After Cedric had lost a lot of weight and I thought I was literally seeing him die before my eyes, we took him to the vet. The vet checked him very carefully (although we weren’t in the room because of Covid, of course). He said his teeth were a bit uneven and had got sharp, which would make it uncomfortable to eat. So while he was definitely still eating, he probably wasn’t eating as much of the denser foods which he needs to keep his weight stable.
So he was given THREE types of medication – a painkiller, an antibiotic for any possible infection in the mouth and a high calorie feed to help him regain weight. If his weight stabilised, he would go back in two weeks to have his teeth done. If his weight continued to fall, he would have to go back sooner.
The consultation and the meds cost £104, which was a bit of a nightmare. And we knew it was going to cost more in a couple of weeks too. I will pay what it takes, but my husband is uneasy about spending that sort of money.
Getting a guinea pig to take medication is very difficult. All of the medication came with a syringe, but getting him to stay still and not clamp his teeth was a nightmare. For the first round of medication, I held him and my husband, daughter and younger son all had a go at giving him the medicine. We definitely lost more than he took. And his weight had fallen to just 1003g by this point.
I watched a video on how to give medication. We wrapped him in a towel to stop him struggling as much and tried hard to get the syringe further into his mouth. We learned from the video that a guinea pig has a surprisingly deep mouth, so there’s no problem with getting the syringe back a long way. In fact, you need to get it back a long way to prevent it dribbling back out. The process took half an hour and it was a real struggle. The technique on the video certainly wasn’t a miracle for us initially. The good news is that he definitely took all of the antibiotic, but we still managed to lose quite a lot of the high calorie stuff. We really couldn’t afford to lose any more.
After that, giving medication got easier. It was much quicker and I was happy that he was taking all of it.
Cedric was enjoying eating fresh grass, which I imagine was the most gentle thing on his mouth – compared to hay, nuggets or carrots. So I was cutting it regularly for him and putting it in the hutch. Although Henry was of course taking far more than his fair share. The day after he went to the vet’s, it felt like Cedric was eating all day. Along with the grass, he managed a bit of hay, a couple of slice of pepper and some grated carrot. I really felt he’d turned a corner and was getting back on track.
My husband and son had reminded me that a vet had never cured a guinea pig before, but I felt that this time they were wrong. Before we knew it, he would be feeling better and gaining weight. He would be well enough to have his teeth done.
But the next day he was noticeably quieter and eating significantly less. My husband told me that the medicine had probably done little more than give me a few extra days with him. Which made me cry. I’d already cried so much over the last few days.
I was sure he wouldn’t be with us in the morning.
But he was. He still took his medication. He was still moving around a bit, eating a bit and drinking a bit. But it wasn’t enough. His weight was down to 985g – another 18g lost in three days, despite the medication.
I knew I was watching him die. I wanted him to get his teeth done, even if he was weak. I figured that if I was going to lose him anyway, I might as well take the risk and try to get him fixed.
Because of the cost of the initial (chain) vet, we took him to a local vet which is based with an animal charity. They charged a third of what we’d been quoted by the chain vet to do his teeth. I was very happy with the care they gave him and I brought home a guinea pig who was sleepy, but definitely still alive. He even ate a few blades of grass and drank a little bit of water.
But the next day he was still sleepy and was literally turning away from the grass he was offered (and he definitely wouldn’t eat anything else!). So I took him back to the vet AGAIN. When I told him how Cedric was turning away from his food, he was concerned. But, when he’d examined him, he described him as ‘spirited’ and confirmed that he’d still got some fight left in him. All we had to do was keep giving him his medication and increase the regularity of the recovery food they’d given. I had to syringe feed it to him every hour as much as possible. He wasn’t drinking either and, after chasing him around with his water bottle several times, I realised that the best option was to syringe feed him water too.
Our guinea pigs have never eaten banana, but the vet recommended it as a good recovery food. So my eldest mashed up some banana and we gave him several syringe feeds of banana a day too. It was pretty intense. Both my eldest and my husband were very supportive, but spending 15 minutes out of every hour syringe feeding a guinea pig is exhausting.
He wasn’t getting any better. But he wasn’t getting any worse either.
I was reassured by a tweet from a fellow guinea pig owner who said she’d syringe fed a guinea pig for a week and she survived. My eldest even read online about people doing it for a month. It said that their stomachs had basically shut down and they needed intervention to start functioning normally again, which made a lot of sense.
I stopped thinking I was going to wake him and find him dead. I believed he could recover with enough help from us.
At his official follow-up appointment, the vet agreed with me. So I will be syringe feeding Cedric for as long as it takes. I’m hoping at some point soon he will start to eat and drink of his own accord, so that we can gradually reduce the feeds we give him.
And, if the worst does happen, at least I will know that we did everything we could for him.
Sadly, just hours after this post was published, my beloved Cedric passed away. I will write a post very soon about what a special guinea pig he was.