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Does anyone here have a *positive* story to share about a piggy spay?… 
16th-Jan-2009 04:00 pm
Does anyone here have a *positive* story to share about a piggy spay? For ovarian cysts or otherwise? The internet is an abundant source of horror stories and warnings, and believe me, I've read them and I take them seriously. But I am trying to get all sides of the issue, and am wondering if anyone has had a piggy go through this operation successfully and what factors they took into consideration when deciding to have the operation done.

Little Piggy had a routine check-up yesterday and her doctor felt a mass (it was not palpable last year, so while we don't know that it wasn't there before, it certainly was not this size before). She was sedated (she responded well to the medication and would have the same medication given if she has the surgery) and given an ultrasound, which showed one large cyst on one ovary and a smaller cyst on the other, for which her vet has recommended an ovario-hysterectomy. She said that injections are sometimes given, but this is not a permanent fix and, given Piggy's good health and relative youth, she could be subjected to getting these injections for a relatively long while (which she felt was undesirable).

Her bloodwork all came back fine, apart from elevated fibrin levels indicating inflammation (which the doctor believes is related to the cysts - her white blood cell count is fine, so she does not suspect infection).

Piggy is no more than three and healthy otherwise. She hasn't shown any indication of pain, no weight or hair loss, etc., that one might look for with cysts. She has a mild heart murmur - the ultrasound did not show any "glaring problems," but she would have a consultation with the cardiologist prior to any surgery. She also does not show any signs of having this murmur (apart from the doctor hearing it) - her energy is good, her lungs are clear and sound strong, etc.

The vet hospital she goes to is a part of a very good veterinary school (I've read it's the "best in the country," but I don't know the criteria). They are very comfortable and familiar with cavy spays. The vet says it is not an urgent decision (we have another pig who has a more pressing condition, which the vet says, if we're going to deal with one at a time, should be addressed first).

This hospital is a part of a university and is non-profit and I am confident that this doctor truly feels this operation is in Piggy's best interest (in other words, she isn't trying to make money off of us through this surgery). We are not concerned about the cost, but she said if we were, we could look at having it done by a local vet for less (the hospital in question is a town over from us), which also leads me to believe she is motivated by concern for Piggy, rather than for profit (I mention this only because I have read of vets wanting to do operations just to make some more money).

If Piggy does have the surgery, we will have it done at the vet hospital, as they are familiar with her case and her history, I am impressed by their facilities and by their thoroughness, demeanor, and expertise in guinea pigs. The vet has spent a lot of time with us, very patiently answering our questions, and she and everyone else we have seen there has been as respectful of us and our guinea pigs and bunnies as one would expect a great doctor and hospital to be of human patients and their families. The vet we have been seeing will perform the operation, but senior vet students will also be present and assist with the operation. Piggy can eat up until the time she is anesthetized and once she is awake enough, she will be given food again.

I am very nervous and hesitant (okay, frankly, I am scared to death of losing my sweet baby), but I don't know if I trust my gut (which says "No surgery. Just cuddle up with Piggy in the bed and stay like this forever.") on this. I am a very nervous sort anyway - I get scared when my husband so much as picks up our bunnies to put them into their carrier because I envision them flipping out and hurting themselves, etc.

Anyway, just looking for some insight and hopefully someone who has been through this before can help me out.


p.s. Our other girl is spayed, but this was done before we got her from the rescue. Her spay was an emergency spay, so I've always seen spays on piggies as something to be done only in a life-or-death situation. Piggy is not dying, she is quite vibrant, so that is where most of my hesitation comes from.
17th-Jan-2009 02:11 am (UTC)
We had two spays with no real problems with each. I mean, one of ours had to go back to the vet for more serious pain meds than they sent us home with. The other one, they could only get out half the tumor, but the spay part was fine and if the tumor had stopped growing she would have been fine. The one who had to go back for more meds got rid of all her tumor and is still alive (just turned five).
17th-Jan-2009 05:24 am (UTC)
i'm sorry they weren't able to get all of her tumor out. =(

thank you for sharing your story with me.
17th-Jan-2009 02:26 am (UTC)
The rescue to the north of us (Cave Spring) spays all their piggies, and all the pigs I've dealt with from there have been fat and sassy and love lived. :)
17th-Jan-2009 05:23 am (UTC)
that's great to know! thanks!
17th-Jan-2009 05:00 am (UTC)
Cuddles (the pig in my icon) got spayed at 3 and was just fine. Be sure to get Metacam or Rimadyl for pain meds, and keep her confined in a very small space so she doesn't tear the sutures.

