Heart condition - did I miss the warning signs?

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Post   » Sun Jun 23, 2024 5:28 am

We tragically lost one of our guinea pigs, Mija, this week who was PTS after developing a heart condition and failing to respond to treatment.

I keep on thinking I missed critical signs and could/should have intervened earlier, potentially extending her life.

We take our guinea pigs for a monthly basic health check by the lady who runs the main rescue in this region. She looks at their teeth, checks for lumps and bumps and spotted signs of ovarian cysts in one of our other pigs, who was successfully operated on recently. The last time she saw Mija was on 2 June and she didn't notice anything untoward.

On the evening of 10 June we noticed Mija seemed to be having difficulty breathing. We took her to the vet next day - the practice is owned by an exotics specialist, but sadly we couldn't see him on the day. The junior vet diagnosed a respiratory infection and prescribed Loxicom and Enrocare.

Mija seemed to rally over the next couple of days but declined markedly again on the evening of the 16th, and I had to take her to the out-of-hours emergency vet on the 17th where she was put in an oxygen tank, given an x-ray and a heart condition was diagnosed (suspected DCM). She was prescribed Frusol and Pimobendan and saw the exotics specialist the next day who increased the dose of Frusol. She didn't seem to respond and a call to the vet 12 hrs later, which led to an even higher dose of Frusol, didn't change the trajectory. She was PTS a couple of days later.

I'm kicking myself for a few things- while the physical exam on the 2nd showed nothing unusual, I had noticed over preceding days that she'd been slower and on a few occasions she'd been sitting exposed open in the cage - unusual for her- but I attributed that to ageing (she was nearly four-and-a-half).

I also wonder if the misdiagnosis of a respiratory infection lost us critical time or am I playing an unproductive blame game here?

Finally, we hadn't been keeping track of her weight religiously but she was a chunky piggie at her peak, perhaps a bit overweight, so I felt a modest decline would be if anything a good thing.

Did we miss anything significant over the last month or so? Are there lessons to be learned for managing our other piggies going forwards?

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Post   » Mon Jun 24, 2024 9:54 am

I am so sorry for the loss of your guinea pig, Mija.

I also wonder if the misdiagnosis of a respiratory infection lost us critical time or am I playing an unproductive blame game here?

It is so easy to slip into "what if". We do our best to care for our guinea pigs - and each one brings us more knowledge to use going forward.

If you read the heart page (https://www.guinealynx.info/heart.html), you will note that in some cases a history of respiratory infections can indicate heart issues. It doesn't sound like that was the case for Mija.

I can only recommend more regular weighings and continuing to be generally observant of all your pets.

The emergency page may be helpful in the future.

You can quote me

Post   » Mon Jun 24, 2024 4:28 pm

We've had several 'heart pigs'. In general, there are signs and symptoms noticeable for weeks or months prior to any severe event (primarily what we call 'hooting' and noticeable lethargy or decreased activity) ... not days or hours. My instinct is that there was nothing noticeable or egregious that you missed.

You sound like an extremely good, competent, careful and observant owner. She may have had a genetic predisposition to heart compromise or flaw. Ditto Lynx' suggestions, but in our experience treatable heart conditions give a bit more warning than this.

Godspeed and safe passage to Mija. She will be loved and remembered. Blessings to you and all your pigs.


Post   » Mon Jun 24, 2024 5:12 pm

Thanks Lynx and Talishan.

I've been doom scrolling through my camera roll and pondering those pictures I took of Mija pancaked in the middle of the cage a couple of weeks ago. In retrospect the lethargy was probably significant but I just missed it completely. I was utterly complacent.

But as you say, evidently her condition was very serious and the lack of response to increasing doses of Frusol in the final week perhaps indicates it was a hopeless case.

Mija was a beautiful, affectionate and much-loved guinea pig. Her death has left me utterly broken-hearted, but perhaps grief is the inevitable price we all pay for loving our pets.

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Post   » Tue Jun 25, 2024 3:05 pm

You have all our sympathy. Many of us know this pain.

I hope in time the good memories outweigh the pain of your loss.


Post   » Tue Jun 25, 2024 5:55 pm

What's shocked me is how a guinea pig can go from seemingly fine to terminally ill in just a fortnight. As a novice owner (we first got our piggies in 2021, and we were extremely naive at the time) this has just been absolutely flabbergasting and frankly scary.

I've lost confidence in whether we're providing the right environment, food, healthcare, enrichment, air quality, you name it.

Quite apart from my own grief, I'm mindful that what remains of our herd - just a pair now - is much less active and noisy since we lost Mija. Our remaining pigs seem depressed and lethargic preferring to hide away most of the time. I miss the fun and chat of just a few weeks ago; I miss the chaos.

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Post   » Tue Jun 25, 2024 7:08 pm

If you are at all worried about them (you mentioned lethargy) you might want to start weighing them daily right now.

Weighing at least once a week is highly recommended (I added a link the the weigh page in a post above).

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