like he was going to go on his own soon, but keeps seeming to bounce back a little.
 

Siikibam

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I’m so sorry that your boy has had a tough time of it. I really can’t tell you what would be best. The only thing I think is that you, as his owner, will know what is right for him. I know that whatever decision you make will be difficult but I want to wish you all the very best. May his days with you be filled with happiness. I’m certain he already knows how much he’s loved. 💓
 

Wiebke

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Apologies in advance for the long post; it's been something of a rollercoaster.

My sweet 4 year old boy Rufus has had a really rough year. He was a normal, happy pig at the beginning of the year, weighing 1100g, but then everything went downhill.

He was diagnosed with a dental problem in January (and lost a bunch of weight in the process- he was about 680g at his lowest point) and now needs regular 6 weekly dentals (a 7-8 hour round trip each time).

Then in March time he stopped eating completely again. Several tests later he was diagnosed with bladder stones and had surgery to remove these. He lost even more weight during this time. I was told that he was now too thin to survive any further surgery should he need it, so I have been super careful with his diet.

Since January I've been either supplementing or completely feeding by syringe every 2 hours to try desperately to get his weight up. He's also been given oats and other higher-calorie foods in small amounts to try and help with this. I managed to get him back up to 760g with a huge amount of effort and round the clock feeding over a long period of time.

Then last weekend he again did another complete 180 overnight. The night before he was completely fine and happy, but in the morning he was *drenched* in drool and couldn't eat or drink at all. When I tried to syringe feed tiny amounts he just dribbled it straight back out. This time he was diagnosed with a respiratory problem and given Metacam and antibiotics (the only thing he managed to swallow, strangely). The following couple of days he was really sick- still unable to eat or drink anything at all either by himself or from a syringe. He was really quiet and sleepy and just wasn't a happy boy. I decided if he made it through the night I'd take him to be put to sleep the next day as he no longer seemed happy.

The next day the drool had completely gone and he's accepting syringe food and drinking water again. He's even doing happy squeaks when I get him out. Completely baffled, but giving him the benefit of the doubt, I start regularly syringe-feeding him again (V small amounts each time and given vv slowly as I didn't want to upset his poor tummy). He perked up after this and still seems relatively happy.

Which brings me to today. He's still eating from a syringe and drinking, but he's now just so so thin, and I fear that having gone 2-3 days without eating anything at all will have done him damage that can't be undone. He now weighs a tiny 530g which is so upsetting to see. I know it's very unlikely I'll be able to get his weight up again now.

I know he's likely not got much time left at all, and am now left with the dilemma of which option is kindest to him- to keep him comfortable at home (he's on painkillers too) or to take him to be put to sleep. Ordinarily I'd have thought PTS would be kindest, but he's extremely attached to his brother and gets a lot of comfort from being with him (they've not left each others' sides since the latest bout of illness), and he doesn't seem to be suffering as he's happy to be held and is still squeaking often... though I know they're good at hiding pain.

I'm also mindful that with Covid, taking him to be PTS would mean taking him away in a box on his own, and having to leave him on the vet's doorstep with noone who is familiar to him. I'm really worried that his last bit of time would be really stressful and upsetting for him.

I suppose I'm looking for advice on what I should do, as currently both options feel like I'm letting him down :( I can't tell you how much my boy means to me, and I just want to do the very best for him. I don't want to be dragging this out for him if he is indeed suffering, but I also felt like he was going to go on his own soon, but keeps seeming to bounce back a little.
Hi and welcome!

I am very sorry. Have his teeth been seen and addressed again? How dental savvy are your vets and which country are you in?

Drooling is generally a sign that a piggy can't swallow well or at all (dental overgrowth or oral thrush. i.e. fungal infection in the mouth), or that the constant flow of saliva is no longer able to pass through the digestive system with a blockage somewhere from the mouth to the anus.

Looking as a loving owner after a guinea pig in their last days is a very difficult and taxing period; unless a piggy is in clear discomfort, there is no right or wrong. On my long term average, I take about half of my piggies for pts /euthanasia but I am always happier when they can leave from home in their own time.

You have to be aware, however, that the process of dying is a lot more physical than most people imagine and that it doen't always go quite smoothly so you have to constantly assess and reassess the situation. It can be quite frightening at times and is not necessarily something that everybody can cope with, especially the first time round.

