The young girl who brought the guinea pig on 2nd day of Chinese New Year is a medical undergraduate for not eating for some weeks. She had consulted Vet 1 earlier and was given antibiotics but the pet still had no appetite. I anaesthesized it and clipped the overgrown lower premolar and molar teeth which had arched over the tongue.
She texted me today, February 14, 2011, at 7.30am for an urgent appointment as her GP was not breathing well. When I saw her at 9 am at the Surgery, the GP had just died.
"Why?" she said the GP had been eating on his own since she ordered the Critical Care from online petshop that delivered on the 7th day of CNY. The GP was hand fed and was eating well till yesterday, around 21 days after the teeth were clipped.
"An autopsy will give some answers," I said. She wanted one done and I asked Dr Daniel to do it with me. Significant autopsy findings were:
1. Stomach was full of Critical care mashed food and so the GP was really eating.
2. Gas in the large intestines could be normal and food seen in the caecum.
3. Some greenish mashed food inside the mouth. Could be after death.
4. Trachea was very clean, so no inhaled food from hand feeding.
5. Lungs severely congested.
6. Massive hydrothorax (reddish fluid splashed out) and this would cause respiratory distress and death.
7. Left lung had white fibrinous adhesions on the posterior lobes. The GP was not a healthy one and had pneumonia some months ago and had recovered, the owner said.
8. Heart had fibrinous pericarditis as the pericardium seemed to have small yellow nodules (abscesses?)
The young girl asked me what was the cause of sudden difficulty in breathing and death. "Hydrothorax is the cause and may be associated with cardio-respiratory infections in the past," I said. "The GP could have weakened immune system as he was not eating for many weeks."
"Is his sickness infectious to the other GP?" the girl asked me. The other GP was fat and ate well. She had just disinfected the crate. But I asked her to do again esp. water bottles and feed bowls.
I checked the cheek teeth as I had clipped the bottom premolars and molars under general anaesthesia around 21 days ago. I present the image for the benefit of GP owners and GP anatomy for vet students. The guinea pig has 20 teeth. The dental formula is I1,PM1,M3.
VETS TO NOTE
Many cases of the rabbit and guinea pig not eating are due to malocclusion. However, the teeth involved may be the inside premolars and molars, usually the bottom ones in the guinea pig. The overgrown teeth arch over the tongue and cause ulceration on the other side. Palpate the top of the premolars and molars with your finger to feel the sharp edges of malocclusion if possible or under anaesthesia. It is easier to do in the racehorse, but the principle of palpation is the same.
Wrap the guinea pig or rabbit in a towel and use a buccal separator to open the mouth for inspection. I used isoflurane gas anaesthesia for a few seconds to permit me to do the job of clipping the teeth. It is difficult to clip the teeth without anaesthesia as the tongue is in the way and may be accidentally cut.
Guinea pigs, hamsters and rabbits are not the favourite patients of many vets and there are some any internet postings from non-vet experts in the above-mentioned pets cursing the veterinarian for being incompetent and ignorant. Pass the case to other vets if you are not keen on treating such creatures rather than just give antibiotics for inappetance.
GUINEA PIG OWNERS
Check the mouth esp. the inner teeth weekly. Feel the cheek for painful reaction indicating an oral ulcer or abscess. Weigh your guinea pig weekly and if it is losing weight, consult your vet and ask for the teeth to be checked.
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