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The reasons for guinea pig abortions are as many and varied as those that cause the same problems in all animals. They can be caused by chromosomal abnormalities, shock, virus and bacterial infections.
If they occur very early on in the term of a pregnancy they are seldom a problem. This is more common in very young animals whose bodies may not be mature enough to go full term. If you are not present when the mother aborts the usual tell tale sign that it has happened is dark red blood around her rear end and her mouth where she has re-ingested what she has expelled. Mother Nature wastes not and the action of the guinea is perfectly natural. She has invested a few weeks of bodily resources into making the developing foetuses and she is not going to let them go to waste!
In the main, most of the abnormalities that guinea pigs suffer from are not too much of a problem and it is only when there has been much in-breeding for a long time that abnormalities which cause serious disabilities occur. These are problems such as cleft palates, undershot jaws and serious dental malformation. Serious thought must be given to euthanasia when these deformities are noticed to be very pronounced in babes.
When I think of all the guinea pigs of mine, and those of compassionate friends whom we have watched live a long and happy life with twisted paws, missing ear lobes, blindness, missing toes and all manner of oddities, then I realise what resilient little creatures they are. There is a tendency in many vets to put on a long face and suggest putting down any small animal that isn’t perfect. Rubbish. What an insult to the nature of animal who isn’t burdened with the human whinge ‘why me?’ but just gets on and copes with the cards it’s been dealt.
These come in all shapes and sizes but in the main they are just under the surface of the skin, particularly around the jaw area. Providing these abscesses are lanced, drained and flushed out with hydrogen peroxide when they are ready then they seldom cause any other health problems to the guinea pig. This is not a job for the unskilled but neither is it job that I would allow most vets to perform on my own animals. By the time I have paid for the unnecessary anaesthetics and what they term as preventative antibiotics, and their removal by ‘cutting out’ we are into unnecessary expenditure and serious health risks to the guinea pig.
Having such a large stock I have lanced more abscesses than the average veterinary surgeon has had hot dinners. I have never, ever used an antibiotic, yet I have never yet had a secondary infection, nor have I had a single patient suffer trauma from the short sharp incision of a sterile scalpel blade. The only things I always bear in mind are basic sterile techniques and not relying on antibiotics to do the trick if I fail on this point!
Sheer experience has taught me when an abscess is ready for lancing but if I have any doubts then I will aspirate with a hypodermic needle and check on the fluidity of the pus.
Bear in mind that if these kinds of abscesses are not lanced they can burst internally with fatal results.
All other abscesses that are internal do need the expertise of a veterinary surgeon who is skilled in small animal surgery. I certainly never hesitate to get my own animals to my vet on the rare occasions they are suffering from internal abscesses.
This is one of the most common breeds of guinea pig. It is classed as a rough coated breed, its coat being made up of many whirls spread all over the body. For show purposes these whirls have to be set in meticulous positions and be very well defined.
Many of them have gorgeous Victorian style pork chop side burns and looked at head-on they always appear to me to have a look of surprise on their faces. This breed is more prone to cataracts, which are the result of in-breeding for many years.
Yes, like the human beastie, they go through it as well and the form it takes is most noticeable in the boars. When a young boar reaches the age of about six months, by which time, ideally, he has been living with an older boar since weaning, he will begin to strut his stuff. I am one hundred percent certain that this is just the usual kind of pubescent challenge to the adult that most humans go through. In the guinea pig, the older boar seems to know this for they seldom respond with the full fury that they would show if another adult male tried it on. Every time one of my young boars has been through this I have seen that it is very clear that he is testing the water, seeing how much he can get away with. The adult boar will either ignore him or make a half-hearted lunge in retaliation now and again, until the time he considers that the youngster has crossed the line. You usually know when this has occurred for you will hear a high pitched squeak of pain and turn to see the younger pig crouching, nursing a sore head or a painful nip!
I have twelve boars living together and ten of them were introduced this way, all went through this process and now live in perfect harmony.
Like in the human species there are some guinea pigs that seem to age before their time but in the main the symptoms are likely to appear about the age of five. There is a stiffening in the limbs, particularly in the back legs, they get rheumy eyes and all sexual activity ends. However, be warned some of the old boars can remain healthy and active in this department until they actually pop their clogs!
I retire my old boars to live in the main sow pen, usually when, say, his life-long partner dies. If there is no sexual interest shown after a few hours of being housed in there, it is safe to assume that he can live there permanently. So far I have had no ‘accidents’ in the five years that I have adopted this practice.
The symptoms of old age do not necessarily herald that a guinea pig is close to its end. The stiff-limbed symptoms can be alleviated with NOBUTE, the product based on the Devil’s claw product produced by Equine Health at the dose rate of ten ml per day, orally.
