• Saturday 8th August 8pm-10:30pm is the Forum Summer PRIDE virtual event! Everyone is welcome so please come along and join in the party!! More details HERE
  • Discussions taking place within this forum are intended for the purpose of assisting you in discussing options with your vet. Any other use of advice given here is done so at your risk, is solely your responsibility and not that of this forum or its owner. Before posting it is your responsibility you abide by this Statement
Status
Not open for further replies.

FluffyB

New Born Pup
Joined
Mar 13, 2016
Messages
4
Reaction score
5
Points
55
Hello all,
I have been referring to your forum for information and advice while trying to care for my guinea pigs; one of which died Friday morning. I want to share the medical info so that hopefully it can help someone else, who may be searching these boards for help and answers.

Fuff was 5 1/2 years old, short hair, nothin' fancy guinea pig. He had a cowlick on his forehead, and a lack of a patience for the carrot to get into his tummy. Quite the quirky little fellow. Yes, a cavy is a rodent, yes I get that, but they do respond when you come home, wheak like crazy when you approach with the hay bag, and cuddle under your chin for attention or when they don't feel well. I have been surprisingly affected by his death, maybe because I tried to "save" him and failed, or maybe because that little fluff was always a happy part of my day. Yeah, it is both.

Anyway, last summer he dropped weight very quickly. A large piggie, he weighed in at around 1200g. Shiny fur, great appetite. Very few health problems. His weigh shot down to just over a 1000g outta nowhere, and as I waited for the next available at the exotic vet in town, hovered around 990g. Vet saw him, said it was his teeth in need of trimming that was preventing him from eating properly. A hefty sum and surgery later, teeth filed down, pain meds on board, Fuff seemed to be back on track. He went back up to about 975-990 g but never quite got back to the bigger size. Ate well, hopped around, played, had many conversations with our other guinea pig. We thought all was well.

March arrives. dropped weight so fast I didn't know what to do. He was eating like a MANIAC. Pooping fine. Drinking fine and peeing fine. Running around. Talking. Seemed to be himself, but on speed. Skinny. Vet gives him full physical and found a lump in his throat, on/by his thyroid. They briefly anesthetized him (gas) and took blood and biopsy of the mass. Noncancerous, they said. Thyroid nodule/tumor. Remove it and it would be curative. He was suffering from hyperthyroid.

They couldn't get him in until the following week. I hand fed him. He was mostly maintaining his weight, which had now dropped to 760g. They explained that he was burning off everything he ate and then some, and we couldn't feed him around the clock because he could get bloat, or aspirate; critical care and electrolytes 3 times a day (15cc per feeding). They would remove the lump the following wednesday and I would board him for a few days so they could monitor and give high level care. By the time I dropped him off the following Tuesday (they keep them the night before surgery to ensure they know what food and meds happened when), everything seemed to be OK. I was anxious to get rid of that lump. The next day, the day of the surgery, the doctor called. She said he had dropped to 690g since I had dropped him off, despite their handfeedings of high protein/calorie food. He was too low weight now for surgery. I was devastated. I had been so confident in the diagnosis and prognosis that the removal of the lump would be curative, this was hard to hear. What to do? They said I would need to bring him home and try to get his weight up to 900g. I realize now that this was probably not really possible, though if they thought that he was going to die I wish they had just said so in retrospect.

I did some research and found multiple journal articles that offered medical treatment of hyperthyroid as an option. Apparently the surgery was actually very risky sometimes, if there were neck blood vessels near the mass. In addition, there was a "thyroid storm" reaction that was often fatal. Due to low weight, sometimes they didn't make it out of anesthesia -- the surgery can run long if the mass is embedded or near critical areas. I read that carbimazole and other thyroid meds could be used and in some case studies had been successful. I sent the articles to the doctor and asked to have this considered. I was told that they had not had much success with this approach, but that if it could potentially improve quality of life it was worth a try. I ordered the meds from a compounding pharmacy. It took 2 days for them to arrive. He developed diarrhea, and upon testing it was requiring Flagyl. The vet noted that this may be an indication of issues with his immune system. Again, I should have seen the signs but instead I decided that if the guinea pigs in the study survived, and they were same or less weight, and their deaths were noted to be of unknown causes 18-24 months post start of thyroid meds treatment, that all would be OK. He was 5 1/2 years old, and 18-24 months would get him to the far end of the guinea pig lifespan. I set my goal, which is why I think it hit me so hard. I thought he had a chance.

