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Tips For Post-operative Care

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Wiebke

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Overview:
I Preparing for an operation
II Care for freshly operated guinea pigs

- Supportive home care and syringe feeding
- Pain relief, gut stimulants and when to see a vet as an emergency

III Recovery
IV Companionship



Ideally, your guinea pig should not have any problems and should sail through its ordeal, but you always want to be prepared for if that is not the case! In the following, you can find detailed tips of what you can do during the whole time.

Preparing for an operation
- Some vets, but by far not all, will allow you to bring a closely bonded companion together with the guinea pig that is to be operated on. Please ask your vet before the operation as to their practice and use your common sense in case of an emergency/high risk operation.

- Make sure that you have got everything you need for supportive post-op home care ready if you have time to plan ahead. In an emergency, please ask the vet for support care products like recovery food!
You can also find tips on what you can do with what you have got at home in our syringe feeding guide, especially if you cannot see a vet immediately.
Here is a list of products you may want to have handy at all times: Probiotics, Recovery Foods And Vitamin C: Overview With Product Links

- If you haven’t got a spare hospital cage, you can always use a laundry basket or large cardboard box in an emergency.
 

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II Care for freshly operated guinea pigs
- Bring your piggy inside, so you can check on it and the operation wound at least once during the first night after the operation. Many exotics clinics are now increasingly keeping animals in overnight if the recovery is not optimal until they have stabilised, but a pigy may still struggle with the appetite when they come home.

- Keep your guinea pig warm (but not hot!) and comfy on light coloured vetbed, fleece or towels that you can change daily for the first 2-3 days; it helps you spot any potential bleeding quickly. If the operation wound has reopened or been gnawed open (the latter is usually a sign of major pain), please see a vet ASAP as an emergency!

- If the guinea pig is not in a good way and not eating, have it next to your bed at night, so it is easier for you to check up on it and to syringe feed if that is necessary.


Supportive home care and syringe feeding
- VERY IMPORTANT: Please have everything ready to step in with syringe feeding if necessary (i.e. if your guinea pig has lost more than 50g/2 oz) and is not eating normally. The best of medical care cannot help if your guinea pig's guts and then body are closing down from lack of nourishment!

- Pain, the anaesthetics used in the operation or the antibiotic that you need to give post-op can all dampen or kill the appetite. Any antibiotic is an appetite dampener/killer, as it does not just targeting the bacteria that cause infection, but also the bacteria in the gut that are vital for digesting food.
You can try to bolster this by giving a pinch of probiotic (best 1-2 hours after the antibiotic, either with some veg, syringed or as part of your syringe feed mix) and/or give “poo soup. The latter is made by soaking fresh poos from a healthy guinea pig in a little bit of boiled, cooled water and then syringe it. It is rather gross, but contains all the right stuff to re-stock the guts!
Please speak to your vet if there is no improvement within 2-3 days; you may also want to ask your vet whether a gut stimulant would be helpful.

- You can find tips for how often/how much to feed in our comprehensive illustrated guide below, as well as what you can do with what you have at home if you are faced with an emergency operation that you haven't been able to prepare for.
Complete Syringe Feeding Guide

- If your guinea pig does not like the taste of recovery food, you can mix it or replace it with its usual mushed up pellets; feeding them freshly made with boiled, hand-warm water generally goes down best.
If your guinea pig is just nibbling on food but is not eating properly, then a bit of syringe feed can stimulate the appetite; finish off with syringe feed again, as much as needed (and as the scales tell you!).

Please don't hesitate to step in! Your prompt care is every bit as vital as the medical treatment! Guinea pig guts can start going into stasis (i.e. they stop working) after 24 hours without any food at all; don't wait for too long, or it can be an uphill battle to get the guts going again, on top of the healing process!

- Make sure that your guinea pig is not dehydrated; that is as important as feeding. Our syringe guide wil tell you how much at the minimum, but basically as much as your guinea pig will take - the more often the less is going in in each session.
Please be aware that just giving your guinea pig lukewarm water is not addressing any lack of appetite or the vital intake of fibre to keep the guts going!
Dry fresh poos signal minor dehydration, mucus covered poos severe dehydration; in the latter case, you need to see a vet quickly! The size of the poos will give you hints as to the food intake of the last day or two; if they are smaller and thinner, it means that not enough food has gone in during that time.

Usually, poos tend to look funny in the first couple of days after an operation and it may take some time until they are cycled through, but they should normalise as food gets processed and passed through the digestive system again.

