I have a lovely guinea pig Nutmeg, adopted 18 months ago from a friend, Nutmeg is six and a half now, so a dear old lady. She's got some of the usual old lady issues - she's on Metacam 0.12ml a day and has an Oxbow vitamin C supplement every morning - but she's basically been in good health.
My family and I went away for ten days over the summer and our usual wonderful boarder is closed because of COVID-19 so I took her to a new boarder who looks after rabbits and guinea pigs, has a very professional-looking website and a specially built set of boarding cages in their garage. All seemed OK when I dropped her off. When we got her back on Saturday we were shocked - Nutmeg was VERY thin, very wet with urine, shivering, sunken eyes with discharge. The woman said to me in an offhand way "she hasn't eaten for two days apart from her vitamin C supplement" which I was also shocked by as my understanding is that not eating for 24 hours is a massive medical emergency for a guinea pig. If she'd phoned me about it, I'd have said to take her to the vet at once and I'd have paid for it!
I quickly picked some (clean) grass from the verge outside the house, and Nutmeg immediately started eating. We stopped at the nearest supermarket and got her some salad, celery and kale - even gave her a whole strawberry. She nuzzled up next to my hand for warmth all the way home and quickly stopped shivering at least. Her usual weight is 880-900g but when I weighed her on Sunday she'd gone down to 675g! It was a bank holiday weekend so couldn't find a vet to see her, but she was eating very enthusiastically, her eyes became brighter almost immediately and she did a few very thin sad little poos. Then she went 24 hours still eating but with no poos, which was terrifying, then had very soft poos, and now the poos are back to the normal tictac shape and consistency! Her weight's gone up to 725-745g now, which is something...
We got her to the vet as soon as we could after the weekend, who says she's definitely very underweight now but there's not much else wrong with her that he could find - I'm giving her as much of her usual veg and grass and forage as she fancies, as well as unlimited hay of course. We're monitoring her weight through every day in case of a sudden drop. I'm taking her back to the vet on Friday for another checkup and that's when their exotics specialist will be in.
I really wanted to get advice on two things:
1) what is the best way to look after her and encourage weight gain without making her ill by giving her too much too quickly?! I have no idea what happened at the boarder's but as she was eating enthusiastically immediately we got her back I didn't do Critical Care or anything like that. I offered some of her pellets mixed with warm water but she turned her nose up and went back to the grass!
2) what on earth should I do about this boarder? I've emailed her this evening - at first I didn't know what to say but the vet said that maybe the boarder would be able to give info about what happened so I've asked in the nicest way I could... what would any of you do in these circumstances?
Thanks so much for your help.
- I dissent.
As far as the boarder, I certainly wouldn't hire that person again or refer them to anybody. If you incur vet bills because of this, I think I'd be inclined to ask their help in paying it (although, it will be hard to prove any negligence on their part, and my hunch is that the boarder won't be inclined to work with you).
I'm sorry that you had such a bad experience.
Did you notice any other ill animals in her care? Did the area they were kept in smell badly?
You are wise to have her checked by a vet. He can examine her thoroughly for injuries also.
- Supporter in 2020
I'm so glad that Nutmeg is eating and putting some weight on. As others have said, take it slow with veggies and fruit, encourage hay and pellets.
When we picked her up from that boarder, they did have a dog running around - which I certainly hadn't seen when I dropped her off! Not an unfriendly dog, but I wonder if just the presence of a dog would have been enough to potentially scare her into not eating.
Moodwise I would say she's not quite back to normal. She's a very unvocal guinea pig but she usually has a little low chirp she does while she's eating if she's enjoying herself... and I haven't heard it since she got back :-(. And none of the sedate guinea elder "popcorning" she used to do either. (Slightly lifting off the ground as she turned round quickly as if startled!) So... not yet filled with joy. But filled with chard, which is something.
I emailed the boarder to ask if anything happened while she was there but they said they hadn't noticed anything... even though she was losing so much weight. think I have to leave a review on findpetboarding (which is where I found her) for the boarders, stating my experience in as unemotional a way as I can. Just: it looked clean and well-maintained, communication was good. But... this is how my guinea pig came home. Ugh. I don't really want to have the confrontation but I feel I should warn other guinea pig owners.
- For the Love of Pigs
If the boarder had contacted you as soon as she noticed, and worked with you to figure out how to help her, that would be one thing. It would be unfortunate but they would have been doing what they were supposed to. They did not do that. They didn't just neglect your guinea pig's wellbeing. They ignored an issue that could have killed her. It's upsetting to think about but this could have been worse. Other guinea pig owners absolutely need to know their babies are not safe with this boarder.
Recovery might be slow--it usually is, I think--but it sounds like, since she's eating, she'll be okay.
As mentioned above, this sounds like pure neglect. Anyone considering using this boarder has a right to know what their history of care is. They caused your pet to suffer and experience a decline in health. Making this known can save other animals from suffering the same fate, and I would feel some consolation in knowing I might be doing some good in this regard.
Personally, I would leave a review on every site or platform where the boarder comes up. If I found one of mine in that condition I would lose it right then and there.
I've posted a "just the facts ma'am" review on findpetboarding.com but it hasn't appeared on the site yet... I'll leave it another few days and then chase up. I'm so grateful to everyone here for your support - especially in confirming that the boarder really should have been in touch with us! It was shocking how quickly Nutmeg deteriorated, and the journey back to health is definitely taking longer than the downward plummet did. But she's getting there.