Of all animals, guinea pigs are the least aggressive both towards their own species and others. My opinion is that they seem to believe in what Winston Churchill once said, ‘Jaw, jaw, jaw is preferable to War, war, war.’ It is their almost continuous communication that kind of keeps the peace. I think in a guinea pig pack it is a case of always knowing where you are and the way things stand.
The occasional head butt or nip in the rear comes when communication has broken down or perhaps because the guinea just feels a bit snappy, but it’s not meant or taken seriously and very seldom leads to serious combat.
Occasionally, when a new guinea pig is introduced to a group, it will display aggression, usually because it feels intimidated by the numbers. If it reaches the stage where its hackles rise, it rattles its teeth and attacks, then the liberal use of a spray bottle with some scented water in it usually does the trick. The animal becomes so preoccupied with drying itself and so overwhelmed by the scent in the water that combat will be forgotten. Usually, after three or four shots of the bottle, the aggressive guinea pig gets the picture and settles down.
When it comes to aggression between boars, if you follow the rules of bringing a pair up together from the age of weaning or introducing a young one to an adult and letting them settle down, then you shouldn’t get aggression. However, mistakes can happen and if you get it wrong and do not correct it the right way, it hurts! I once didn’t think what I was doing and I put an adult boar into a pen with another one with whom he did not cohabit. World War Three was not long in coming and in my panic I put my hand in to separate them. I lifted the hand out with one of them having his incisor teeth embedded in my knuckles. Take my word for it; it is not an experience I wish to repeat! The golden rule is to throw a towel, a coat or anything like that over them to confuse them. If you have a handy bucket of water, so much the better!
The Agouti breed of guinea pig is the one that I always refer as to the down-to-earth no-nonsense breed. Agouti coats are kind of highlighted by the fact that the tips of their hair shafts are much lighter that the base colour. Most wild rabbits have this kind of coat only not in such a variety of colours as domestic guinea pigs.
There are a few guinea pigs that suffer allergies, which affect the respiratory system and I seethe with anger every time I hear that a vet has prescribed antibiotics for this problem. The symptoms are totally different from a bacterial infection and the onset is far more rapid. If your guinea pig suddenly develops a dry sounding rasp in its chest and nose yet in all other respects it seem perfectly healthy, has a good appetite, not a laboured respiration and is behaving in a bright and alert manner then you can bet it is suffering from an allergy or just a cold.
What it needs is a decongestant, BISOLVON being the veterinary medicine. However, if your vet will not prescribe this then give it 0.4 Sudafed, the cough medicine formulated for chesty coughs in humans. In many cases one dose is sufficient but it can be given up to three doses. If the condition persists there are other drugs that can be given but these are prescription only medicines.
When these conditions develop try to think if there has been a change of hay or bedding which could cause the allergy. However, allergies, in many cases, can be airborne and extremely hard to track down. If this is the cause of the wheezing then it can clear up as quickly as it came, as the irritant in the air moves on.
The lips of some guinea pigs are extremely allergic to the acid in fruit, particularly in apples. It breaks down the membrane and can cause a fungal or bacterial infection, which causes painful scabs. I use the old-fashioned Gentian violet. DO NOT LET ANY CHEMIST TELL YOU THAT THIS PRODUCT IS NO LONGER AVAILABLE. This excellent product can be obtained in most corn merchants or establishments that sell horse tack.
Paint over the scabs on the first day but be sure to pick them off on the second and every subsequent day as you repaint the site of the scabs. In sixteen years of living with guinea pigs I have never known this treatment to fail!
In the main, hair loss is due to either fungal or parasitic infestations. However there are a couple of very notable exceptions where it is not and I wish vets would learn this. Hair loss due to hormonal imbalance is very common in all mammals during pregnancy and should NOT be treated as a parasitic or fungal skin problem! The other very common form of alopecia is in elderly sows and this is also caused by hormonal imbalance. I have yet to come across a single case where a boar suffers from this, which emphasises the fact that it is a female problem. Unlike in the cases where hair loss is caused by parasitic or fungal activity, the elderly sows do not seem to suffer itching. I know of no treatment for this but the good news is that in many cases after quite a lengthy period, the hair returns.
In short this is a long-haired variety, like the Peruvian, but it has the same kind of crinkly coat as the Rex, or the Teddy as it is more commonly called in the States. The coats of these animals do tend to get a bit knotty so tend to need grooming by their owners.
Fortunately I never went to university or a veterinary college so I do not suffer from a closed mind when it comes to medicines other than the one I specialise in. To tell you the truth, I don’t specialise for not only do I use conventional medicine myself, I recommend its use in all my books.
