Roderick’s Op (or, A Lesson in Guinea Pig Recovery & Recuperation)

Roderick’s Op (or, A Lesson in Guinea Pig Recovery & Recuperation)

Yesterday I had Roderick, The Wonder Guinea Pig, desexed.  It was very traumatic (for him, I’m sure, but also very much for me!)  I have never had a guinea pig desexed before and I agonised over the decision to do it or not.  I’ve had GPs in the past operated on for other reasons, mostly dental, and it has always ended badly – they never really picked up after the anaesthetic and usually died or were euthanised the following day.  So, this surgery was not a decision I made lightly at all.  I love the little guy and couldn’t bear to think of him suffering and being in pain, much less actually dying.  But, as I want to get him a companion and that companion will be of the female variety, I knew I had to get him desexed.  It also stops them from getting “boar butt”, a condition in which the muscles of the anus stretch/weaken and the boar is no longer able to properly expel the fecal pellets from the anus.  Which means you have to basically help him go to the toilet “manually” each day.  Which is gross.  And above all, very stressful and unpleasant for the little piggy.  I have never had a GP with this condition and I’ve always had males, but apparently it is common enough to warrant having them desexed (which of course reduces the risks of this condition by removing the testicles which are large and heavy and weaken the surrounding muscles…or something like that!  I’m not a vet so if you think your GP has this problem, please don’t waste time looking on the ‘net for answers – go to your trusted small animal vet and get your little guy/gal checked out).  Anyway, my main reason for desexing him was so he could have a “wife” and not be lonely.  And of course desexing, in all animals, goes a long way to reduce the risk of certain cancers too, so that’s a bonus.

So, after nervously dropping him off at the vet’s yesterday morning (I found a clinic that specialises in “exotics” i.e. rabbits, guiena pigs, rats, snakes & other reptiles), I waited around in the nearby shopping centre until it was time to pick him up (about an hour or so later).  I wasn’t overly happy with the after-care advice from the clinic – they gave me a sheet with notes on how to care for the recuperating piggy and also sent us home with some painkilling medication, but I felt like I would have been put at ease more if the vet herself had come out and had a quick chat about what to expect, what signs to look out for that Roderick wasn’t doing well, how long before he could do every day stuff (eg exercise etc) and whether or not I should keep him warm/secluded/in the dark or whatever.  Now, I was a vet nurse for 10 years so I know a little bit about these things and most of it is common sense, but by the same token you still sometimes need a bit of verbal reinforcement and encouragement.  I didn’t get any of that.  It was basically “Here’s your pig, here’s your bill”.  I must admit it was a very busy clinic and there was lots going on but I think that’s no excuse for poor customer service, especially when an animal’s life is at stake.  Also, I asked that they clip his nails for me while he was “under” and they didn’t do that so I was a bit annoyed.  As I said, I have worked in a vet clinic before, and know that things get stressful and super busy and sometimes, things get forgotten so it’s no biggie, but still…

So, once I brought him home, I kept him in his travel box with his heat pad in it, a dish of water and a small handful of grass (which he actually ate straight away).  I kept him in the lounge room where it was warm and quiet and I could keep an eye on him.  He was so uncomfortable and kept trying to shift his body into better positions.  He was very quiet (understandable) and sad (equally understandable) and for a while I was worried about him.  I am a born worrier so this was not an unusual state for me to be in with regards to any pet I’ve ever had but he did seem to be very flat and not wanting to eat (besides his initial munching) or go to the toilet.  Eventually, I put him back in his own hutch, making it as warm and dark as possible, thinking that maybe that would cheer him and make him feel a lot more comfortable in general, being in his own house with the familiar smells and places to lie and hide.  I even bought some *hot water bottles to place in his hutch.  He perked up almost instantly and began eating his “cereal” and hay.  A few hours later he finally went to the toilet (such a relief for me and possibly him too!) and seemed a lot better.  At midnight I checked on him again and gave him his last lot of pain killers for the day.

This morning he seems brighter and he even came out for his morning back-scratch and rub.  He’s eaten quite a bit and has pooped and peed his normal amount (ie a lot, the bugger) so I’m making sure he stays as clean as possible.  His surgery site seems clean and not swollen.  There was a bit of blood on his blanket but he doesn’t appear to have ripped any stitches or chewed at them.  So, I’m feeling more confident now.

I’m going to continue to monitor him over the next week or two and make sure he’s clean and the wound’s not infected and I’ll keep him warm, particularly over the next couple of days and ensure he has plenty of hay and grass, fresh water and comfy places to lie down.  But basically I’m going to leave him be – he doesn’t need the stress of me fussing and worrying over him.  I’ll pick him up when necessary but for the most part will just let him rest and recuperate and hopefully the pain will begin to fade soon too.

I would say, please take surgery of this kind seriously – the risks are higher than in a cat or dog (anaesthetically speaking and also stress-wise) – and isn’t something you should do just for the heck of it.  Go with your vet’s advice and follow all directions they give you.  Seek out a specialist vet for these kind of procedures if you can or at least find out if your everyday vet knows lots about exotics.  Too much can go wrong if they don’t know what they’re doing.  Take care of your pet and make sure you are able to keep an eye on them for at least the day of the surgery – they can go down hill very quickly and you need to be around to take control of the situation quickly.  Having said all that, I’m glad Roderick is now “done” and hopefully will forgive me and go on to lead a full and happy life without those pesky testicles!

I won’t be completely at ease until his stitches are out and he’s back to normal, but hopefully he will be ok soon and wheeking and chirping like usual.  I just hope he doesn’t hate me 😦    Then of course there will be the drama of introducing a new companion to him in a few weeks…stay tuned for that little piece of stress & anxiety!

* Yes, I know there are those of you out there gasping in horror that I would use hot water bottles around a small, recovering animal.  “What if he gets burnt?!” you shriek and that is understandably a concern.  However, I made the water hot but not boiling, wrapped it in plenty of blankets and towels so just the barest little bit of heat was coming through, just to take the chill off.  He was awake and able to walk by this stage and so was also able to get off the hot water bottle if it got too warm for him. So, don’t panic!