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Ferdinand, the guinea pig we adopted from the humane society three years ago, is not doing so well.

We hurt him. It's such an awful story I didn't want to type it because I felt terrible about it. It started when we took him to Blessing of the Animals at church. It's this annual service we have where everyone brings their pets and it's so wonderful! There's a part of the service where you can take your pet up front for a blessing so I let Josie, age 5, carry him. I stayed REALLY close - I was paranoid, usually you don't do too much mixing of small kids with small pets because they can be dropped, stepped on, held too hard, etc. But she was doing awesome. She carried him up to the front, then we were walking back, then I felt like she was doing so great I didn't have to be right there with a hand on her, I could be like three feet away and not staring. And that's when he jumped out of her arms and fell to the hard floor. DAMMIT!

I've dropped a guinea pig before, I hurt Billy's leg once, but he got better. I felt terrible about it. Well even though Ferdinand was dropped from a much lower height he must have fallen wrong because he was hurt really bad. I scooped him up immediately and told all the people who saw it "look he's fine!" so THEY would all feel better - but I felt terrible.

And ferdinand was probably like "fuck your religion, assholes."

let's face it, I took him to show him off, I let my cute kid carry him because she's cute and I'm showing off everything, and he got hurt because of all that. I'm a terrible person. That's why this happened in October and I'm just now writing about it.

Ferdinand couldn't use his back legs at all. He was just army crawling around the pen. It was bad. This was Sunday, so on Monday we called the veterinarian. Our normal vet was booked but another one had an opening. I stayed home with the kids and marc went to the vet. I get this call from the marc. He says they want to x-ray ferdinand to see what's wrong. It's $230 for the xray.

Our other vet charges $80 so I was a bit taken aback by this, so was marc. He put me on the phone to talk with the vet. I asked what she was trying to diagnose with this xray - ferdinand is a guinea pig and there's not much we can do. She started saying how they'd be able to tell if surgery would fix it and I said "Okay STOP. There will be no surgery on the guinea pig." She explained that their xrays might sound expensive but they are looked at by a professional radiologist and it'll really help.

See again - my last vet was much more understanding, he'd lay out the options but say "But, you know, it's a guinea pig." I realize they are living creatures, and pets, and therefore I am prepared for some vet bills that are more than the $15 replacement cost of a guinea pig. But I will not spend thousands. I kept saying "what will this CHANGE, what course of action will you take based on the various things you could learn from this xray?" and there was no great answer, she just kept saying "We'll know what's wrong!"

I was frustrated but in the end I paid for the xray because this whole thing was my fault and I felt terrible and wanted my guilt to go away.

The xray showed nothing wrong. The vet said nothing looked broken, no spinal damage, maybe he'll magically get better.

So they sent him home with pain meds, just like what they would have done if we didn't get the xray.

Well it's been a month and he's not getting better. He still army crawls around the cage.

We had some friends over, they said you know you really can't tell, it looks like he's just lounging around and that's pretty much what guinea pigs do anyway. You know you shouldn't feel so bad, it's not like he was training for the tour de france and you ruined his dreams, he's a guinea pig. He sleeps and eats - just like he did before. He's just paralyzed now.

But Marc found him on his back yesterday, he couldn't roll himself over, he said it almost looked like he was twitching. We gave him more pain medicine. He gets really dirty from laying around in crap all day but cleaning stresses them out so I don't want to bathe him much.

I wonder if we should just have this guinea pig euthanized, or maybe that's what we should have done in the first place. He's eating well which is a sign that he's happy but how do we really know what's going on?

There are three reasons I say no to surgery on guinea pigs: first the expense. second they have a 5-8 year lifespan, Ferdinand is probably 4-5 years old so how much longer will he live anyway? third I just don't think it's nice to put a small creature through the recovery of a major medical procedure just to make ourselves feel better.

but I don't feel good about the decision to kill him either. I don't know how to tell with this. It's just not good.

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( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 27th, 2015 04:23 pm (UTC)
I'm so sorry about this. I understand just how you feel. I guess I would try to find an appointment with your usual vet [the reasonable one] and if not... maybe put Ferdinand to sleep. The first vet didn't seem to be able to find anything wrong so I don't think I would go back to them.

Nov. 27th, 2015 04:35 pm (UTC)
I agree with call_me_katya; make an appointment with your regular vet. This isn't an emergency so you can wait for an opening. It sounds like he's someone who will lay things out realistically.

It's a little odd the vet, finding no breaks or the like, didn't send you home with some anti-inflammatories in case there is swelling in the spinal cord. Unless piggies can't take those.

