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What is a piggy in a coma like?

mastrocastro

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Hello... So I lost my only piggy on Saturday morning, which died an awful death, my guess is that it was a stroke. He was 5 years old. He had been in bad shape all week. He would eat less, he wouldn't make a sound, he would rarely come out of his hole, and when I put his on my chest for cuddles he would barely move and he couldn't even stand on his legs-- he would just lay his whole body on me, not in a comfy way like he usually did, but as if he coulnd't do otherwise. On Thursday, I had him take a bath, which seemed to have shocked him quite a bit (definetaly not as much as I initially though though--I'll get to that in a bit*). The next day, he would act strangely all day, and at about 23:30 Friday night he would start having a seizure... He fell on his side (and that's how he stayed till the end), his legs twitching, and sometimes his head as well, and he wouldn't make a sound at all, exept one tiny moan of sadness shortly after it began... A couple of hours later, the twitching would become less and less intense, until it ultimately stopped completely and he was basically paralyzed. At 4am, he made a very odd and heavy sound (as if he was struggling to take a breath) three times. At that point, all he would do was open his mouth very slowly, blink, and breathe. At 4:30, his heart stopped, and he passed away on my chest... Yesterday I went to my village and burried him in the garden inside a coffin made out of cardboard. And shortly after I started getting paranoid, and hence the reason I'm posting here under that title... Since yesterday I have been freaking out, thinking "what if he was just in a coma and I burried him alive?". I mean, he seemed obviously dead, he had his mouth open, he didn't seem to have taken any breath, and I couldn't sense any heartbeat. The thing is, being in a deep coma (at least a human deep coma) is a very similar situation, and therefore it's hard to tell the difference. Sometimes (mostly in the past), even doctors can't tell the difference, and we even have cases of (... I think the English word is) thanatopsis on people! Is it possible to have burried my piggy alive?

*Here's the tribute note I posted on Reddit some time after he passed away: https://www.reddit.com/r/guineapigs/comments/e3qffl In my two previous posts (linked in that one) the seizure is being described with more detail, since I posted those while it was happening.
 

Wiebke

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Hi!

I am very sorry; you have done well to look after the neglected family piggy. If you ever have another pet/pets in the future, then please save up for vet cost as part of the weekly maintenance cost right from the start so you can see veterinary care whenever necessary.

From what you are describing, your piggy was in multiple organ failure and the body was closing down, so it will have died. It is perfectly normal for the onset of the grieving process to go over what you have done and to question yourself; that is what you are experiencing.
About half of my own piggies die at home on average; they other half I have to euthanise to spare them any unnecessary pain or suffering when there is no postive outcome and they are in clear distress. A coma is generally like a very deep sleep but with the piggy still breathing and still warm, just not waking up for hours or reacting to you touching it.

When a piggy dies, its body will gradually cool down and then go stiff for a number of hours (rigor mortis). The body will sag and go floppy as time goes on. I usually wait for the next day or at least until any piggy of mine is cold before burying it in my big pot to give its soul time to leave. Until then I leave it wrapped in fleece in the hall. The mouth in my dead piggies is often open; it depends on how they have died.

I hope that this helps you?

Please take the time to read our grieving guide, which will hopefully help you make sense of what you are currently going through and will experience in the coming days and weeks. You have to grieve as much as you have loved - and you have clearly loved and cared much for your piggy! When you have never experienced loss before, it can be rather confusing and overwhelming.
Here is the link: Human Bereavement: Grieving, Coping and Support Links for Guinea Pig Owners and Their Children
 

mastrocastro

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Hi!

I am very sorry; you have done well to look after the neglected family piggy. If you ever have another pet/pets in the future, then please save up for vet cost as part of the weekly maintenance cost right from the start so you can see veterinary care whenever necessary.

From what you are describing, your piggy was in multiple organ failure and the body was closing down, so it will have died. It is perfectly normal for the onset of the grieving process to go over what you have done and to question yourself; that is what you are experiencing.
About half of my own piggies die at home on average; they other half I have to euthanise to spare them any unnecessary pain or suffering when there is no postive outcome and they are in clear distress. A coma is generally like a very deep sleep but with the piggy still breathing and still warm, just not waking up for hours or reacting to you touching it.

When a piggy dies, its body will gradually cool down and then go stiff for a number of hours (rigor mortis). The body will sag and go floppy as time goes on. I usually wait for the next day or at least until any piggy of mine is cold before burying it in my big pot to give its soul time to leave. Until then I leave it wrapped in fleece in the hall. The mouth in my dead piggies is often open; it depends on how they have died.

