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Heart Pigs, Guinea Pigs & Heart Problems 
15th-Aug-2008 05:33 pm
spider hole
"Heart disease in guinea pigs has become more and more common, but unfortunately it is not readily addressed in many text books." - William V. Ridgeway, Jr., D.V.M.

I really wanted to write about this to encourage anyone who suspects they may have a heart pig to get them checked out as soon as possible and DO NOT let them be sedated for x-rays or any other situation where treatment can be carried out while the pig is awake.

Rosie came down with symptoms that led us to believe she may have ovarian cysts. As things progressed though it became clear that Rosie was a heart pig and that even if there were other problems this had to be addressed first. Luckily Rosie is now okay and we have been able to treat those cysts too, but only after an emergency visit finally got her the drugs for her heart that she needed. If you suspect your pig may have heart troubles I urge you to get them checked out as soon as possible and that if they need medication to get them on it as soon as possible if not sooner.

When pigs die suddenly, maybe with what looks like no warning, often heart problems are the real cause. I urge every piggie owner to read over the symptoms and as ever, to make sure you have a real cavy savvy vet that will give correct medicines and who you can trust. Heart conditions are simply something that cannot wait!

Heart Pig Signs:
  • An early sign may be loss of energy, a tendency to move less
  • Finding it hard to breathe, gasping or shallow breathing too fast
  • Cough or wheezing
  • May produce a "hooting" sound
  • Repeatedly having upper respiratory infections (URIs)
  • Reduced activity, lethargy
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Malocclusion
  • Ear margins may become necrotic from poor circulation
  • Bluish or pale mucous membrane colour, the skin of the lips, nostrils especially (not visible on dark skinned pigs)
  • Difficulty coming around after being put under anaesthesia
  • Deep sleeping, easy to pick up (does not run away)
  • Fluid in the lungs - detected via stethoscope, can also cause crackling breathing
  • Enlarged heart on x-ray (an un-enlarged heart does not rule out heart trouble)

As with all guinea pig illness, one symptom is enough to raise suspicion!

Diagnostic tools include x-rays but as was the case with Rosie, sometimes these come back looking completely normal. The best way to diagnose or rule out heart problems with guinea pigs is to trial the heart medications. A period of at least 2 weeks is usually recommended, as most pigs do respond to treatment within a month. If heart problems are not the issue, being on the drugs for this small amount of time will do no harm.

The main difficulty arises in getting a vet to give you the heart medicines. Here in the UK, no medicines are actually approved for use with guinea pigs at all, and vets are of course almost always reluctant to listen to "some website" when in fact, Guinea Lynx is the best resource for guinea pigs in the world precisely because it isn't just "some website"! It is made up of rescuers, vet techs and owners who have had a lot of experience with ill guinea pigs and treatments, and who use the site to pool their knowledge.

It is imperative that you do not let your vet bully you out of getting these medicines, see a new vet if you must! I have seen too many pigs suffer or die because they have not got the meds they need fast enough. I waited too long a year ago and almost paid a terrible price.

It is imperative that you do not put off going to the vets if you feel something is not right. Remember that as prey animals guinea pigs are masterful at disguising the true extent of their discomfort, and many of us could never forgive ourselves if our delaying treatment had a costly mistake. Just this June, I put off a vet visit, and once more I almost paid the awful price.

( Rosie's Story (Full Length) )

References & Resources:

Guinea Lynx :: Heart
Guinea Lynx :: Rosie's thread

If you have a suspected heart pig please do not hesitate to join the Guinea Lynx forum and post in the Emergency and Medical Forum - that is where the REAL heart pig experts are, and I fully credit them with saving my Rosie's life at least twice now :)

If you are in the UK and need a reference for a vet that treats heart pigs to give to your own vet, please e-mail me and I am more than happy to help! :)

I apologise for the length, but I hope by providing all the info it will help all the heart piggies, both diagnosed and undiagnosed, and their owners out there!

[x-posted, fake cut to updated version]
15th-Aug-2008 06:59 pm (UTC)
Thanks for posting that. I lost a piggie to a stroke that a vet misdiagnosed so I know things get overlooked
15th-Aug-2008 07:41 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry to hear that :(

A lot of things with piggies get overlooked, but I'm hoping with all the recent care advancements that guinea pig medicine won't be too far behind.
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