I'm sorry you're having to deal with this. It's not your fault it's just... shitty events.
Nov. 27th, 2015 04:58 pm (UTC)
I think you are right to think about the quality of life of if he had any surgery, how much it would help versus recovery time and estimated lifespan. I think for any animals (even humans) that's how it should be approached, as clinical and awful as it my sound.

I am really sorry for you and the guinea pig, and your children. Not an easy choice no matter what one you go with.
Nov. 27th, 2015 05:12 pm (UTC)
Definitely see your own vet before you make any decisions. Quality of life is what I would want to take into account before having him euthanized, too. Pain would be a deciding factor for me. If he's just having mobility problems, but seems happy otherwise, and vet says he's okay in general, I'd think twice about my choices for him. My vet wanted to do an ekg on my cat, because he said she has a heart murmur, and it will tell how bad it is. And then what? Open-heart surgery? Pacemaker? What does he think he's going to do for her? Seriously, she's a cat, she's sixteen, she's just as active as ever, and he just wants to line his pockets, I think. My Simon had cancer, and there were a lot of things I could have done to prolong his life, but he wasn't happy, and kind of told me when he was ready to go. I have never regretted not doing more. Quality of life. It's most important. We should consider that for humans, too, in my opinion. I once tossed Simon on the bed cause he loved that, and he hurt his leg. Turned out it had been damaged before I ever knew him, and had just kind of slipped out of joint a bit and then self-corrected. This was years ago, and I still feel a bit guilty when I think about it. It wasn't my fault, but still, you have such power over them, it seems like everything must be your doing, even when it's not. Sorry, to go on. Just got me thinking and remembering and inflicting it on you. :)
Nov. 27th, 2015 05:48 pm (UTC)
Have you seen any evidence of Ferdinand moving his rear legs or his tail at all since the incident? Like, if you try tickling the pads of his feet will he kick at all?
Xrays are nice and all but they don't show everything, especially not on a very tiny animal, and what you're describing sure sounds like spinal damage.
Poor Ferdinand. What a lousy situation.
Nov. 27th, 2015 05:49 pm (UTC)
It was my experience with guineas that no amount of care could really prevent them from jumping to their doom at some point or another. It sucks that it happened, but I'll make the case that it was probably going to happen anyway, just at a different time.
Nov. 27th, 2015 06:48 pm (UTC)
Wait, you made a nice comment and did not offer to build a guinea pig wheel chair. Are you feeling okay?
Nov. 27th, 2015 10:46 pm (UTC)
Huh. Come to think of it you can 3d print those nowadays. Doesn't help so much with the laying on back and twitching tho.
Nov. 28th, 2015 01:24 am (UTC)
Could prevent the flipping over process, though, depending on wheelbase.
Nov. 28th, 2015 01:26 am (UTC)
Out of curiosity, which is the part that makes you wonder: that I made a nice comment? or that I forgot about how much I'd like to make a mini wheelchair? I even have the right bearing races for such a setup. I popped a couple hundred micro bearings out of 1/4" industrial tape cassettes when I was scrapping them for their aluminum backplates.
Nov. 28th, 2015 01:43 am (UTC)
I was just expected that engineering a solution to a problem would be your first choice.
Nov. 28th, 2015 02:31 am (UTC)
Oh, whew, okay, that's excellent. That's exactly how I'd like to surprise people.
Nov. 29th, 2015 08:07 pm (UTC)
That is in and of itself pretty awesome. I'm assuming industrial tape cassettes are different from the ones we are all familiar with for Walkmen.
Nov. 29th, 2015 08:43 pm (UTC)
Yeah, these were for 1970's tape backups, about the size of a paperback book. When hewlett packard moved over to a newer backup system they filled many dumpsters with retired tapes and my father brought home as many as he could fit in the trunk of the car.
Nov. 27th, 2015 06:31 pm (UTC)
Awww (hugs). You know, if I had a guinea pig and a 5 year old I would have done the same thing (Taken it to church, let the kid carry it...) I don't think you're an awful person.

But if you think his quality of life seems diminished then it makes sense to euthanize him at this point. If he can get around his cage, eat, and doesn't seem in pain, maybe wait. But if he seems in pain, can't move around, etc., then it is probably the kind thing to do.
Nov. 27th, 2015 07:50 pm (UTC)
Much sympathy on a tough situation and decision.