I hope that this helps you?

Please take the time to read our grieving guide, which will hopefully help you make sense of what you are currently going through and will experience in the coming days and weeks. You have to grieve as much as you have loved - and you have clearly loved and cared much for your piggy! When you have never experienced loss before, it can be rather confusing and overwhelming.
Here is the link: Human Bereavement: Grieving, Coping and Support Links for Guinea Pig Owners and Their Children
Thank you so much, this was really helpful <3. I'm going to check the guide soon.
I have calmed down a bit, and also I did talk to a vet and he told me that there's absolutely no way he was alive when I burried him... I definately couldn't see or sense any breath or heartbeat as I mentioned, and also his eyes wouldn't react at all when I tried to close them (his eyelids wouldn't move actually). I can't recall how cold he was up until the 3rd hour of his death. My hands were also cold at that moment, so I couldn't really feel any difference in heat when I was touching him. He was definately not warm though. After that, I wrapped him in the towel I had him on, placed him in his small cage (the lake-a-basket one, the one we used for carrying him) and filled it with icebags. It had been more than 30 hours before we burried him. His body hadn't decomposed a bit though... I'll attach a couple of picture of how he was right before (also one or two of how he was alive, if can find them).
Another thing that really bothers me is how much he suffered in his last... I saw that many people find their piggies suffering a stroke/seizure before they die, but all of the cases I saw lasted minutes. He had a seizure for 4 hours... I have videos of how he was, but I don't think it's appropriate to post them...
 

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Wiebke

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Thank you so much, this was really helpful <3. I'm going to check the guide soon.
I have calmed down a bit, and also I did talk to a vet and he told me that there's absolutely no way he was alive when I burried him... I definately couldn't see or sense any breath or heartbeat as I mentioned, and also his eyes wouldn't react at all when I tried to close them (his eyelids wouldn't move actually). I can't recall how cold he was up until the 3rd hour of his death. My hands were also cold at that moment, so I couldn't really feel any difference in heat when I was touching him. He was definately not warm though. After that, I wrapped him in the towel I had him on, placed him in his small cage (the lake-a-basket one, the one we used for carrying him) and filled it with icebags. It had been more than 30 hours before we burried him. His body hadn't decomposed a bit though... I'll attach a couple of picture of how he was right before (also one or two of how he was alive, if can find them).
Another thing that really bothers me is how much he suffered in his last... I saw that many people find their piggies suffering a stroke/seizure before they die, but all of the cases I saw lasted minutes. He had a seizure for 4 hours... I have videos of how he was, but I don't think it's appropriate to post them...
I am very sorry that you didn't have round the clock vet access; I have often enough raced a piggy to the emergency vets in the small hours for pts/euthanasia when the dying process didn't go gently. :(

You can find a guideline for those situations in the last chapter of our emergency care guide that I have compiled specifically for situations like you have found yourself in: Emergency, Crisis and Bridging Care until a Vet Appointment
 

Freela

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I'm very sorry for your loss. I've had piggies pass at home too and it's always difficult to see. For what it's worth, I'm quite sure he had passed on. Think of how easy it is to feel a heartbeat on a living piggie... you will certainly notice the absence of one. The past two pigs I've lost I was holding at the time and I definitely felt their last heartbeat and when it stopped and knew that they were gone. It's been harder to tell at times with my hamsters (as they hibernate, they do kind of have a 'low power' mode that can make it hard to know when they have actually passed), but with guinea pigs I'm pretty sure that if you think your piggie has passed, you are right.
 

mastrocastro

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I am very sorry that you didn't have round the clock vet access; I have often enough raced a piggy to the emergency vets in the small hours for pts/euthanasia when the dying process didn't go gently. :(

You can find a guideline for those situations in the last chapter of our emergency care guide that I have compiled specifically for situations like you have found yourself in: Emergency, Crisis and Bridging Care until a Vet Appointment
Well, I was on the phone with the guy from the salon (an incrediblely nice and helpful gentleman who knows tons about pets-- you might have read my first post on Reddit and you'll know), he told me he could give me the number of an emergency 24 hour pet clinic, but he advised against it, because apparently they would just charge me 100€ to perform a clumsy euthanasia since there wouldn't be any specialist on guinea pigs (there isn't much specialization in veterinary medicine, especially when it comes to guinea pigs here in Greece). He said that it would be best to have him die peacefully beside me (though what he was experiencing was far from peaceful :( ), and would he still be alive in the morning, he would take me to vet he knew that knows a lot about small animals and he wouldn't charge a dime. Now I am perplexed whether I made the right choice after all...
 

