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Veterinary Care - When Is Enough Enough?

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Blobfish

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Hi everyone,

I'm really hoping I can get some good advice from the guinea pig-owner community! I have two lovely boars (Blob and Bramble), both 3.5 year old brothers. Unfortunately for the last couple of years, they have not been always in the best of health. Both suffer from recurring bloat, while Blob has also in the past suffered from anorexia as a result of middle ear infection (this happened while I was on holiday so the carer didn't notice the weight loss). Between the two of them, one or the other is usually ill every month. I feel like I practically live in the vets! Their problems are complex, and beyond the knowledge of our usual local vets. For that reason they have on a number of occasions been referred to guinea pig specialist vets (CJ Hall in southwest London). They have had many tests done to find out their cause of bloat (faecal samples, blood tests, xrays, dental checks etc.), and the specialist vets think it is pain related. Brambles recent xray showed arthritis, and the theory is that pain leads to decreased eating, leading to stasis and bloat. For that reason, both are on painkillers long-term. I would say in less than two years I have probably spent around £2,500 - £3,000 on vets fees for these two guineas. I have been away on holiday again, and come back to find Blob has lost around 300g. I suspect his middle ear infection that caused him to have anorexia about 7 months ago has come back. To have this properly diagnosed and treated last time cost over £350. I am beginning to find all of this super stressful, as I have spent every penny I have on trying to keep these piggies healthy. I'm only in my 20's, and I don't have that much spare cash. Everything I manage to save keeps going on piggy vets bills. I am now seriously (and very sadly) having to consider if this is sustainable, as I'm spending several hundred pounds at the vets every two or three months.

My question is - what would you do if you were in my situation? I absolutely love both my piggies, but even my quality of life is being affected by their constant poor health, not just because of the huge financial implications , but because of the stress of seeing them so poorly and the constant time and commitment it takes to nurse them back to health (including syringe feeding them round the clock when they are sick). It's also stressful always anticipating that they will soon get sick again, and this makes them hard to leave with carers when I go away - even if only for a weekend! An important point to mention is that most of the time, they are fine and healthy! I would say that 25 days out of each month, they are healthy happy lovely pigs, running round and squeaking about. It's just for a small handful of days each month they will come down with bloat or something, requiring care and treatment. I have in the past had to borrow money from my parents to pay for the treatment, but it's hard now as they think I should just let them go, and stop spending such obscene amounts of money at the vets. But considering they are healthy and happy for a large portion of the time, I would feel so awful making that decision. But maybe I'm being silly?
I'm really sad that I'm even having to write this post, but it's really becoming difficult for me to cope. Any advice would be welcome x
 
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Freela

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I have a piggie who has had chronic health issues too, so I understand the stress (financial and emotional) that comes with having a pet who may take a turn for the worse without provocation. So I feel you there, definitely. When you say 'let them go,' I'm unclear on what exactly you mean. Are you talking about rehoming? Putting them to sleep? Personally, I would have a very hard time euthanizing an animal that has good quality of life most of the time, as you say yours do. For me personally, it's a last resort when there are no good medical options left to spare suffering before an inevitable death. That's me bluntly stating my bias that I wouldn't have that option on the table given these circumstances. That said, if you're talking about rehoming and you really are at the end of your rope, there may be no-kill shelters who will take them in and potentially rehome them to someone willing to take on their health issues or, if they aren't found to be adoptable, to keep them in the shelter for their natural lives. Maybe look for that kind of options so that you know what's available and can make plans that are realistic based on that.
 

Adelle

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I'm sorry you are having such a hard time. I have 2 sows myself, both with chronic health issues (one is terminal)- so i fully understand how hard it is. Some days are harder than others arent they?

In my case, i look at my girls quality of life. my terminal girl (heart failure/kidney disease) is happy, full of life, and eats for britain. She had a bad day yesterday, but with some extra care and meds, she is back to her usual happy self today and breathing easy. She was given a week or so to live.. Nearly a year ago. I havent been away for a much needed holiday since last year as i cant bear to leave her. She has bloating issues too, but only mild. My other sow is still in the process of recovering and is possibly facing an op- which will be at least £200 ontop of £600 in the past 2/3 weeks for her treatment. But she is still happy, strong, and shows no signs of giving up yet.

It is extremely hard, but we do it because we love them. Sometimes we feel like we cant carry on with the cost and stress, but taking each day at a time does help.

With regards to the bloat, id suggest taking them off all veg for a while then giving them one thing at a time to see what triggers it. I had this problem with a pig of mine- turned out romain lettuce was the cause. Grass counts as veg.

Some of us just find it too much, but no one can tell you what to do in that instance. Ultimately that would be your decision. However, with manageable conditions, i would not look at put to sleep as an option. A rescue would be a better option, where they can asses the issues of the pigs and go from there.

I hope your little one is seen by the vet soon and is on the mend, which I'm sure will make you feel much beter too!
 

tabelmabel

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Hi. Not silly at all. i have tried to compose a sensitive reply about 3 times to you and i just can't come up with the right words to say.

you asked what i would do in your situation: i would call a halt.

But i am not, and can never be in your situation. I think that's why my replies kept going wrong. I'm twice your age for starters!

That makes a big difference i think because i have a family, one of whom is disabled so pets occupy a smaller part of my time than they do yours.

