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Specialist Liver Disease In A Piggie Causing Vascular Problems?

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Junior Guinea Pig
Oct 17, 2013
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Hi, I just wondered if anyone perhaps had any experience of this? I have a lovely piggy who has been up and down for a while now. A bit of history...... He will have moments where he goes downhill and stops eating everything but vegetables. I syringe feed and after a few weeks he will start to pick up again? I was very concerned that he had a heart problem. His symptoms are lack of energy, lying down quite slumped, a clear watery fluid from his nose, necrotic, ragged skin on the edge of his ears. but an xray and heart scan show that everything is normal.

We have just had results back from a blood test that we had done as a last resort and they are indicating that there is a large mass of necrotic, inflamed cells internally somewhere. My vet is fairly certain that these cells are situated on his liver ( as the scan we had done to check his heart showed that his liver had abnormal patches on it) and they are causing my piggy vascular problems and that this is the reason as to why the skin on his ears is dying? That the liver disease is causing his blood vessels to tighten/shrinken? I would love to hear if anyone has ever dealt with anything similar as we are very concerned for him. He is now on antibiotics and some supplements to improve liver function so we are hopeful these will help?

Any similar stories would be lovely to hear about if possible? Thank you.xx
HI, thanks for replying. Yes my vet is trained in exotic animals and seems to know an awful lot more than any other vet I have visited. Just never heard of liver problems causing a vascular issue so don't really know what I am dealing with I guess
Regrettably, I have limited knowledge with cardiovascular issues - I've never had a guinea pig with heart issues, and have not researched an awful lot about heart issues!

Although, it is great that you have a good veterinarian treating your guinea pig, and I'm sure that someone, with more experience/ knowledge than I, will be able to advise you soon!
I have been convinced of that for a while now but when the x-rays and heart scan come back clear it's hard to know what to think. My vet does seem very capable. Problem is that I lost 2 pigs late last year from gut problems and this pigs problems appeared soon after so he is convinced that they are linked in some way so a heart problem doesn't fit into that thinking? From me first mentioning it, he has never really entertained the idea as likely and he is experienced in heart pigs? He thinks it's to much of a coincidence to have 3 pigs fall seriously ill so close together. He thinks they have been poisoned which would explain my first two's gut problems and this pig's liver problems. It does make sense but I just don't know what to think anymore in all honesty
Hi cp

I'm sorry to hear you have a poorly piggie - I can't believe that it was actually last summer when I PM'd you with my phone number (thought it was just before Xmas!) ...but please feel free to ring if you want clarification on what I'm about to post!

I'm afraid I do not have personal experience of pigs with liver problems . However I can share with you the following information which I hope will serve to "aid" rather than "confuse" you!

In humans you can get liver diseases affecting the heart, heart disease affecting the liver and joint heart/liver disease with a common etiology.
Without getting too technical - the type of disease where one organ affects the other is normally some type of cirrhosis (a chronic disease marked by degeneration of cells, inflammation, and fibrous thickening of tissue also causing damage/alteration to circulatory vessels).Your blood tests show necrosis and inflammation.

However often a disease where both organs are jointly involved is infection......a bug that has got into the bloodstream and spread to liver and heart. Blood tests would again show a high white cell count - with possibly inflammatory cells so may show a similar profile to what has been reported for your piggie. One of the most important thing about a blood test is to to do a differnetial white cell count - as depending upon the type of white cell, this can aid the vet in determining whether for instance there is bacterial, viral, parasitic or fungal infection going on or cancer, or an auto-immune inflammation. I'm assuming a differential white cell count was done on the blood sample (it normally is as a matter of course) - but if it hasn;t then the lab should have kept the sample and the vet can request this be done.

I have not had a pig with a diagnosed liver disease - but I have had heart pigs.

All the symptoms you list above suggest the heart/circulation is challenged - and it is interesting that the Xray did not show what you would expect to find in heart piggies - ie fluid around the heart or an enlarged heart. However I have had a heart pig that displayed all the classic symptoms yet was negative on ultrasound and Xray for heart problems. It wasn't until we had a specialist echocardiogram done that the diagnosis of bacterial endocarditis was arrived at.(scarring/damage of the heart valve caused by a past infection - normally with a streptococcus found commonly in the respiratory tract)

Given the results of the blood test and the scan - I think your vet is taking the best option by treating with anitbioitics in the hope it can knock out any potential "systemic" infection that may be affecting the liver with associated implications for the heart. You may need to try a couple of different anitbiotics as bugs of this nature may be resistant to the normal baytril and septrin. The liver is one of the main organs of defence against bugs that get into the bloodstream as it acts as a filter to remove them. Unfortunately some bugs actually take advantage of this and have developed a whole range of mechanisms to resist the "killing" actions of the protective liver cells and in fact can set up a focus of infection in the liver. Salmonella is just one I can think of. Also - in terms of choices of abx - given the blood tests do not show kidney function impairment - it may very well be that your vet has nothing to lose by trying gentamycin injections (3 of my pigs have contracted a Pseudomonas infection resistant to all abx except gentamycin)

I'm not saying the cause is definitely an infection - but it's a good call by the vet to treat for this as it's not really possible to diagnose and treat other potential chronic non-infectious conditions causing these symptoms in piggies yet......unless you are prepared to either put the piggie through exploratory abdominal surgery (not a good idea in this case) or spend a lot of money on a couple of very "avant garde" options listed below that would need to be conducted by extremely experienced vets

The first "avant garde" option is liver biopsy via endoscopy: I am aware of a case recently where blood tests came back with liver abnormailities and the vet suspected maybe an abcess on the liver...(no heart involvement though). In that case - the vet (who was very experienced with the technique in parrots) offered to do a "keyhole surgery endoscopy" on the piggie concerned to look at the liver, take a biopsy, and/or if they felt it possible, to possibly remove part of any infected lobe depending upon what they saw. (The liver is good at repairing itself) All this done through an incision of only 2-3mm and costing no more than the price of a normal operation with GA.

