Lenny - Severe tongue injury

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Post   » Tue Dec 06, 2022 5:07 pm

Lenny is an approximately 3 year old male short haired Guinea pig that was adopted with his 2 male cage mates almost one month ago from my local SPCA. The trio have been in and out of local shelters since being abandoned at a pet store in October of 2021.

I’ve only had them about 3.5 weeks, but they seemingly get along well. They’re in a large C&C, no one way hides and I haven’t seen any concerning behaviours. I know boar trios are notoriously tricky and not something I would attempt on my own, so I have been keeping a close eye on them.

On Saturday night I noticed around Lenny’s mouth looked a little dirty, but he had just been eating pellets and drinking. He ate veggies normally and I didn’t investigate further. However, on Sunday morning he had drool coming from one side of his mouth, that side of the lower jaw was swollen and he wasn’t chewing correctly. The only emergency vet accepting exotics was too busy to see him, so I gave him Metacam and kept a close eye on him.

I was able to get him into my regular vet first thing Monday morning and it looks like he has a severe bite to his tongue and inside in his bottom lip. There’s nothing sharp in his cage he could have accessed and he hasn’t had any access to wires or cords so the vet is thinking he must have gotten in a scuffle with a cagemate. His tongue is swollen, and he doesn’t seem to be able to move the front top portion of it. His molars looked great, so it’s not a malocclusion issue. Infection had already set in and he had an odour coming from his mouth. The vet cleaned it as well as she could and he is on antibiotics and metacam with a recheck in 2 weeks.

The vets main concern is that since he doesn’t seem to have much movement in a portion of his tongue she’s worried it may become necrotic and die, either coming out on its own or requiring surgery to remove a portion of it. I’ll do whatever necessary to keep him happy and healthy but is there any quality of life if he loses half his tongue? I’m not sure how that would affect eating long term or if I could be setting him for a life of dental issues. I know it’s such an obscure injury, but would appreciate any input or feedback if anyone has experienced something similar. These boys have had such a rough life and I just want them to enjoy the rest of their years.

And got the T-shirt

Post   » Tue Dec 06, 2022 6:36 pm

That's a tough one. I'm so sorry.

I have no idea what life would be like for a guinea pig with only half a tongue, but I can't imagine that it could be good. I can't even imagine tongue surgery on such a small animal. The tongue is a very vascular organ, and it would undoubtedly be very easy for a pig to bleed to death during that kind of surgery. I can't even google up any instances of guinea pig tongue surgery, although your vet could probably find something on VIN (Veterinary Information Network).

I'd want to know from the vet if she's ever done tongue surgery on a pig, and what the outcome was.


Post   » Tue Dec 06, 2022 8:00 pm

Thank you for the input and it’s honestly along the lines with what I was thinking myself. In my bit of research I haven’t found anything remotely similar to what I’m experiencing.

My vet does a lot of work with exotics and I very much trust her judgement. She’s done some basic surgeries on some of my other pigs, always with good results, but she was upfront that she hadn’t seen an injury quite like this ever before. I imagine that if that’s something we proceed with it would very much be experimental.

I’m hoping I’m getting ahead of myself though. He’s only been on antibiotics for a day. He’s eating well and is behaving perfectly normally today. My fingers are crossed he’s able to make a full recovery.

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Post   » Tue Dec 06, 2022 9:08 pm

bpatters has a medical background and offers good advice. On the positive side, the injury did not cause so much bleeding that there was loss of life.

I can say, animals can be resilient. I could imagine your guinea pig adapting to this (of course, it also depends on severity). I hope the infection can be brought under control. What antibiotics was your guinea pig prescribed?

I imagine you are now weighing daily and making sure he's getting enough food? Maintaining weight is important.


Post   » Wed Dec 07, 2022 9:31 am

Lenny is currently on Baytril twice a day, as well as metacam twice a day. I’m giving probiotics too, but he seems to be tolerating the antibiotics well so far.

Weirdly enough I never saw any blood. He’s a PEW and there wasn’t blood anywhere on him. Plus when the injury would have occurred they were on a light blue fleece set and I never saw any blood when cleaning.

I am definitely keeping an eye on his weight. So far it’s completely stable. He’s able to eat hay and pellets, he just occasionally makes the odd mouth movement. I’ve been taking him out in the evenings and giving him his portion of veggies cut into longer slivers so he can eat easier.

This morning his tongue is much less swollen but he still doesn’t seem to have much movement of it. The odour is decreased as well. He always seems to have a little food debris in the front of his mouth because I think with the loss of tongue movement he has issues moving food around in his mouth. I’ve been offering some water by syringe a few times a day too because I’m concerned he’s going to have difficulty drinking without proper tongue movement.

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Post   » Wed Dec 07, 2022 10:17 pm

So glad the odor is decreasing. To me, this is a sign the infection is coming under control. I wonder if stitches are ever put in tongues?

What you describe, I wonder if you could gently and carefully flush that area of the mouth? It would be a balance of not getting a bunch of water down his throat but moving some of the food particles out of the way - and perhaps flushing out dead tissue. If you had a person to help hold him with his head down (to get the water to drain out), that might help.

Keep a watch on things. You might ask your vet if any flushing of the mouth would be a good idea.


Post   » Thu Dec 08, 2022 6:58 pm

So Lenny has unfortunately lost the front portion of his tongue. I’m not quite sure how far back it goes. But the swollen, immobile and dead portion at the front is gone.

I called my vet this morning to get her opinion or to see if she wanted to see him sooner but she didn’t think it is was immediately necessary. She was honest that there likely isn’t much that can be done other than to wait and see, especially as it seems the infection is going away. She says I can try gently flushing, but to be very careful not to use too much water too fast.

His weight has gone up a bit and he is eating normally. I don’t see him at the water bottles, but he willingly drinks a few mls 3 times a day. Plus just because I haven’t spied him drinking doesn’t mean he isn’t doing it while I’m not around.

The only real change I’ve noticed is he has more saliva in his mouth. I wouldn’t call it drooly, but his mouth always seems to be a little wet at the front. There’s no more odour from his mouth though and he seems to be doing well. He was popcorning around earlier and sleeping all spread out in a fleece bed, so he appears comfortable.

He’s on baytril and metacam until our recheck on the 19th. Thankfully so far it seems like he’s able to function with the change.

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Post   » Thu Dec 08, 2022 9:44 pm

These are all encouraging signs. I imagine the additional drooliness has to do with it being more difficult to reroute saliva.

We are hoping you'll continue to post about him and how he is doing. If you have an opportunity to get a photo of his mouth and tongue (perhaps at one of your vet visits - or a friend or family member could help you), I would be happy to add it to your topic.

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I dissent.

Post   » Thu Dec 08, 2022 10:28 pm

Agree, I would be cautiously optimistic as well. Do keep us posted.

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