I have recently written a very detailed and practical guide which will hopefully answer your questions and helps you make the decisions that are right for you in your specific circumstances with a clearer mind and heart. I hope that you will find it helpful!
Here is the link. A Practical and Sensitive Guide to Dying, Terminal Illness and Euthanasia in Guinea Pigs
 

Roselina

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Oh I’m sorry to hear about Rufus - he’s had a really tough time but you and his brother have been there all thru. It’s a dilemma - If, as you said he is on painkillers, it’s very likely he’s able to keep going for a while. Especially if he’s contented around his brother. I’m not an experienced guinea pig owner but you shouldn’t feel you’re letting him down - you have done so much for Rufus and there does come a time when there is nothing more that can be done. I wouldnt want him to be without you if he was pts. If he’s happy to be held and is squeaking like he always has maybe see how each day goes ? I don’t think it’s an easy decision so hopefully the more experienced members can help you - sending BIG hugs 🥰
 

VickiA

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I think only you can make whatever decision you consider to be in his and your best interests. There is no easy answer. Our thoughts are with you as you go through this difficult time. It can feel very lonely when you are caring for a sick piggy and we are here to support you.
 

Rufus&Edward

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Hi and welcome!

I am very sorry.

A guinea pig in their latest days is a very difficult period; unless a piggy is in clear discomfort, there is no right or wrong.
On average I end up taking about half of my piggies for pts /euthanasia but am always happier when they can leave from home.

You have to be aware, however, that the process of dying is a lot more physical than most people imagine and that it doen't always go quite smoothly so you have to constantly assess and reassess the situation.

I have recently written a very detailed and practical guide which will hopefully answer your questions and helps you make the decisions that are right for you in your specific circumstances with a clearer mind and heart. I hope that you will find it helpful!
Here is the link. A Practical and Sensitive Guide to Dying, Terminal Illness and Euthanasia in Guinea Pigs
Thank you; I'd already had a good read of your guide. I'm mindful that it wouldn't be easy to see if I was around when it happened, but I'm more concerned about him having the best way of passing as possible. I check on him regularly to make sure he hasn't suddenly gone even further downhill- I'm fortunately working from home at the moment so have been able to be here for him all the time.

Do you think while he doesn't seem to be suffering, I'm best keeping him at home? I'm offering him food and water regularly, but not pushing him to eat if he's not feeling like it. It's a quiet environment for him, and most importantly he's got his best friend by his side. I'm of course prepared to take him to be pts if he's showing clear signs of suffering, but it's so tricky to judge at the moment with his fluctuating behaviour.
 

Wiebke

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Thank you; I'd already had a good read of your guide. I'm mindful that it wouldn't be easy to see if I was around when it happened, but I'm more concerned about him having the best way of passing as possible. I check on him regularly to make sure he hasn't suddenly gone even further downhill- I'm fortunately working from home at the moment so have been able to be here for him all the time.

Do you think while he doesn't seem to be suffering, I'm best keeping him at home? I'm offering him food and water regularly, but not pushing him to eat if he's not feeling like it. It's a quiet environment for him, and most importantly he's got his best friend by his side. I'm of course prepared to take him to be pts if he's showing clear signs of suffering, but it's so tricky to judge at the moment with his fluctuating behaviour.
Do you have access to a vet that is dental savvy? It sounds like his teeth may have overgrown again.

Otherwise support him as long as he has the will to eat (i.e. zest for life). From then on in you have to judge regularly how the dying process is running. It can last just a few hours in the very frail but up to several days when just one organ gives but the others are still strong. You have to feel your way as it is different every single time.
 

Rufus&Edward

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Oh I’m sorry to hear about Rufus - he’s had a really tough time but you and his brother have been there all thru. It’s a dilemma - If, as you said he is on painkillers, it’s very likely he’s able to keep going for a while. Especially if he’s contented around his brother. I’m not an experienced guinea pig owner but you shouldn’t feel you’re letting him down - you have done so much for Rufus and there does come a time when there is nothing more that can be done. I wouldnt want him to be without you if he was pts. If he’s happy to be held and is squeaking like he always has maybe see how each day goes ? I don’t think it’s an easy decision so hopefully the more experienced members can help you - sending BIG hugs 🥰
I know, that's the problem... I think it would be a lot 'easier' to take him to be pts if I knew I could at least be with him. Maybe I'm over-analysing, but I worry that I'm subconsciously letting my needs (to be with him) get in the way of what's best for him. The thought of just having to hand him over and leave him breaks my heart. But he's such a sociable pig, I know he'd be upset being away from either his brother or me so I don't think I'm thinking completely selfishly.

