When a piggy dies.

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KatsCavies

I thought I would post this for everyone. Its from Peter Gurney's site and it explains the process of death in guinea pigs. I know its upsetting when you lose a piggy but after reading this you will feel a bit better knowing that they don't die in pain. It would be nice if this could be made a sticky as its useful information on a subject that every piggy owner is going to experience at some point.

DYING
Of course we all hope that our guinea pigs will die of old age and I look upon this as a natural process rather than an illness, as so many human beings seem to regard it. O.K. so the death is usually caused by renal, respiratory or cardiac failure when the age factor is the cause, which I guess can be regarded as illness. However, since in many cases this is neither a traumatic or particularly painful process, in the main I prefer to let nature take its course.

The symptoms are usually the loss of appetite, sometimes over the course of a few days, at other times overnight. By this time, like in the case of old age in humans, there is loss of body tone, weight and a general frailty. The guinea pig will withdraw from the pack by finding a quiet spot, and usually turning its back on the hurly-burly of pack life by sticking its head in a corner. One of the strange things I have noticed about the act of preparing for death is that the majority seem to always stand on all fours and cease lying down in the resting positions. It’s as though there is a conscious decision to meet death standing up.

I will offer water but never force the guinea pig to drink and not offer food unless it shows an interest when I put the fresh food or dry feed in for the pack as usual. The last thing a guinea pig or any other animal, the human one included, needs when it is in the process of slipping off this mortal coil is someone trying to make it eat.

It can take between one and three days for a guinea pig to die, and though it is important to carefully monitor them during this period, handling is not necessary. The reason you monitor them is because sometimes they may have a Nazareth-like turn around and pick up again by showing interest in what is going on and their demeanour becomes more alert. With these cases you should then certainly treat them in the same way as you would convalescing guinea pigs and syringe feed if necessary. In some of these cases the animal may pick up and have another two to six months of good quality of life to live, and has the right to have that life fought for by its owner.

The approach to the end of a guinea pig’s life may look traumatic and be distressing for the owner but I always urge a hands-off policy, for the animal is not aware of what is going on. The guinea pig will usually be on its side, and a series of what look like electric shocks can go through the body. This is its nervous system doing what hospital defibrillators do when the heart begins to fail. Many also begin to have rapid leg movement, which looks like, and my fanciful mind tells, is it having its last run around in this world before leaving it. The running movement is usually very frantic and seems to upset owners more than the shocks that go through the body and this is when owners want to take it to a vet to have it put down. Many times people have phoned me at this juncture and I have asked them to get a torch and shine it close into the guinea pig’s eyes and told them before they do, just what they will see. The iris remains wide upon to the light, indicating what I have told the owner that the guinea pig is totally unconscious and will die very soon, oblivious to all sensation.

After sixteen years of experiencing this process very many times, I have never known a guinea survive once the ‘running’ before death has occurred.

Kat
 
C

cavykind

KatsCavies said:
It can take between one and three days for a guinea pig to die, and though it is important to carefully monitor them during this period, handling is not necessary. The reason you monitor them is because sometimes they may have a Nazareth-like turn around and pick up again by showing interest in what is going on and their demeanour becomes more alert.
Personally, I don't think any guinea pig should be left to linger for up to 3 days if it is ill or very old.... in my opinion, it should be taken to a vet and euthanised. We don't know what the guinea pig may or may not be feeling and it is selfish to presume that they are happy lying/sitting there waiting for death.
Of course it is upsetting taking them the the vets for the last time, but I wouldn't let my dog or cat die like that, so why a guinea pig? Elderly or even sadly young dog/cats in end stage renal/kidney or respiratory failure are generally given release by caring owners and not left to lie for days dying in their basket. Certainly mine haven't been.

An interesting post Katscavies, well done for posting it, and one that will likely promote much discussion!

Peter Gurney wrote a lot of very good stuff, and I'm sure we all owe him a lot, but some of it is dross and in my opinion, poor advice.
Much of this is an example ::)

Barbara
* Of course some guineas do slip relatively quickly and peacefully away, I've seen it happen. But I have taken many more to be pts.
The above is of course only my thoughts on the matter.
 
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pippin

:'( :'( that was very sad reading,ive been lucky that all my piggys have died sudden ly with no warning of anything wrong such as not eating and being quiet, but i know the the girls i have now are getting old and if i knew they were suffering i could not just leave them i would take them to the vet its not nice to do as i had to do it to my westie last year but its the right thing to do when they are suffering :'( now i have tears running down my face. ::)
 
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KatsCavies

I don't know if its the same with other animals. We know humans usually stay conscious until the very end but do other animals, like dogs and cats. Like it says, piggies fall unconscious and aren't aware of the death process and feel no pain. The piggy itself dies, but its body takes a while longer.

I lost one of my piggies unexpectedly this morning and it was that what reminded me about the above information. The above information made me feel better knowing that he wasn't suffering or in any pain when he died.

Kat
 

sars1359

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KatsCavies said:
I don't know if its the same with other animals. We know humans usually stay conscious until the very end but do other animals, like dogs and cats. Like it says, piggies fall unconscious and aren't aware of the death process and feel no pain. The piggy itself dies, but its body takes a while longer.

I lost one of my piggies unexpectedly this morning and it was that what reminded me about the above information. The above information made me feel better knowing that he wasn't suffering or in any pain when he died.