- Weigh daily at the same time in the feeding cycle to keep an eye on the food intake. Before their breakfast or dinner time is a good way of ensuring that guts and bladder are both empty.
Please don’t just go by looks; seeing a guinea pig nibble on a piece of hay or chewing on crud can be very deceptive as to the actual food intake, especially as up to 80% of the daily food intake should be hay, which you cannot control! Only the scales will you tell you the truth.
Cheap kitchen scales from the supermarket will do to see whether the weight is stable from one day to the next, or from one week to the next in healthy guinea pigs.
Here is a little video on how you can weigh a guinea pig without having to chase it around: How To Pick Up Your Guinea Pig


Pain relief, gut stimulants and when to see a vet as an emergency
- Ask how soon your guinea pig can have painkillers again when you pick her up in case there is a deterioration/major discomfort or you need to see an out-of-hours vet as an emergency. Your guinea pig will have got an injection as part of the operation, so you won’t be able to give any painkiller straight away.

- If your vet access is limited and you haven't got a check-up appointment within a day or two, please ask for these suppotive medications when you bring your guinea pig home. You will still need to make sure that you know how soon after the operation it is safe to give them.

- If your guinea pig is continuing to be off its food for longer than a day or two, you may want to ask your vet for gut stimulants to help with recovery, especially if your vet access is limited. Some vets prescribe them automatically.

- See/contact a vet as an emergency if your guinea pig is suddenly deteriorating (lethargy, loss of appetite, puffed or hunched up, turning the head to the wall) and contact the vets promptly if your guinea pig is not picking up within the first 2-3 days.

- If your guinea pig is very apathetic when you syringe feed, please do not force any more food down. It is sadly very likely that its body is not able to process it and that it is already closing down.

- Please be aware that any steroid injection may have an adverse effect. Ask your vet as to the nature of any injection they are giving a severely ill guinea pig. If you ask politely what the various injections are for, they will usually not take it amiss and explain the why and what for.
 

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III Recovery
- Generally, it takes about 2-3 days after an operation for the body to settle down; ideally, there should be a steady improvement with every passing day throughout that period.

- The operation scar should have knitted within 10-14 days. See a vet promptly if a wound is not healing or a piggy keeps biting at it (this is usually a sign that something is not right with it and that it is hurting).

- If you notice any sudden loss of appetite or weight, signs of pain(fluffed up/hunched up) or lethargy/facing the wall, please see a vet as an emergency during this phase. You may be dealing with an infection, abscess or some other complication. Any sudden swelling or reddening in the operated area needs to be seen by a vet promptly, as needs any swelling in the lymph nodes.

- Boar neutering/de-sexing complications
It is important to know that abscesses with neutered boars can happen up to 6 months after the operation. Please check the groin area daily during the first couple of weeks for any signs of swelling, then twice weekly for the first month or two, later weekly.
A full list of the most common neutering post-op complications can be found here: Neutered / De-sexed Boars And Neutering Operations: Myths And Facts


IV Companionship during operation and recovery - yes or no and when to reunite?
-If at all possible, keep your piggies together as much as possible, including during the trip to the vets if your vet clinic is permitting it. There is a slow and gradual chance in attitudes underway as companionship is increasingly seen as an important part of the recovery process and there is also a realisation that well bonded piggies will support their companions through the recovery and not bully them or interfere with the operation scars (techniques in that respect are also improving).
Piggies of my own have been with their companions throughout the operation and recovery at home during spaying operations, large skin cyst removals and neutering operations as well as open abscess treatment, just to name some of the most commonly performed procedures. I've never had any problems but have certainly noticed a positive effect from the comfort of a caring mate.

In case of a medical separation:
- Once your guinea pig is eating well and is bright, it can re-join their companion(s) any time they comes back home; guinea pigs are often a lot less stressed out if they have a friend with them or next to them during recovery. Many companions make caring nurses and will accept a companion back without problems if the separation has only been a short one.

- In rare cases, the strange smell of an operated guinea pig or a longer separation can mean that a guinea pig is not accepted back, not even if they have been together since they have been born and have been kept in adjoining cages with interaction through the bars during the recovery. This can affect well bonded adult guinea pigs of any gender and combination.
Bonds In Trouble

- If you are unsure of how your guinea pigs will mesh again, rub them all with a soft rug to create a group body scent (don’t bathe, as they are not hormonally challenged and don't need any extra stress!)
In any way, it is advisable to stage introductions on neutral ground before transferring to a totally cleaned and neutralised cage after any separation that has lasted more than 2-3 days.
Bonding: Illustrated Dominance Behaviours And Dynamics
Introducing And Re-introducing Guinea Pigs
 
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