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Specialist Here for CHF pigs (congestive heart failure)

4boipigs

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Hi I'm here because I don't think there's many active cavy forums. I am in the USA. I have 2 boys I adopted from an animal shelter in bad shape, and then another set of boys who were found abandoned in a box in October. I took them in, and recently one was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. Looking for people who have experienced CHF in guinea pigs. Right now he is taking orbax, furosemide, metacam, and theophylline. I took him to the vet a week ago because I thought he was breathing awfully hard for a pig. He also has a cough. We took xrays and he has a ton of fluid in his lungs - the xrays look like his left lung is pretty much full of fluid, and the right lung is maybe 25% full. He is doing well on the meds despite the vet thinking we should put him down. He is acting relatively normal - eating, pestering his brother, begging for food - but I can't say his breathing has improved. We have a follow up visit on Wednesday. As they were abandoned and I've had them just shy of a month, we have no clue on their real age or past history.
 

Engel

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Eek. I have not had any dealings with CHF however what I will say this; it will only get worse. Meds are to slow down the progression not to cure it. It's always best to pts a day early than a day too late. Don't let him suffer for you to make the decision.

Ultimately it's up to you. If you were asking me what I'd do if it was my pig, I'd pets sooner rather than later. He'll already be struggling to breath, essentially drowning. In my opinion, he's suffering. :(
 

Siikibam

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I’m sorry to hear about your boy. Well done on taking the four boys on, they’ve definitely landed on their paws with you.

I have no experience with it, but will tag in @PigglePuggle @VickiA @Wiebke perhaps they may have had experience.

I hope you have plenty more happy todays with him.
 

Mikatelyn

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Hi, sorry to hear that your piggy is doing poorly.
I hope I'm not overstepping here.. I don't know that much about guinea pigs, but I do know a little bit about CHF in humans. Since lots of human treatments are first studied in rodents, (hence the use of the phrase "being treated like a guinea pig" when referring to being experimented on) this information probably applies to your piggy as well.
Congestive heart failure occurs when there has been enough damage to the heart that it is no longer pumping properly. The poor forward progression of blood flow causes backup of pressure that then causes the fluid to go into the lungs. When that happens the lungs become impaired in its ability to obtain oxygen from the air into the body.
Orbax is an antibiotic, likely to cover for the possibility of pneumonia causing the chest xray to look opacified, either instead of or in addition to CHF.
Furosemide is a diuretic to try to pull fluid off the lungs.
Metacam is a pain killer.
Theophylline is something to to open up the airways so that the lungs work better.
If your piggy was human, he'd probably be on oxygen as well given what you said about labored breathing.
If CHF is the correct diagnosis, then this is a chronic condition. The meds can help alleviate the symptoms, but will not cure the condition.
If your piggy is still short of breath at followup despite meds, it may be kinder to let him go. We know from human experience that slowly suffocating is true suffering.
 

Wiebke

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Hi I'm here because I don't think there's many active cavy forums. I am in the USA. I have 2 boys I adopted from an animal shelter in bad shape, and then another set of boys who were found abandoned in a box in October. I took them in, and recently one was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. Looking for people who have experienced CHF in guinea pigs. Right now he is taking orbax, furosemide, metacam, and theophylline. I took him to the vet a week ago because I thought he was breathing awfully hard for a pig. He also has a cough. We took xrays and he has a ton of fluid in his lungs - the xrays look like his left lung is pretty much full of fluid, and the right lung is maybe 25% full. He is doing well on the meds despite the vet thinking we should put him down. He is acting relatively normal - eating, pestering his brother, begging for food - but I can't say his breathing has improved. We have a follow up visit on Wednesday. As they were abandoned and I've had them just shy of a month, we have no clue on their real age or past history.
Hi and welcome

I have personally never had a piggy with congestive heart failure but several of our forum members have had heart piggies. With the only one of mine that had a build up of fluid in the chest cavity (it is either this or the lungs where the fluid collects but never both), the suspicion was rather something pressing on the heart (a tumour or lymphoma). The heart itself was perfectly fine on the scan and the lungs were clear. Unfortunately the actual problem was hidden behind the dazzle of the fluid; and an explorative operation was not an option.

Forum members with chronic heart piggies have generally made good experiences with having vetmedin added in addition to furosemide by their vets. Vetmedin is a heart drug used for dogs. Perhaps something you would like to discuss with your vet?

Furosemide is a crucial heart drug; it is a diuretic that causes increased peeing in order to drain any build-up of fluid; it is also used in human heart treatment. In the UK you can find sometimes frusol being prescribed; it is furosemide in a syrup to make it easier to medicate than the fraction of a tablet.
Theophylline is not a drug that I have seen used in guinea pigs before but it is specifically targeting the lungs so I assume that your vet is using it to address the congestion in the lungs and to ease the breathing as much as possible. One of its possible side effectsis also increased urination.
Orbax is a cat antibiotic for urinary tract infections; again it has been likely prescribed to increase the urination.
Metacam is an analgesic (painkiller and anti-inflammatory)

Like with humans living with heart failure, it very much depends on how well he is responding to the drugs and whether you can buy him enough quality of life. This area in guinea pigs is sadly under-represented in veterinary medicine; it is not long since I have seen general vets who believed that there was actually no such thing as heart problems in guinea pigs. :(

I am keeping my fingers firmly crossed for your boy! Great that he has found such a loving and committed home.