Also, you seem to have a spammer issue.
Nov. 28th, 2015 12:08 am (UTC)
Small rodents have a propensity to leap without looking. It sounds like nothing you or your daughter did caused his injurious break for freedom. He just did a Guinea pig thing and even in adult hands they can be slippery buggers when they want!

I imagine the painkillers are NSAIDs that have anti-inflammatory properties, which might help reduce inflammation that might be causing a problem. Does he move better after the painkillers?

I went through some of the same both with my older dog and the filly we had to put down last year. My dog, starting at 14 had liver enzyme weirdness and they were talking about ultrasounds ($300+!!!) and then what? We did liver supplements for almost two years, which did help until the last month just before she turned 16. Our filly wasn't quite four and a half and was supposed to be my fancy dressage and driving horse, which she had grown to be lovely and fancy, She came up with lack of appetite and an elevated heart rate. By the time we were done with diagnosis we learned she had heart failure and there was nothing we could do but keep her comfortable as long as possible, or let her go before her quality of life was compromised further because it was only going to get worse. I had been hoping for another 20-30 years with her so the extra diagnostic testing to see if there was something we could do was worth every penny.

I think expected longevity plays into such decisions as well. A young animal with something that could be fixed and provide years of quality life after treatment is one thing, an older animal where you are adding a huge stress and are looking at maybe month or so where they have a chance of improvement is another. After losing two animals in less than six months, one at the start of her life and the other at the end I've come to believe it is better to let them go too soon than too late. It sucks and is hard, but you have to decide what is best for their quality of life.
Nov. 28th, 2015 08:10 pm (UTC)
I totally support the "euthanize and lie" protocol. Here's the way I think of it; spending $200 on a guinea pig is excessive because of what $200 could buy in reducing much worse suffering in human beings, say, in Africa. If I felt guilty about not spending the money, I'd send it to the Heifer Project and buy some family a few goats and really change their lives. Point the second: all creatures want to live, but only human beings have this exquisite fear of death that makes it so terrible. Okay, maybe chimpanzees and dolphins do, but how could we know? As far as pets go, they don't know it is coming, so the choice isn't to frighten them with death or not, it's to decide whether to end their suffering.

As you can tell, I've been in your position many times. I think if you observe Ferdinand carefully over a few days or weeks, you'll be able to figure out what his quality of life is.

Actually, the job we take on when we have children - to sometimes give them pain for a greater good, as you learn with that first horrible round of vaccinations - is not too much different from the euthanasia question. You're bigger so you have to make the decision, but that's what you signed up for.
Nov. 29th, 2015 04:51 am (UTC)
My sympathies: i hope you find the way forward that expresses compassion to your self, your family, and Ferdinand.
Nov. 29th, 2015 04:11 pm (UTC)

So hard.  We had an issue with our 11 year old cat and we put him down after a few thousand. He was MY first pet and i wanted to do everything i could. He had a ulcer? On his leg. Never figured out if that was exactly what it was but nothing worked to fix it. He was oozing and bloody all over our furniture. We were young and starting our life so we had to call it. Sorry you're going through this

Nov. 29th, 2015 06:29 pm (UTC)

So hard.  We had an issue with our 11 year old cat and we put him down after a few thousand. He was MY first pet and i wanted to do everything i could. He had a ulcer? On his leg. Never figured out if that was exactly what it was but nothing worked to fix it. He was oozing and bloody all over our furniture. We were young and starting our life so we had to call it. Sorry you're going through this.

Nov. 29th, 2015 08:14 pm (UTC)
I'm honestly thinking their professional radiologist wasn't particularly useful. Dealing with your own vet is a start, and bringing the existing X-rays. If the pain pills weren't anti inflammatory then trying antiinflammatories might help. Twitching on the back not so good, though. Loved the prior post - are there still 3 others? Sounds callous, but is less of a hit on the kids if not the only one. And really cool that they get yard time.
Nov. 30th, 2015 05:59 am (UTC)
I think the only thing I'd add to the above is that I strongly recommend using an exotics vet if you aren't already.
Nov. 30th, 2015 10:02 am (UTC)
One of the great things about humans is that we can reflect back on past actions and lean from them, and what's more, we can also learn from others' mistakes.

I would like to thank you for sharing this story with us so that we can learn from it. As another commenter has said, I would have probably have done the same thing in that situation (letting my 5 year old hold the guinea pig), but now that I have read this I wouldn't. So although you may not be able to help Ferdinand, your report of your experience may help prevent similar accidents happening to other small animals.

I admire your courage in telling us about this.
( 24 comments — Leave a comment )

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