I am in a similar position to you currently with my dog. He is insured but ( for reasons due to my own stupidity) he is not covered for anything related to his hips.

He has hip dysplasia which causes arthritic changes over time. So, i spent a lot of money on a specialist vet opinion and some more on helping him live pain free.

Ideally, two new hips would make him good as new. But it's about £10k per hip.

We haven't got that kind of money. So when he is really suffering, he will be pts. Of course, if i did have that money, he would be having that op asap.

But we haven't.

would i be able to raise £20k if one of my kids needed an op costing that? Probably, somehow. Yes.

And that's why i have found this so tough to reply to. I'm putting a price on life. And I'm valuing my kids higher than my dog. My dog more than my pigs


And that is not at all the same valuation i would have made in my 20s. When i was 12, my cat died and i cried more over the death of that cat than i did my own mum.

Not that i didn't love my mum, it's just that at 12, that cat was my whole world. My mum passed when i was 20. I was older and better able to cope.

so, it's not a 'price' on the life itself - it's on what that life is worth to me.

it's a horrible calculation to have to make.

Take care xx
 

Galaxy&nibbles

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I'm so sorry for what you're goong through, I don't have any advice I'm afraid just wanted to say I feel for you.

Me personally, if I had the money, I would keep going with whatever is needed, it wouldn't even be a consideration, I would just keep going. But I don't think this is the case for most of us. (Hence why I say IF)

I'd you are finding it difficult, emotionally and financially, as hard as it would be the kindest option would be a no kill rescue as Adelle said. I couldn't myself let an animal suffer or have it put to sleep if there were other options were they could carry on living, this is just my opinion.

Good luck whatever you decide. Xx
 

lauraboara

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Oh hugs for you - many of us have felt that horrible anxiety and 'are they ever going to get better' feeling and it is horrible. I am not going to go into the theoretical issue - it is very personal and difficult but I just had a couple of practical thoughts.

One is vet - one of your problems is that you are not totally sure that what is causing these recurring episodes - and it is odd that it is both of them although they are brothers so genetically related. Is that right or do you feel you have a definite diagnosis? I know you have seen a specialist but I know Helen has mentioned
Beaumont Sainsbury Animal Hospital - Royal Veterinary College, RVC
Could you think about a fresh pair of eyes to see your boys or is that not possible?
The other thought is talking to the vet about reduced vets bills and or a payment plan - if you are faced with this recurring, ongoing issues the vet are going to get 'trade' from you going forward and may be open to a % reduction or other deal. They must know the challenge you are facing! Worth asking about?
Also think about different holiday care since you seem to have bad experiences where they have lost a lot of weight when you go away. Maybe advertise at the vets for someone to care for them? A vet nurse might be interested and will be used to syringe feeding. It may cost for that but would be less than big bills after larger weigh loss/gut problems.

Otherwise it may be time to talk to a rescue about options as mentioned above. Sending vibes for your boys.
 

Blobfish

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Thank you everyone for your advice and support. Huf. It really is so difficult. And draining. I am really glad for your thoughts, which ever side of the coin they fall on. Just to be clear, I really don't wan't to have them put to sleep (and I think it's very unlikely I would as long as their quality of life was good), BUT I just wanted to check that I wasn't completely mad making the decision not to. For both boars- their quality of life is fairly good- I would say that for every five week period, they are healthy for roughly four of those weeks and sick for one (obviously they aren't usually both sick at the same time, so in a five week period I'm usually dealing with illness twice!). The specialist exotic vet told me to cut all grass and veggies completely out of their diet, so they have just been on pellets and hay for a while now (although sad they can't have anything green anymore as they used to love it so much!). And yes, it is a huge strain on me, financially and emotionally. I don't have hundreds of pounds to spend every couple of months, but I try my best to find it. Usually through cutting back on non-essentials for myself, cancelling seeing friends or going to events, and borrowing money. I would definitely say I keep putting my piggies way before myself. The tough thing is that my friends and family don't really support my decisions anymore, which makes it hard to carry on when they all say that the next time they get that ill I should have them pts. I'll keep fighting, as long as I can somehow scrape together the money. But it is really tough. Tabelmabel - I completely get where you are coming from. Sometimes it's just not possible to go to such extreme lengths to keep them going. I've always felt that as a pet owner, it's my responsibility to provide proper care, even if that includes big vet bills from time-to-time. The problem is it's becoming all the time! I think I'm going to keep carrying on as I have been doing, and just do my best to cover the costs. I think yes - it would probably be a sensible idea to get a different carer while I'm away, probably one more veterinary trained. I'll also try and talk to the specialist vet and see if I can have a payment plan (they wouldn't let me last time! Every time I go in there I don't get much change from £500, so a payment plan would be helpful!).
Don't worry - I'm not going to rehome them. If they are healthy enough to be rehomed, then they are healthy enough for me to keep! I was more trying to find out if I was doing the best thing not having them pts. I think their medical problems are too complex for any shelter - we have good local vets here, and even they have told me that the problems are beyond what they can diagnose/ deal with (hence referral to specialist exotic vet), so I very much doubt a rescue centre or new adopter could provide them with the care I can give them. I have booked Blob a vets appointment with the specialist this Thursday, to see about his massive weight loss. Fingers crossed I can keep the fees down....
 
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