PS: I am moving your thread from the welcome section to our specially monitored Health & Illness section where we have several experiences members whose knowledge we fully trust keeping a closer eye on any threads for better support.
 

Merab's Slave

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I have no advice to offer but wanted to say welcome to the forum and well done taking in the 4 piggies.
Holding you in my thoughts as you deal with CHF
 

4boipigs

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I do have his xrays if you want to see them. I have a follow up with the vet on Wednesday. She was fairly skeptical that the meds would help at all and wanted to put him down soon. Before the vet visit he was breathing hard and not eating much - now he is acting pretty normal aside from his breathing. He's been on the meds since last Wednesday or Thursday. I'm torn between putting him down and keeping him on meds. I'm not sure what to do w/ his brother if he dies. I just hate to put him to sleep after only having him for under a month.
 

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Wiebke

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I do have his xrays if you want to see them. I have a follow up with the vet on Wednesday. She was fairly skeptical that the meds would help at all and wanted to put him down soon. Before the vet visit he was breathing hard and not eating much - now he is acting pretty normal aside from his breathing. He's been on the meds since last Wednesday or Thursday. I'm torn between putting him down and keeping him on meds. I'm not sure what to do w/ his brother if he dies. I just hate to put him to sleep after only having him for under a month.
If he is still able to maintain his weight without feeding support from you and exhibit normal behaviour, then he still has quality of life.

All the best! there is no script for cases like this; you have to assess and re-assess as you go along. I am very sorry that he and his brother haven't found you sooner.
 

4boipigs

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Eek. I have not had any dealings with CHF however what I will say this; it will only get worse. Meds are to slow down the progression not to cure it. It's always best to pts a day early than a day too late. Don't let him suffer for you to make the decision.

Ultimately it's up to you. If you were asking me what I'd do if it was my pig, I'd pets sooner rather than later. He'll already be struggling to breath, essentially drowning. In my opinion, he's suffering. :(
This is what I am uncertain with...I'm worried I'd do it too soon. Because on his meds he is acting pretty normal, but I can hear him breathing sometimes. Also I have to pull him from the cage to give him 4 meds, twice a day (theophylline is twice a day) and he hates it because he isn't used to being picked up. So he is feeling better, at the risk of stressing him out twice a day for the next unknown amount of time.

In addition I have no clue what to do with his brother once he is alone. I have 2 boys in a 2x5grid c and c cage but I've read about the mistakes of adding a new boy to a bonded couple. Little Bear is extremely timid, has a cataract, and he is small at just 1.5 lbs. My other guys are big and always bickering with each other (just in a normal boy fashion, not fighting) and I'd be worried they would pick on Little Bear.

Currently Bruin and Little Bear are in an old 2x4 pet store cage. I didn't intend to keep them when I took them in. I wanted to give them to the local small animal rescue but they are full. There is a rescue about 5 hours away I was going to meet halfway sometime (they have to arrange stuff on their end). I can eventually drive Little Bear down there if needed. In the mean time I could put Little Bear next to the c and c cage- wouldn't be a huge deal if there was more space in the room the c and c cage is in. But I just can't leave Little Bear alone in the cage if Bruin dies.

So I am worried a lot on Little Bear's wellbeing after Bruin dies. I know with CHF they are doomed. On Wednesday I will talk about his with the vet, and if needed I will put Bruin down. She already suggested it and I got the pricing and made plans for ashes and everything, but I'm not 100% sure it's the thing to do yet. I'll ask her what his lung capacity is and if checking his o2 saturation is possible. If I knew that I could make a solid decision. I worked in human pulmonary stuff for a while, so if I could translate it to human terms maybe I could say yes easier.
 

Engel

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This is what I am uncertain with...I'm worried I'd do it too soon. Because on his meds he is acting pretty normal, but I can hear him breathing sometimes. Also I have to pull him from the cage to give him 4 meds, twice a day (theophylline is twice a day) and he hates it because he isn't used to being picked up. So he is feeling better, at the risk of stressing him out twice a day for the next unknown amount of time.

In addition I have no clue what to do with his brother once he is alone. I have 2 boys in a 2x5grid c and c cage but I've read about the mistakes of adding a new boy to a bonded couple. Little Bear is extremely timid, has a cataract, and he is small at just 1.5 lbs. My other guys are big and always bickering with each other (just in a normal boy fashion, not fighting) and I'd be worried they would pick on Little Bear.

Currently Bruin and Little Bear are in an old 2x4 pet store cage. I didn't intend to keep them when I took them in. I wanted to give them to the local small animal rescue but they are full. There is a rescue about 5 hours away I was going to meet halfway sometime (they have to arrange stuff on their end). I can eventually drive Little Bear down there if needed. In the mean time I could put Little Bear next to the c and c cage- wouldn't be a huge deal if there was more space in the room the c and c cage is in. But I just can't leave Little Bear alone in the cage if Bruin dies.

