What To Expect At Your Veterinarian's Office
Your vet will:
- Take its temperature
- Palpate the stomach and body (more gently if your guinea pig is older)
- Check the lymph nodes for swelling
- Listen to the lungs and heart with a stethoscope
- Pull on the skin on the back to check for hydration
- Examine the eyes and ears with a light
- Examine the coat for signs of parasites and for any scurf or small lumps, bumps, or cysts
- Check nipples for any crustiness or lumps
- Check its teeth including the back molars
Oxygen administered at the vet's office will help with trouble breathing.
An x-ray may be taken for suspected problems with internal organs or to check for heart enlargement, especially in older guinea pigs.
A catheter can be used to flush out a urinary blockage.
A urine sample to either spin down at the clinic or send out to a lab for analysis will help with many diagnoses, especially urinary tract infections.
A blood test can also be a useful diagnostic tool if the vet has a specific reason or is looking for specific information. Routine annual bloodwork is generally too stressful for guinea pigs.
Blood and urine must be taken BEFORE any medicines are administered in order to get a proper analysis. Small blood samples can be taken from an over clipped toenail and collected using microhematocrit (capillary) tubes, as it is relatively easy and less stressful for the animal.
Regarding toenail overclipping: Mum wrote:
- "The vet techs also found out a very important piece of information at a recent conference regarding the toenail overclip method of getting blood. The foot has to be warmed first in warm water, then dried, and the nails are not squeezed [guinea pigs reportedly hate having their feet squeezed], but rather the blood is just dripped into the tubes. Another toenail is overclipped if necessary the same way."
A hydration sub cue treatment with vitamins C and B added may buy time to find out what's wrong. A hydration sub cue is the injection of fluids under the skin. If your pet is anorexic (not eating), it is most likely dehydrated and a subcue can contribute significantly to recovery. Ask if your pet is dehydrated. Often one can determine if a guinea pig is dehydrated by pulling up on the skin at the back of the neck. If it snaps back, the pig is most likely hydrated. If it stays raised, the animal may be dehydrated.
You will probably find it difficult to manually syringe the amount of fluid a sick pig needs to prevent dehydration (50 to 60 cc daily--[Note: 1 Tablespoon = 14.8 cc so 60 cc = 4 Tablespoons--or approximately 1/4 cup liquid]. Really sick pigs may need daily sub cue treatments until the vet can come up with a diagnosis or the meds kick in.
- See also: hand feeding
Once the pig is on medication, you should be able to see an improvement within 2 or 3 days. If not, have the vet SWITCH TO ANOTHER DRUG. Do not take no for an answer. In treating pigs, time is of the essence. Often the vet will have to take an educated guess at which drug to prescribe and just as often the infection can turn out to be resistant to the drug selected.
- See also: antibiotic advice
If the vet knows which drug is effective, (usually from lab results) ask how long it will be before you see results. If you don't see results within that time-frame tell the vet. There could be more than one infection going on and a different drug may be necessary.
MAKE SURE THE VET DOES NOT PRESCRIBE ANY PENICILLIN BASED DRUGS.
They are deadly to pigs. Do not be afraid to question the vet. You are the advocate for your pig and it is always possible you will end up with a vet who is inexperienced in guinea pigs - especially in an emergency.
Faking out the vet.
"We have found when taking pigs to the vet they will often stubbornly refuse to exhibit any of the symptoms that brought them there in the first place. If your vet is patient and can afford 10 to 15 minutes, the pig will often relax and show the symptoms. This behavior is a continuation of the survival instinct - putting up a good front in order not to be considered weak and sick and easily picked off. We see this behavior particularly with breathing problems like asthma: our vet is on to them now and after initially examining the pig, will return to it when it's relaxed enough to breathe raspily." -- Pinta
What can you do to help?
Consider taking another pig along, if you have one that has not already been separated from the sick one to avoid passing on an illness. It will keep your ill pig company and make the visit less stressful and will provide the vet with a pig for comparison.
Even pig-experienced vets find it useful to directly compare healthy pigs with sick ones. And although it may cost the price of an extra x-ray, taking an x-ray of a healthy pig to compare with one of an ill pig can speed up the diagnosis (if an xray is required). Ideally your vet will have one in his office for comparison purposes.
You've noticed your guinea pig seems ill. You've called the vet and made an appointment. What kinds of things will he do for your pet? How can he tell what's wrong?
Before you see the vet, read over Charybdis' list of Common Mistakes in Treating Sick Guinea Pigs