Saturday, August 20, 2016

Giving Guinea Pigs Injections

Hi there, readers. Broccoli here with some news about Buffy, who hasn't been feeling like herself lately, but asked me to give you all an update on her behalf. So as you know, her health has not been great ever since the vet found that uterine mass back in November, but despite this, she's been doing better than expected with the implants, medicines and Critical Care. A couple days ago, the humans noticed that there was still blood in her urine, her weight was really low (even for her), and she even lost her balance and fell over (which is a new symptom for her). The humans then took her in the vet as soon as possible.

The vet observed her for a couple hours and ran some tests, including an X-ray. The X-ray showed that her mass has grown large enough that it's actually pushing on her other organs. In particular, it's been pushing on her bladder, which has led to the formation of some small bladder stones that they think she would have easily passed if not for the pressure. And, as a result of the pain of the bladder stones, she's been sucking in more air, which is leading to gas and causing more discomfort. As for the loss of balance, it sounded like it was due to muscle weakness in her hind legs (rather than a seizure than the humans initially feared), which might be related to dehydration.

The vet was honestly surprised that Buffy was doing so well under these circumstances; they said most guinea pigs would have lost interest in eating and most likely had to be put down. However, since Buffy has defied expectations already and still seems to be enjoying a reasonably-good quality of life, they felt it was reasonable to continue treatment. When asked about life expectancy at this point, the vet said it was hard to say because Buffy is "one in a million", that is, most pigs wouldn't have survived with a mass this large as it is, and she could have anywhere from a few days to several months left.

Given her current situation, the vet recommended she remain on Tramadol (for pain) and Cisapride (for GI concerns), but also made some changes to her medicine regimen. First, they increased the amount of Critical Care  by 10 ml per day to help get her weight up. Second, they added Simethicone, an anti-gas medicine, to her daily routine. Third, they got her back on Enrofloxacin, an antibiotic, to make sure she doesn't get an infection, as bladder stones can be jagged. Fourth, they got her back on Meloxicam to control pain and inflammation. Fifth, they added Lactated Ringer's Solution to her daily regimen. According to Guinea Lynx, "Fluid therapy can buy time while your ill pig is responding to antibiotics. Subcutaneous Injection of fluids helps to rehydrate your pet."

Now, that fifth one is something new and different from how the humans usually give us medicine. Usually, the humans feed us some kind of liquid in a syringe. The amounts, colors, and taste can vary, but you just get a quick burst of something tasty or nasty in your mouth, swallow it, and it's over. The Lactated Ringer's Solution is given with a needle. Sounds painful! The humans were scared to try it, but the vet showed them how to do it. Hopefully, you'll never have to be in this situation, but here's what your human needs to know and do if you are:
  • The first step is to fill the syringe from the orange protruding cap on the bag. Don't pierce the clear plastic part to get the liquid. Avoid drawing air into the line.
  • After filling up the syringe, you'll want to warm up the solution in a cup of warm water before injecting it:
The injection will be much more uncomfortable if you don't warm it up first. You'll want to have it around body temperature, which is about 102 degrees for guinea pigs. Hold the needle out of the water.
  • It's a good idea to have two humans present for the injection, if possible. Have one human hold the piggy's head and backside to prevent squirming, biting, and other bad (but understandable!) behavior. You can try a cuddle cup, favorite blanket, or anything else that might help your guinea pig feel more comfortable during this stressful process.
  • Find the shoulder blades, gently pinch the skin, and insert the butterfly needle into the pinched skin. Grasp the wings of the butterfly needle to maintain a firm grip.
  • Push on the syringe with it angled downwards to prevent air bubbles from going in. If you see air bubbles in the syringe, stop injecting before the air bubbles reach the tube and needle.
  • Don't push too fast, or the fluid mass will start feeling weird, and your piggy is more likely to freak out.
It's not always easy being a good guinea pig owner. Sometimes you need to do things that neither of you really wants to do in the short-term, like subcutaneous injections. But if you help us manage or overcome a health issue, you'll be rewarded with an appreciative fuzzy smile.