The second more expensive option (which may not yield any more definitive information) is to have a CT scan done to try to identify what type of structural abnormalities are present in liver and heart and contributing to organ failure - but you would need a good imaging specialist to interpret any results. This again would ivovle a GA. (I do know Holcroft vets in Bristol are good with guinea pig CT scans)

I believe we spoke on PM last year about suitable vets and you have been using 2. I can assure the forum that both are extremely cavy savvy! I have not put details in of the vet offering endoscopy - but if you and your vet wish to at least contact the vet concerned to explore the option I would be happy to provide details via PM

EDIT: Just seen the new posts whilst I have been writing this one - I would definitely pursue the "infection" route.
If you want to discuss the suggestion of poisoning as an alternative then please give me a ring so we can chat about possibles/likelihood........Because unless you have allowed your piggies access to bulbs (daffodils etc or leeks or chives)...or sphagnum moss/celandine/buttercup on the lawns ...or certain houseplants....or mouldy feed.....it's not really that likely

HTH - sending you hugs

Hi Pebble, thanks for your reply. Yes it has been a while since we spoke! I will contact you tomorrow if that is ok as I am off out soon, but would love to band some ideas about as my head is about to burst from it all. I can't believe how much piggy illness I have had in the last few months tbh. The vet thinks I might have had some Ragwort come in with the hay in terms of poisoning? To lose 2 piggies like I did within a few weeks of each other, there must have been a cause, but I'm just not convinced this is the reason. I suppose I'm just scared that it is his heart, and I'm going to lose him to if he's not treated correctly. You probably remember how I struggled to trust vets after my experiences, but I really am trying to keep faith in this one!
His symptoms are lack of energy, lying down quite slumped, a clear watery fluid from his nose, necrotic, ragged skin on the edge of his ears. but an xray and heart scan show that everything is normal.

Could you tell us more about this 'clear watery fluid from his nose' - I wonder whether this could be cultured?!
Yes, of course. It looks like water and just sits inside his nose? It doesn't run or drip out of his nose. It just sits there? Sometimes it is there and his nose looks quite full of it, other times there is nothing.
The vet says that they have tear ducts inside their noses and that this is what he thinks the fluid is? That his tear ducts are over active?
ADDENDUM - the above shouldn;t stop your vet prescribing heart meds (fortekor/piimobendan) to help "ease the strain" for your piggie - even if there is currently no requirement for a diuretic (fruseamide)
Oh gosh, I'm really sorry. The only thing that immediately came to mind before I read further down the posts to see that your vet had already said it was Ragwort poisoning and thats because I have known horses with ragwort poisoning which had similar symptoms. Unfortunately it is sometimes present in hay. However we are talking about piggies not ponies, and obviously you will want to explore all options.
I hope you get to the bottom of this, how horrible for you.
Other than the 'clear watery fluid from the nose', and 'necrotic, ragged skin on the ears', your guinea pig's symptoms are quite general. . .

Are there any other symptoms?! Dermatological?! Respiratory?! Gastrointestinal?!

Did your other guinea pigs show the same symptoms?!

Could you provide information on age, and weight, and diet?!
Yes they are quite general apart from the necrotic ragged ears. This seems to point specifically to heart probs which is why I was convinced it was a heart problem for a while. My other 2 pigs didn't have these symptoms no. They both developed bloat and sadly we lost them. This piggy is on prokinetics but doesn't seem to have any gastro problems. He has no dermatological or respiratory problems. He has just turned 5 and his normal weight is between 1200-1250g. Diet is pretty standard. Hay, redigrass, pets at home nuggets and vegetables. ( all standard veg that are fine for piggies)
You have my deepest sympathy, and sincere condolences for your loss - Were your other guinea pigs young, old, and/or immunocompromised?!

Does your guinea pig's urine, and droppings appear normal?!

I do apologise for all the questions, but the better informed we are, the better we can advise!
In a situation like this - which is unusual, complicated and with no past precedents - there may be lots of hypotheses and questions put forward by well-meaning people.

Whilst it is great that everyone wants to help - I would like to draw your attention to the fact that we have "approved H & I advisers" on this forum who have aproopriate markings/sigs to delineate their qualifications/knowledge/expertise for a reason.

In a situation like this - which is unusual, complicated and with no past precedents - there may be lots of hypotheses and questions put forward by well-meaning people.

Whilst it is great that everyone wants to help - I would like to draw your attention to the fact that we have "approved H & I advisers" on this forum who have aproopriate markings/sigs to delineate their qualifications/knowledge/expertise for a reason.


Qualifications arnt everything if you haven't neccicarily dealt with the problem ever before. I agree some people on here may been known for there knowledge but others may not be, just because they arnt 'known' for there knowledge,qualification or not, doesn't mean they don't know anything about certain H&I. If that makes sense?
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