Thanks for your kind words <3
 

artcasper

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Oh bless you.. poor little fella has been through so much .... I agree that only you can make the decision and I believe you will know when the time comes... take care x
 

Rufus&Edward

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Do you have access to a vet that is dental savvy? It sounds like his teeth may have overgrown again.
He goes to Simon for his dentals, usually every 6 weeks (though he can go up to 8 without much issue)... it's only been 3-4 weeks since his last dental with Simon so I don't think it's that. He was managing to eat a bit of hay and pellets earlier on which he can't do when he's due a dental. Simon is also on holiday for the next 2 weeks now... Rufus was/is booked him to see him as soon as he gets back, but I suspect he won't make it :(
 

Rufus&Edward

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I think only you can make whatever decision you consider to be in his and your best interests. There is no easy answer. Our thoughts are with you as you go through this difficult time. It can feel very lonely when you are caring for a sick piggy and we are here to support you.
Thank you, I really appreciate it <3 This forum has been a huge amount of help during his various issues.
 

Wiebke

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He goes to Simon for his dentals, usually every 6 weeks (though he can go up to 8 without much issue)... it's only been 3-4 weeks since his last dental with Simon so I don't think it's that. He was managing to eat a bit of hay and pellets earlier on which he can't do when he's due a dental. Simon is also on holiday for the next 2 weeks now... Rufus was/is booked him to see him as soon as he gets back, but I suspect he won't make it :(
Thank you! You don't have a location; after answering on literally thousands, if not ten thousands of threads every year for a decade I can simply no longer remember everybody's circumstances. :mal:

I am very sorry. All you can do is hang in there and take every day as it comes; you will know when THE day has come.
If it is any consolation for you, I have been in similar situations and fully feel for you! There is a lot of anguish and desperation.

HUGS
 

Roselina

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Don’t be hard on yourself - I think as Wiebke says you will know and ......while he’s ok on his pain meds just take each day as it comes ..... everyone is here for you so keep in touch, as many members have faced this difficult time too.
‘ Although there are grey clouds above .... a ray of sunshine peeps thru’
enjoy your special boy Rufus 🥰
 

Zanzan

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I feel for you, being in your situation can be such a lonely experience. And all you want is someone to tell you what to do! I believe that there comes a time you and your pig know when 'it is time' and I don't think you have quite got to that point yet. If that time comes for him to be pts I think you will know without question. You are in my thoughts.
 

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I had to put one of my piggies to sleep. It has to be the hardest decision a pet owner can make. But the fact that your thinking about it, shows how much you love and care for your pet, you want to do all you can to help them. You want to do what’s best for them. Your guinea pig is extremely lucky to have you looking after them. You seem really caring and obviously have a lot of love for your guinea pig. I obviously don’t know you personally but I can tell, you are caring and empathetic towards your pet. Sometimes it is for the best, to stop the suffering. If you do chose to put him to sleep, something I found that helped me was writing my guinea pig a note - saying how much I loved him (might seem a bit weird, but it’s how I coped). I keep it in a photo I have of him on my shelf. We even built a wee garden for them where they were buried. It helped with the grieving. But you need to know, this decision is up to you, you will know what’s best for your pet. It’s right what everyone else is saying, you’ll know when it’s time. I know from experience what this like - I am thinking of you both.
 

Rufus&Edward

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Thank you all for your replies; it really was a comfort to know I was doing the right thing.

Our little Rufus died this morning. I came down first thing and he came over to the front of the hutch and I just knew it would be today- he just looked tired and slow. We had a long cuddle, I told him everything I needed him to know, and I put him back in his bed area with his brother nearby. A little while later he passed away while I was cuddling him.

I'm so glad he was at home; we had his travel case ready to whizz him to the vets if needed, but he seemed as comfortable as he could be. We're heartbroken, but I have some comfort in knowing he had the best possible death and I'm so grateful for that.

A huge thanks again to @Wiebke for his article on his guide to dying, it really was a big help to know that what was happening was normal, and what to expect.

Just spending the day grieving Rufus, and will soon be thinking about finding a buddy for his brother before he gets lonely.
 

Siikibam

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I’m sorry for your loss. But glad he was at home and with you and his brother. Take good care of yourself and the piggy that’s been bereaved 💓
 

Roselina

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I’m sorry you have lost Rufus. He had a lovely time with your family and his brother. Look after yourself as you grieve and remember lovely Rufus with smiles - sending you a BIG hug
 
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