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Force-feeding - when does it become "animal abuse"?

Gullfaks

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Hi,

This is my first post on the forum, and I am very sad and upset that it would be under these circumstances.

I adopted my two guinea pigs last October, so I have had them for almost a year, and they will turn 2 years in September. Until now - everything has been wonderful, and they have been healthy and happy.

Friday August 14th, almost 1,5 weeks ago - we realized that one of our guinea pigs did not manage to eat anymore. When we weighted her, we realized she had lost ~100 grams within the last two weeks, from 1050 - 950 grams. She did not manage to eat any hay at all, and she quickly gave hay up completely. She would manage to eat a tiny bit of grass, one straw at a time, but she was chewing very slowly. She would only pick on a bit of cucumber - all other veggies she would not bite. Occasionally she would eat a pellet or two.

We started syringe-feeding her straight away until the vet office opened the following Monday. We suspected a dental issue, and asked our vet to do a full examination. He checked her general health, listened to her heart, lungs, felt for any lumps - and all seemed fine. During the dental examination - he said that her teeth were still within "normal" range - but he grinded them down a bit in case they were starting to become a bit overgrown.

It has now been more than a full week of force-feeding her with a syringe. She still doesnt touch hay at all, and seems to be less and less interested in trying to eat grass and veggies. She will occasionally give it a go - but it seems to me that she does not manage to chew, or that she doesnt manage to drag the food inwards into her mouth. For example, she suddenly gives up and a half-chewed dandelion leaf and it would just slide out of her mouth.

We have managed to stabilize her weight around 850-900 grams for now - but the syringe-feeding is becoming more and more difficult. At the beginning we could manage 50-70 ml per day, but now we usually dont manage more than 40 ml of critical care per day, and its becoming more of a struggle. She spends all her energy trying to refuse it, pushing the syringe away with her paws. In the cage she tends to sit in a corner and is less active than she used to be.

The last few days - we have started to question when syringe-feeding is crossing the border of becoming "animal abuse". To force-feed a guinea pig that is somewhat willing to take the syringe is one thing - but when the pig is doing everything that she can to avoid it - it is not a pretty sight, and I feel so guilty for putting her in this very uncomfortable and unnatural situation. I am also worried that it might be hurting her mouth during the feeding - as she keeps turning her head and pushing the syringe away - which could easily be scratching her tongue or mouth.

We have tried everything else - cutting the grass and hay in tiny pieces, offering veggie purée, softened pellets, critical care in a bowl - but nothing seems to do the trick. My vet told me that the next step would be to put her through more examinations and x-rays - but he does not think it is worth it - as it usually does not give any more answers, and if it does - it usually shows an issue that nothing can be done with anyway. My vet truly did his best - but unfortunately we do not have guinea pig specialists where I live.

For such a small and delicate animal - it is starting to feel wrong to have to put her through a horrible force-feeding many times a day. Her life quality is not the same as before at all - and I am starting to doubt the ethics in the situation. It is heart-breaking to think about the option of letting her go - but at the same time I dont want to wait too long and she my wonderful piggie become just a ghost of whom she used to be. I dont think it is respectful for the pig either to keep them alive while they are deteriorating.

I would like to have your experiences and opinions:
For how long did you put your guinea pig through force-feeding in a situation where you did not know what the underlying cause was?
Did the pig start to eat again?
How long do you think it is ethically right to force-feed a guinea pig that is fighting it?

Thanks a lot for all your answers <3
 

David Piggie Lover

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Hello. I'm so sorry to heard about your poorly piggie... it's hard wanting them to eat and seeing them struggle. .
I hope someone come on here soon and give advise etc.
I'd keep feeding her myself.
 

Piggies&buns

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If you are dealing with a dental issue, then until it is corrected properly, and sadly a lot of vets don’t know enough about piggy dentals, the piggy won’t be able to eat. A dental done incorrectly can often make the problem worse. Even when a dental is done properly, they can often need doing repeatedly until it is fully sorted out and It can also take time before piggies get the confidence back to eat properly.
I’m going to tag in a member who runs a sanctuary and has a lot of experience with dental piggies and can hopefully offer you further advice @furryfriends (TEAS)
 

Siikibam

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Hei og velkommen! Hvordan går det? I’m sorry to hear your piggy is so unwell. There are members on here who have had to syringe feed theirs over a long time period. I wouldn’t call it force feeding because it’s for the purpose of keeping their guts going. If they were to stop that would be a danger zone.

I don’t know when the time to stop is as luckily I’ve yet to be in this situation. But usually the owner knows when it’s time to stop.

If you’ve managed to stabilise her weight then I think I would keep going. Perhaps do little and often - I don’t know how much you syringe her in one sitting. Was she given any painkiller by the vet to be administered at home?