Kat

*sighs n hugs you* I always feel so sad when someone posts that theyve lost a piggy as I know how they feel :'(
 
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pippin

awe I'm so sorry you have lost a piggy its so sad when it happens. :'( now I'm really crying.
 

Billies Mum

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Sorry to hear of your loss :'(

It is a huge comfort to know that a beloved animal didnt suffer at the end.
 

sars1359

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Billies Mum said:
Sorry to hear of your loss :'(

It is a huge comfort to know that a beloved animal didnt suffer at the end.
it is,especially when it looks like theyre suffering and in pain,thats what makes it worse
 
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cavykind

KatsCavies said:
I don't know if its the same with other animals. We know humans usually stay conscious until the very end but do other animals, like dogs and cats. Like it says, piggies fall unconscious and aren't aware of the death process and feel no pain. The piggy itself dies, but its body takes a while longer.

I lost one of my piggies unexpectedly this morning and it was that what reminded me about the above information. The above information made me feel better knowing that he wasn't suffering or in any pain when he died.

Kat
Sorry to hear about your guinea pig, I am sure like all of, you can glean some small comfort that it was sudden and he didn't suffer for days.

I agree with Peter Gurney that once a guinea pig starts to fit, it is unlikely aware of what is happpening to it, but don't agree with him on his stance of allowing them to die slowly over a period of days. Sorry if I failed to make myself clear :)
Take care,
Barbara
 

sars1359

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thats like dragging death and a sort of suffering out,to me thats kind of cruel and not nice for us to watch
 
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cavykind

Billies Mum said:
But he did say that some make a last minute recovery?
Unfortunately that is very unlikely if as he suggests, quite rightly in my opinion (with dying guinea pigs) that you don't attempt to feed them.
I think there is a fine line between deciding when we stop intervening with an old or ill guinea pig. I'll try harder and probably longer with a young guinea pig than a known oldie. I've seen some very sick, malnourished, depressed guineas in my time and nursed them back to good health. But there does come a time when you despite everything you do, you realise that the piggy is on a downward slope and beginning to suffer.

I've never seen a guinea pig that I have stopped feeding (because it is so ill/weak and refusing/struggling against the syringe) pick up and make a last minute recovery.
I don't think any of us would make spur of the moment decisions when it comes to euthanasia for any of our pets.
However it has often been said and many of you will have heard this saying...re euthanasia

"Better a day to early than a day to late." We are obviously talking very sick/old animals who are deteriorating.

As I say, there is a fine line between calling it a day for the animals sake and carrying on... and really only a good vet, experience and following your heart can guide you.

Though here I think Peter is talking about animals that are not receiving active treatment and have been left to let nature take it's course? I've personally not seen these ones rally after a day or two of not eating or drinking. Though perhaps others have.

I think it is human nature to think..."We'll see how they are in the morning." But to be really kind, we have to do what we think is right for our pets, not us :'(

Barbara
 

sammyroo

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This is a really difficult one.

Clearly the advantage of having an animal pts is that it is quick and relatively painless. On the other hand, all our pets without exception have heartily disliked going to the vet's and it does mean that they spend their last conscious moments in surroundings they dislike and find stressful. :'(

Sammy's brother Snug was the first pet we have ever had to die at home naturally. (Like many piggies, he died during the night). It was a great comfort to us to think that his last conscious moments were passed at home in familiar surroundings with his beloved brother next to him.
 
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KatsCavies

I've only had one pig PTS and that was Benny who had the tooth problem. The only time I ever heard him utter a sound was when the vet injected him :(.

Kat
 

Billies Mum

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Its heartbreaking but you know they will be in a better place
 

Abnoba

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When I was working in a nursing home, there was a man who was very nice and obviously very much loved by his family. When he started to die, he refused to eat, in the end to drink.
He WANTED to go. But his family insisted on him being on a drip, and had all sorts done, and prolonged it for another week or so - in the end he died anyway.

I thought that it was a bit selfish of them not to want to let him go, if he had decided that it was time.. because putting him through all the stress with the doctors was not very nice. They might aswell just let him die in peace.

I think its the same with a piggy that refuses to eat, you can usually tell by their eyes if they still have some fight left in them or if they have given up.. I could certainly tell with mine when they were ready to go. And prolonging it because YOU cant let go even though the piggy is ready to go, is selfish.
So I agree with that, dont try to force food into them when its almost clear that they have made up their mind.

As for the PTS or not PTS question - I would go to the vets.
When marvins breathing was so very very bad in the end that I was afraid he would suffocate alone in his cage, I took him to the vets to have him PTS. He might not have actually experienced any pain, but I wouldnt want to risk it. We cant look into our piggies heads, and while we know alot, we dont know everything. I want to make sure my piggies die a peaceful death, with stroking hand, without stress.
I wouldnt want to risk it not being so easy as P.G. describes.

And certainly, I wouldnt wait three days for my piggy to die.
While the dying itself might not be painful, because the piggy is unconcious, the days leading up to it might well be. So I would end it before it starts to go really bad.
 
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piglover

The WHOLE point of being a responsible pet owner is knowing when to let go.............with ANY animal as we all know............ :'(
 

Billies Mum

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Its a shame that vets cannot make home visits for this sad purpose so that the last few moments are spent in familiar surroundings or with siblings...
 
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