The cyst on ultrasound:

Cuddles in her recovery carrier:

The first post-spay poops may be funny shaped, but as long as there's lots of them it's fine:
17th-Jan-2009 05:02 am (UTC)
Incision, day 1:

A week later:
17th-Jan-2009 05:23 am (UTC)
wow, thank you so much! it must've been nice to see her little face after she woke up, too!
17th-Jan-2009 02:24 pm (UTC)
Every spay has a risk, and for me that risk was too great. I have three piggies on hormone injections for ovarian cyst problems and all are doing great. They are all around 2 years old and while two of them are good candidates for spaying I feel that I will not take the risk unless the hormone injections stop working.

Sometimes repeat courses are necessary but the periods in between have been 6 weeks at worst, and over 6 months and counting at best. The guinea pig rescue near me declines spays whenever possible and has had many cystic sows live to a ripe old age on the hormone treatment when necessary :)
17th-Jan-2009 05:33 pm (UTC)
hmmm...i really value your opinion (i mean, i value the opinion of everyone who has replied, but i've followed your girls' stories here and on guinea lynx, as well).

i am wondering why piggy's vet didn't recommend trying the shots first. piggy doesn't have any "symptoms" of cysts - just what the doctor felt and then saw with the ultrasound and her elevated fibrin levels. we only took her in for a check-up, and didn't expect that anything would be "wrong" with her. do vets usually suggest the shots as a first measure? is there any possibility that one course of the shots might fix the cysts altogether? we are still planning an appointment for piggy before making any decisions regarding the surgery, so that we can talk to the cardiologist about her murmur and we will talk to her vet then as well about these shots and ask why they weren't presented as a first option.

17th-Jan-2009 08:52 pm (UTC)
Typically vets don't suggest the shots first, I felt very pushed into getting all my girls spayed by my local vets. It was only when I switched to a vet who lives further away and sees all the local rescues guinea pigs that I had a vet who would even suggest the shots before I did! I first went to see him to get Rosie spayed as I did not trust my local vets and he was highly recommended. I was a complete state and when he told me that we could try shots instead of surgery because of her heart risks I could have kissed him! The success with Rosie and this good vets advice led us to go with shots for both Brie and Frisky as well.

The reason the shots are not usually promoted is because very rarely do they not need repeated. It gets rid of the cysts that are there but does not prevent the same thing from happening again, and sows with cystic ovaries are likely to get more cysts. How long a course lasts for will vary and I do have one girl who has only had the one course and never showed another problem yet. I know that my local vets did not rate them purely because they work out as being more expensive than a spay and they assumed guinea pig owners would not want to spend more money on their little pets o_O

I am at the stage now where I wholeheartedly support hormone therapy as a first option. Firstly in older or problem pigs because their surgery risk is greater, but also with younger pigs as then if the therapy is unsuccessful a spay can still take place. The only time I would go straight to a spay is when the cysts are at risk of bursting and are too large. All the cysts that the girlie pigs have had at their initial diagnosis have been about pea sized which is fairly big but not too far advanced.

At one point I was ready to give up as the local vets were so unsupported and hinted that I was being a bad owner by getting my Brie repeated courses instead of spaying her but my good vet reassured me and got me to stick with the hormone therapy for a while longer. The shortest it ever worked for was 6 weeks which was really hard going on us all, but after a couple more courses the gaps have extended a lot. I'm glad I hung in there!

I know of plenty of pigs who go through spays absolutely fine, and certainly on Guinea Lynx and most good guinea pig websites people always seem happy to push the spay option but for me the risk was too great and I went with my gut feeling. I figure that if the therapies stop working I will go for the spay and then if anything goes wrong I'll know that I did all I could. I'm sure there are other owners who would criticise my decision but I just can't put my girls through a spay until absolutely needed, the thought of losing them terrifies me too much.

I'm not trying to say don't spay her, just that I chose a different path for what sounds like the same reasons :) I would say though that if Piggy does have any kind of heart problem of any kind, I would be especially wary of surgery. Rosie is my heart pig and I know from my good vet and from Guinea Lynx that surgery needs to be avoided wherever possible as most of the risk of surgery comes from the anaesthesia which is dangerous for any irregularity of the heart.

I would definitely bring up any questions you have about hormone therapy at your next appointment as it's good to discuss all options either way :)
17th-Jan-2009 09:08 pm (UTC)
thank you so much, again. i really appreciate your time and insight. i will share all of this info with my husband and we will also be speaking again (surely, several times) with the vet as well as the cardiologist.

fortunately, there does not seem to be a rush in deciding, and it doesn't seem like it would hurt to take the time to explore these different options.

thank you thank you thank you!

please, give my regards to your little ones!
7th-Dec-2009 06:44 am (UTC)
I just joined this group, and was just wondering.how often is this issue w/ female pigs?
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