mastrocastro

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Well, I was on the phone with the guy from the salon (an incrediblely nice and helpful gentleman who knows tons about pets-- you might have read my first post on Reddit and you'll know), he told me he could give me the number of an emergency 24 hour pet clinic, but he advised against it, because apparently they would just charge me 100€ to perform a clumsy euthanasia since there wouldn't be any specialist on guinea pigs (there isn't much specialization in veterinary medicine, especially when it comes to guinea pigs here in Greece). He said that it would be best to have him die peacefully beside me (though what he was experiencing was far from peaceful :( ), and would he still be alive in the morning, he would take me to vet he knew that knows a lot about small animals and he wouldn't charge a dime. Now I am perplexed whether I made the right choice after all...
The guy also told me that would he be in pain, there's no way he wouldn't make a sound, but I found/find that hard to believe since I doubt that he was able to at the moment...
 

Wiebke

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The guy also told me that would he be in pain, there's no way he wouldn't make a sound, but I found/find that hard to believe since I doubt that he was able to at the moment...
It is always worth to try for a peaceful death at home but if that is not working out, then for me £100 extra charge (about the same as for you) for an out of hours consultation it is! In the end I'd personally have my piggy rather suffer for seconds (and I have been around long enough to have been through an old style pts more than once) than have them suffer for hours... If possible ask the treating vet to anaesthesize your piggy before injecting it.

But these are not things that you can know or foresee when losing your first pet; you work out your personal stance over time by experiencing both sides (as well as the good and the bad in either way) and by learning to pick up on the subtle signs during the dying process, which is always different but rarely completely peaceful as the body breaks down. A lot depends on the order in which the organs go and how healthy they are. There is no one rule that fits all situations. It is more a constant assessment and reassessment during that time. Most multiple organ failures have a painful stage just before death when oxygen deprivation hits the body, but that should ideally not last longer than 15-30 minutes and thankfully the piggy is already mostly out of it by then.

But rest assured that you have definitely not buried a still living piggy!

Please take the time to read the grieving guide. It will hopefully put your experiences and feelings into more of a context and help you while you go through the inevitable grieving process and its usual stages over the coming days. It has taken me a few days to write the guide but there are a lot of my own and other members' experiences reflected in there; I can't repeat it all in one post. ;)

PS: Could you please add your country to location in your account details, which you access by clicking on your username on the top bar. This makes it appear with every post you make and allows us to tailor any advice to what is available and relevant where you are. We are aware that Greek vets are usually not experienced with guinea pigs.
We jump between lots of different threads over the course of a day, never mind several; it helps us to reorient ourselves when we can have a quick peek at the location as we often deal with people from all over the world and very different conditions.
 

Swissgreys

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Please be kind to yourself.
It is natural to feel guilty and second guess your choices after a loss, but what happened, has happened.
You stepped in and took care of a neglected family pet and he knew he was loved. :hug:
 

mastrocastro

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It is always worth to try for a peaceful death at home but if that is not working out, then for me £100 extra charge (about the same as for you) for an out of hours consultation it is! In the end I'd personally have my piggy rather suffer for seconds (and I have been around long enough to have been through an old style pts more than once) than have them suffer for hours... If possible ask the treating vet to anaesthesize your piggy before injecting it.

But these are not things that you can know or foresee when losing your first pet; you work out your personal stance over time by experiencing both sides (as well as the good and the bad in either way) and by learning to pick up on the subtle signs during the dying process, which is always different but rarely completely peaceful as the body breaks down. A lot depends on the order in which the organs go and how healthy they are. There is no one rule that fits all situations. It is more a constant assessment and reassessment during that time. Most multiple organ failures have a painful stage just before death when oxygen deprivation hits the body, but that should ideally not last longer than 15-30 minutes and thankfully the piggy is already mostly out of it by then.

But rest assured that you have definitely not buried a still living piggy!