Have a read of the guide linked below. As said above, unfortunately not many exotic vets are experienced in dealing with dental issues in guinea pigs, not even those who are experienced in treating them.
Ha en fin dag.
Complete Syringe Feeding Guide
 
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Guinea Pig Magazine

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We are so sorry that you and your Piggy are going through this. It is a very soul searching question indeed. We believe that there is no right or wrong answer to this dilemma. It is a situation that we have found ourselves in several times. There could be many reasons for the refusal to eat. We are NOT pointing a finger at Gullfaks, she/he is doing the best they can to help their Piggy and is concerned enough to post this question. So, In no particular order,
1. Vet not experienced enough with Guinea Pigs to diagnose a condition.
2. Incorrect syringe feeding technique.
3. Too traumatic for the Piggy to accept feeding.
4. The Piggy has decided to die.
We have seen all these reasons for not eating or accepting food and seen Piggies survive all of them, sadly, that was a smaller percentage than the death rate.
When there is no good answer to this situation and the Piggy is declining rapidly, the final decision is is always the hardest. Do you carry on fighting against the Piggies wishes or respect them and let them go.
Our thoughts are w
 

Gullfaks

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Tusen takk/thanks a lot for all your kind replies, and for all of you taking the time to try and help me and the piggie <3

I will read through the Syringe Feeding Guide again, and see if there are any tips I can use to improve my feeding technique.

No, we were not given any pain killers.
I have another question: If given pain killers - how would this improve a dental issue or other issues in the long run? If there is an issue with the teeth roots or the jaw - wouldn't pain killers just delay the real issue, or even make it worse by allowing the pig to chew while something is wrong?

I doubt that my vet would prescribe pain killers without a proper diagnosis and understanding the issue himself - but I will phone call to ask!
 

Siikibam

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The issue would still be there, but at least the painkiller would help with any pain your piggy may be suffering.

Is there no other vet who may be experienced in treating guinea pigs, even if a little far away? Issue is if it’s dental not many know what to do. I really hope you can find a solution soon.
 

Piggies&buns

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Pain killers won’t resolve the issue, but they will ensure your piggy is kept comfortable.
A piggy who is in pain won’t want to eat, and therefore their body reserves dwindle and if the issue you are facing is curable, then a piggy who has lost so much weight, has no reserves and is lacking energy etc, won’t be able to fight an infection or withstand treatment/surgery as effectively
 

Swissgreys

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I would definitely start by giving pain killers - if nothing else if your piggy improves then you know they were in pain somewhere.
When i have dental work I usually take a paracetamol or ibuprofen becasue afterwards my mouth doesn't feel great, and it is fair to assume that piggies are the same.
Pain killers don't have any ill effects in the short term so there is no harm in trying them if they might make your piggy feel better.

It sounds like it may still be a mouth problem (oral thrush, tooth problem, abscess, etc) but to a certain extent you are limited by what your vet can do.
X-rays are always the first step whenever one of mine has had suspected dental issues, and sometimes they do reveal a problem which can't be treated, however often they give answers that lead to a solution too.
But if your vet isn't experienced then there also comes a point when you need to be realistic about what can be done.
We have several member on here who have been told by a vet that nothing can be done, but when they travel further afield to see a specialist their guinea pigs often end up doing very well.
Is there any possibility to try and find a specialist vet a little further away?
 

furryfriends (TEAS)

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Sometimes just changing technique, or feeding something different, can make a huge difference. I find most guinea pigs hate Critical Care (although some love it) and much prefer their normal nuggets mushed up. Some also prefer liquidised veg mixed in with the syringe food. It is a matter of trial and error. I have made an instructional video of how I syringe feed and you can see it here. Today's instructional video on our Facebook page - Syringe feeding
 

furryfriends (TEAS)

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Once you can find a way to feed, that is better suited to your piggy, you can then start to look around for another vet, who is more experienced in guinea pig dental work. Sometimes it isn't a dental issue that makes eating painful and difficult, but oral thrush. This should be considered too!
 

Gullfaks

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Thanks a lot again for all your kind replies, and for taking the time! ❤

I got metacam from the vet yesterday, and we started a 7 days treatment with that. Yesterday a few hours after the first dose I could already see her trying harder to eat both hay and veggies - but she keeps failing to chew it. We will give it a few more days to see if there is any improvement.

Unfortunately, the syringe-feeding is getting worse and worse - I have tried all techniques and tried both banana and oats and veggie juice and everything else - but it is just so difficult to get her to eat it in a careful way, not having her bash her head and mouth on it. She keeps turning her head, locking down her jaw, wiggling out of position and pushing it away with the paws. Last week she was taking the syringe like an angel! I have read online that syringe-feeding can get more and more difficult when the pig has given up, and just want it all to be over... Let's see how it progresses in the next few days.

Thanks for all the support! This is truly an amazing community :wub:
 

Betsy

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Whatever happens, you have done all you can to keep your piggy alive. If you have to show her your last gift of love don't feel bad in yourself. Sometimes whatever we do we can't wave that magic wand and get our piggies better. She knows she is loved and has had lots of happy todays and that's all a piggy wants and needs.
 

Siikibam

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Glad to hear that she’s on metacam now. Is it dog or cat metacam, and what’s the dose?

Sorry you’re struggling to syringe feed. Hopefully others will be along later to give you some advice.
 

Gullfaks

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Thanks a lot for the kind reminder, Betsy ❤

She on cat metacam, 0,5mg/ml - and we give her 0,4 ml every 24 hours.
 

Gullfaks

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Oh, so to give 0,2 ml of metacam twice a day, @Siikibam ?
Yes, please let me know if you have experience giving a higher dose, @furryfriends (TEAS) !

This morning we barely got 10 ml of CC into her, after a 45 min struggle... she is picking on the grass and hay, so the appetite is there - she just doesnt manage to get it into her mouth and chew it :no:
 
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