I get very angry when I hear ‘Professor this or Doctor that’ condemning medicine of which they have absolutely no knowledge. I think this attitude says more about the threat they feel to what they regard as their exclusive monopoly of knowledge than any real interest in learning from others outside their narrow fields. I have yet to hear one of these ‘wise ones’ answer the question, ‘If your testing procedures are so great how come Thalidomide and the many other conventional medicines that have had to be withdrawn when they found that the side effect, were lethal’?
Right that is all the soap boxing I intend to do about the subject.
The kind of alternatives that I use can be bought over the counter and I have had many years of using them very effectively. The ones that I am particularly proud of and pleased with are my essential oil formulae for parasitic and fungal skin problems. See “skin problems” for details.
There are many diuretics which are made up of various herbs which are very helpful when you have a guinea pig which has a chromic heart or kidney problems, see heart attack. They can be used in tandem with the more powerful conventional one, FRUSEMIDE, which must sometimes be used. However, the over-use of this drug can deplete the potassium in the animal’s system which is the last thing you need if it has a heart problem.
There are many other herbs and essential oils that I use and those will be identified when I write of specific illnesses through this book.
As I have had no experience of Homeopathic medicine I cannot comment from a personal point of view about it. However, I do know owners who have had good results from it.
Even if you have a vet who is skilled in the use of general anaesthesia, its use in many cases must always be questioned. It should certainly never be used to carry out corrective dental work. Because of the refusal of the profession to learn modern non-anaesthetic techniques which have been used by me and people trained by the Cambridge Cavy Trust for fifteen years now, hundreds of guinea pigs, and other rodents, weak and debilitated by long-term dental malocclusion, die unnecessarily from the effects of the anaesthetic when this work is carried out by vets.
Most minor surgery such as lancing abscesses and sebaceous cysts can be safely performed without the use of an anaesthetic of any kind and without causing trauma to the animal. A great deal of minor surgery, including the removal of a stone from the end of a sow’s urethral tube can be carried out under local anaesthetic. Although it may be easier for a vet to perform surgery upon an inert animal under a general anaesthetic, with a little more effort and expertise on his or her part, the subsequent recovery of the patient can be greatly improved and sped up by sticking to locals.
Though I have been told that this can occur in sows I have only come across it in boars. It is mainly in old boars, though I have had a couple of cases where quite young ones have suffered from this condition. What we think is the cause is that the muscles at the opening of the perianal sac which push out the softer pellets, which are re-ingested as part of the guinea pig’s digestive process (see Coprophagy) are weakened and the pellets remain in the sac, forming a large lump. This is not a threat to the overall health of the animal providing that these lumps are removed on a daily basis. I find it is best to take them into the toilet, position them over the toilet seat and simply ease the lump out with gentle pressure from behind it. However, if you put the contents of the sac back into the hutch with the affected animal, the lump will often be eaten as part of the normal process of Coprophagy.
Sometimes a fungal infection can be caused by this condition so it is advisable to put some ALPHOSYL ointment or Aloe Vera gel into the sac as a preventative measure once a week.
Occasionally things return to normal but it is advisable to monitor animals that have suffered from this condition. I certainly keep a closer eye on all my boars as they get older so that I can intervene as soon as the problem is spotted.
These are great for allowing guinea pigs to get out onto the lawn during the summer and have a high old time grazing or lazing in the sun. Most are ark shaped in that they are triangular wooden frames covered by wire mesh and with one end left uncovered, which are placed onto the grass. Make sure that there is a sheltered area at one end to give the guinea pigs some shade from the sun.
There is one essential rule and it is that these should never be left unattended, or leastwise out of sight of owners. I have given up counting the number of times I have heard a distressed owner saying ‘I only left them for a minute,’ after telling me that a fox had made a meal of them.
Suburban foxes are a menace and take many pets and it is no good being wise after the event. PROTECT YOUR STOCK!
I love writing about this subject because I know how many conventional practitioners who know absolutely nothing about the subject, will curl their arrogant lips and sneer! There is nothing like a position of utter ignorance, particularly from professionals, to give the idea that they speak from a position of a superior knowledge base. Not being very bright they have not yet worked out that aromatherapy was not even on their curriculum so how can they pass judgement?
I have been using a combination of essential oils to tackle both fungal and parasitic skin problems in guinea pigs for many years now and even if I had access to veterinary medicines I would not switch to them.
I use lavender oil as a first class antiseptic. There is nothing to match it if a guinea pig has a nicely accessible sutured wound after surgery, out of which it is determined to remove the stitches before the wound is healed! Like most rodents they hate the odour and by painting the wound with the oil you are killing two birds with one stone, getting a good antiseptic on the wound and deterring the guinea pig from early stitch removal.
A dab of citronella oil on the rear end of any guinea pig will deter any flies from depositing their eggs and thus stop fly strike in its tracks.
Tea tree oil and Aloe Vera gel are both excellent for most fungal skin conditions.