Please take the time to read the grieving guide. It will hopefully put your experiences and feelings into more of a context and help you while you go through the inevitable grieving process and its usual stages over the coming days. It has taken me a few days to write the guide but there are a lot of my own and other members' experiences reflected in there; I can't repeat it all in one post. ;)

PS: Could you please add your country to location in your account details, which you access by clicking on your username on the top bar. This makes it appear with every post you make and allows us to tailor any advice to what is available and relevant where you are. We are aware that Greek vets are usually not experienced with guinea pigs.
We jump between lots of different threads over the course of a day, never mind several; it helps us to reorient ourselves when we can have a quick peek at the location as we often deal with people from all over the world and very different conditions.
Thank you again, I'm feeling better today, you've been a great help <3
I would like to ask you guys one more thing, since you might know. Ever since he took a bath (a day before he passed), his spine seemed a bit... curved. It didn't look weird, but when I was touching his back it feeled as if it was about to tear of his flesh :(. Shortly after the seizure began, I called the vet (on the"emergency line"--his personal phone), and what he told me that what might have been happening was that he had some short of trauma on his spine, or perhaps it was dislocated during the bath. But that seemed highly unlikely to me to be the case because: a) he didn't cry at all, b) I was watching the guys bath him and, and apart from him looking terrified, it went very smoothly (except for once where he tried to get out of the bowl and the lady grabed him right back, but it didn't seem intense in any way), c) I emphasised on his spine a lot on the call, and d) we talked very briefly, and the guy was sleeping when I called. Still, his posture was not normal, and it had been that way for more than 24 hours before the seizure began, and also it was difficult for him to stand properly, like he would put his legs INSIDE his bowl of food when trying really hard to eat. Also the reason I picked him up and had him on my chest right before he tried to run off me and fell on his side (where it began), was that I saw him RAM into the bars of his cage and stayed there... Can you understand what was happening?
 

Wiebke

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Thank you again, I'm feeling better today, you've been a great help <3
I would like to ask you guys one more thing, since you might know. Ever since he took a bath (a day before he passed), his spine seemed a bit... curved. It didn't look weird, but when I was touching his back it feeled as if it was about to tear of his flesh :(. Shortly after the seizure began, I called the vet (on the"emergency line"--his personal phone), and what he told me that what might have been happening was that he had some short of trauma on his spine, or perhaps it was dislocated during the bath. But that seemed highly unlikely to me to be the case because: a) he didn't cry at all, b) I was watching the guys bath him and, and apart from him looking terrified, it went very smoothly (except for once where he tried to get out of the bowl and the lady grabed him right back, but it didn't seem intense in any way), c) I emphasised on his spine a lot on the call, and d) we talked very briefly, and the guy was sleeping when I called. Still, his posture was not normal, and it had been that way for more than 24 hours before the seizure began, and also it was difficult for him to stand properly, like he would put his legs INSIDE his bowl of food when trying really hard to eat. Also the reason I picked him up and had him on my chest right before he tried to run off me and fell on his side (where it began), was that I saw him RAM into the bars of his cage and stayed there... Can you understand what was happening?
It is impossible for us to tell without seeing and feeling it ourselves, I am sorry to say. All we can do is speculate as much as you do - and that is not going to help you any. Only a post mortem examination at the vet's would have given you an answer as to whether something was going on in the spine or whether there was a source of major pain close to it. Even a vet can only speculate by what you tell them, but they cannot give you a definitive answer. Sadly you will often find that there are things in life you will know for sure.

However, we only recommend baths for guinea pigs if they are really filthy or there is medical reason for them. In most cases, a gentle bum bath with baby warm water is all that is needed. Shampoos can really mess with the skin, especially if they are not formulated for a guinea pig ph. There has been quite a change in attitude over the last decade on this score.
 

mastrocastro

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It is impossible for us to tell without seeing and feeling it ourselves, I am sorry to say. All we can do is speculate as much as you do - and that is not going to help you any. Only a post mortem examination at the vet's would have given you an answer as to whether something was going on in the spine or whether there was a source of major pain close to it. Even a vet can only speculate by what you tell them, but they cannot give you a definitive answer. Sadly you will often find that there are things in life you will know for sure.

However, we only recommend baths for guinea pigs if they are really filthy or there is medical reason for them. In most cases, a gentle bum bath with baby warm water is all that is needed. Shampoos can really mess with the skin, especially if they are not formulated for a guinea pig ph. There has been quite a change in attitude over the last decade on this score.
I'm aware about baths. We would only bath him with some special shampoos for a month or two back in 2015 (when he had the scabies), and this last time I did because he had been smelling kinda bad for the past few weeks (btw, he would still have that smell a little even after the bath). Anyway, thank you again for your time!
 
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