The thyroid meds did work. I gave Fuff the dose, 0.14ml once a day, and I noticed that 1) his temperature normalized-- before, when he ate, he would get very hot. Feet pads hot, ears hot, just hot all over. This was the hyperthyroid symptom that dissipated first; 2) he was not frantic to eat, though this was a bit of a mixed bag. before, he would eat anything put in front of him. Now, he was a little picky, and the point was to get him to gain weight. he was not a fan of being hand fed.; 3) he stopped losing weight. This was the biggest deal because at the vets he kept losing weight FAST. It is amazing just how fast a guinea pig can lose weight. He would gain a little each day but then hover at the same level. He left the hospital at 722g, and he maintained 754 and died at 754g 7 days after discharge.

When he came home, he seemed OK but he began to sleep alot. He would find a comfortable place to lay and just lie down and sleep. I thought that he had low energy from all of the franticness and being at the vet (which is stressful). I also knew that the new thyroid meds would counteract activity, and make him a little more tired. Slowly, he slept more and more. his mouth became somewhat more pale, too. He didn't want to swallow the critical care slurry. The last day, veggies and hay meant nothing. He laid down and died in his favorite napping place. In hindsight, and with more reading of course, the hyperthyroid was hard on his body and likely masked cardiac issues, hence the pale mouth, tiredness and sleep once the thyroid hormones were put into check by the meds.

So, since hyperthyroid in guinea pigs is considered rare, and is often a missed diagnosis per the literature, I'd say keep an eye on the following and head to the vet for treatment ASAP;

1) Eating and losing weight. That tells you there is an endocrine /metabolism issue.
2) Heat. Your guinea pig feels hot- check the feet and the ears in particular and if this is combined with eating and losing weight, suggest hyperthyroid to your vet

My vet gave me three options for treating hyperthyoid:

1) remove the mass. May come back. May not make it through surgery. Can be curative if successfully removed.
2) radioactive iodine treatment. Targeted, not invasive but I was told this is very very painful for the GP, and the stress and pain could kill him.
3) medical route (at my request) - carbimazole or methimazole. There is a really good article on this via academia.edu Hyperthyroidism and Hyperparathyroidism in Guinea Pigs Of course the guinea pigs lived in their study but again the underlying health issues masked by hyperthyroid were likely to blame in my Fuff's case.

Hope this helps someone out there who is looking for answers as I was. Thank you to all of you who contribute, your stories and advice are a wonderful resource.
 

Teddybear22

Rescue Buddy
Forum Donator 2020/21
Joined
Dec 27, 2014
Messages
2,387
Reaction score
2,661
Points
1,025
Location
Spain
I'm really sorry for your loss. You indeed tried everything that was possible...
And thank you so much for sharing the information, it's really kind of you x
 

Silvie Tucker

New Born Pup
Joined
Oct 6, 2015
Messages
4
Reaction score
2
Points
75
Wow... First off, I am so sorry for your loss - I know how these little fuzzies grow on you... Second, I am going through the exact same thing with my Lucy right now. She has been on methimazole for a few months with mixed results (weight is up and down) and is currently awaiting her radioiodine treatment. But - classic - a few days before the procedure, she took a turn for the worse. She started sleeping a lot more, not eating or drinking as much as before, and developed fluid on her lungs. I am not sure if she's experiencing thyroid storm (she was taken off her meds before the procedure), or complications from hyperthyroidism. No heart or kidney issues seemed apparent based on her exam and blood work just a few weeks ago - but who knows how fast these things happen...I am literally at a loss as to what to do - if I put her through the treatment in this state, she might not make it, but if I don't, she will certainly not make it...
 