So I am worried a lot on Little Bear's wellbeing after Bruin dies. I know with CHF they are doomed. On Wednesday I will talk about his with the vet, and if needed I will put Bruin down. She already suggested it and I got the pricing and made plans for ashes and everything, but I'm not 100% sure it's the thing to do yet. I'll ask her what his lung capacity is and if checking his o2 saturation is possible. If I knew that I could make a solid decision. I worked in human pulmonary stuff for a while, so if I could translate it to human terms maybe I could say yes easier.
I understand that it's a hard decision and tbh it's never the right time. Yes speak to your vet and ask them to be blunt. It annoys me when you get a vet that jumps around the subject or uses medical jargon and when you ask them to explain they repeat what they said. Ask them all the questions you need to. Write them down if necessary. It's your right to know what the situation is, good bad and ugly. Horrible I know but you'll know where you stand and the choices you have.

I'm new to pigs but I know enough to say don't add little bear to the boar pair. Could end in disaster and may end up with 3 single boars. Keeping little bear in a 2x4 next to them should be ok if they're happy living like that. He will need time to grieve. We do have a section on piggy bereavement

Death, Dying, Terminal Illness, Grieving and Bereaved Companions: Information and Support for Owners and Their Children
 

Free Ranger

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The only thing I can offer, apart from my profound sympathies, is that it is useful to deal mentally with the practical aspects of any 'final' visit to the vet. I broke my heart over an ailing pig but found that my assessment of her quality of life was significantly impacted by my worry about getting her in should I need to. It may be different where you are but despite covid my vet assured me that anytime, day or night, someone would be there if we needed to go in and that took a great weight off. From then on I never had to look at my pig and weigh up if she was suffering or was she declining. We just went day to day, and I could see she had quality of life right up until her last day when it became very obvious that it was time - she took herself away from her cage-mate and sat a little hunched in the back of a hidey. He knew there was something wrong and when she went he grieved, but he didn't look for her. It was the best I could do for both of them in a sad situation.

If your circumstances are different - vets only open 9-5 or a 2 hour drive away - or even personal circumstances like work or your own health, it will affect your decision but that's not a bad thing... it just helps to sort the various bits out is all. The difference between humans and pigs with CHF is that somebody has told the human what's coming. The piggie is probably not thinking about that at all!
 

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Just want to send my support, you have done a wonderful job taking these poor boys in and giving them a loving home x
 

4boipigs

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Right now I've accepted that I could have Bruin put down tomorrow. The meds have significantly improved his behavior, but his breathing hasn't improved and he clicks when he breaths from time to time. The last couple of days he's taken to chasing Little Bear around constantly and trying to get at his butt for some reason. Before this they never really bickered or bothered each other. When he does this, his breathing gets heavier and his sides are heaving. My main plan is to talk it all over with the vet, and hold off on any follow up xrays like she wanted. His visit notes said he got very short of breath during the xrays. I don't need him going thru anymore stress.
 

Mikatelyn

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End of life decisions are never easy.
It sounds like you are being thoughtful, compassionate, and evidence-based in your decision making.
Hopefully your vet can give you an updated assessment of Bruin's condition, and give you some better ideas about prognosis now that Bruin has had some time on treatment.
Good luck. Hoping for the best for Bruin.
 

Merab's Slave

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Sorry for your situation and the tough decision you have to make.
It sounds as if you have given great care and consideration to what is best for Bruin.
Whatever happens you will have filled his last days with love.
Holding you in my heart
 

4boipigs

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Today at our follow up vet visit, we did a new xray which shows the meds are helping remove the fluid in his lungs. The heart apparently is still not visible. The vet thinks for sure a heart issue. She wanted to do a test/consult that would tell us exactly what the heart issue is so she can prescribe the right meds. This would be around $700 which is getting out of my price range. I came to terms with euthanasia and figured at this appointment if we had to say goodbye I would do it...but she never mentioned it this time even tho I brought it up with the tech, and said keep him on the current meds for now. I'm thinking its better to euthanize him than to subject him to more tests and pump him full of meds . I took him home with some probiotics since he keeps eating Little Bear's poop and decided to enjoy our time and I'll schedule the euthanasia "eventually".
 

4boipigs

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Well I am back at feeling uncertain. I know he will not recover and this will get worse. He has been breathing heavy as always and clicking. We have stopped the orbax (took for 21 days) and metacam (took for 14 days). Doing theophylline and furosemide now. No improvement in breathing. I am ok with euthanasia but I don't know when the 'right time' is. His activity is normal but breathing is not. His sides heavy and his nostrils flare.
 

4boipigs

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At the vet now. We decided to put him down because he sounds worse than ever and vet said he was getting bad quick. Rather do it too soon than too late. I hope Little Bear does okay with greiving
 

Nooberdog

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So sorry for your loss! One of my pigs has heart issues as well and was on similar medications. I feel for you.
 
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