FluffyB

New Born Pup
Joined
Mar 13, 2016
Messages
4
Reaction score
5
Points
55
So very sorry to hear that- the thing with guinea pigs is when they get sick, it can go downhill sooooo fast. Every sniffle, I was convinced it was pneumonia. I took him in atleast 5 times in past 5 years and each time it was nasal congestion. I think I aged double time during his life! If you stopped the meds, I heard that could cause a crash. Once they take it, they have to keep taking it. I hope things turn around for Lucy. I think my Fuff was dying and I didn't really see it at the time. I am glad I took extra time to make him comfortable, and my best advice is do what you can and hope for the best. Maybe see if you restart the meds and see if it helps? Hang in there. I know it's tough and the fact we end up pretty much funding a new wing of the pet hospital to boot doesn't help either (my attempt at 'laughter is the best medicine' though with a few grains of truth...)
 

Silvie Tucker

New Born Pup
Joined
Oct 6, 2015
Messages
4
Reaction score
2
Points
75
Thank you for your kind words! And yes, I know exactly what you're saying - she should have her own cage made out of gold at the pet hospital and drink champagne :) You said an interesting thing in your original post that I overlooked at first - that giving them the drug might actually "unmask" underlying heart or kidney problems (hence the fluid on the lungs, I suppose). But her heart and kidneys looked in great shape just a few weeks ago, based on her blood work and physical. Her dose was increased about a month ago, so maybe that is what's happening? I honestly have no clue... Bottom line is, do I give it one more shot and go ahead with the treatment, even when she's unwell? Unfortunately, I will be out of the country for a month after June 14, so I can't really wait it out.
 

FluffyB

New Born Pup
Joined
Mar 13, 2016
Messages
4
Reaction score
5
Points
55
My vet advised against the iodine due to the pain of it, she said the stress could kill him. Their advice was to work with him to gain weight, so that anesthesia would be safer, then remove the thyroid mass (which was palpable and biopsied to be benign tumor, not something that would spread). I requested the meds to help slow metabolism down so that I could get the weight on him. He was burning so hot that there was no way to gain weight otherwise even with vigilant hand feeding. If she is not drinking try some droppers of pedialite or a children's electrolyte drink, has needed salts and more calories than water. The meds worked to slow things down, and he did ok for a few days then just crashed. I was going to an exotic vet who specialised in guinea pigs. How many grams does she weigh? That's the key they told me.
 

helen105281

Forum Donator 2019/20
Joined
Jan 27, 2010
Messages
18,878
Reaction score
10,539
Points
2,155
Location
Herts
It could be completely unrelated, I would ask the vet to check her heart but also check for a URI or Pneumonia as all 3 can cause fluid. If she has fluid on her lungs she will need a diuretic to get rid of it. Not sure how this would work with the thyroid meds though so see what the vet suggests.
 

Silvie Tucker

New Born Pup
Joined
Oct 6, 2015
Messages
4
Reaction score
2
Points
75
FluffyB - that's interesting, my vet said the exact opposite... Meaning, that the surgery is very risky and could possibly not remove all of the affected tissue, while possibly affecting healthy tissue or parathyroid glands. I was told the radioiodine is painless in itself, but that the patient might initially get worse because all of the hormones released by the dying abnormal issue, but that should pass quickly. I guess we can take a pick :) Good idea about the pedialyte! Will get some today. Lucy seems perky this morning, munching on hay. Don't want to jinx it! She currently weighs around 600g, which breaks my heart...

Helen - that's exactly what the vet said (not her usual vet, but another exotic specialist at the pet hospital), and put her on antibiotics. He said it's an unrelated pneumonia. He said she has no heart issues. I will ask about the diuretic - I heard Lasix is good for this.
 

helen105281

Forum Donator 2019/20
Joined
Jan 27, 2010
Messages
18,878
Reaction score
10,539
Points
2,155
Location
Herts
Yes lasix is good and so is Frusemide. I think they are the sane thing though and lasix is the brand name.
 

Silvie Tucker

New Born Pup
Joined
Oct 6, 2015
Messages
4
Reaction score
2
Points
75
Took Lucy back to the vet yesterday, and they said her heart sounds great, and said a resolute no to heart meds. The ER vet heard no They also reassured me she is nowhere near passing, just urged me to force feed her as much as I can get into her. But - don't want to jinx it - ever since we got back home, she started eating like a horse again, running up and down the ramp - just like her old spunky self. We are going forward with the radioiodine therapy on Tuesday - please keep your fingers crossed for my baby :)
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top