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Annabelle the Guinea Pig; a terrible loss, and a cautionary tale for pet owners. October 27, 2005 2:38 PM

On Tuesday morning, our sweet, wonderful adorable little guinea pig, Annabelle, succumbed at only three and a half years of age to Coccidiosis.... and it was all my fault. I know that many people think that after losing a pet, but in my case it's actually true. It was my carelessness and mistakes that killed this little creature that I love with all my heart and will miss terribly, and therefore I think that this is an important story for all pet owners to know so that no one makes the same mistakes that I did. Also, after reading it, if you could please let me know whether or not you agree with my assessment of what caused this, and if you know any other important pet care tips that could save others' pets from this fate in the future, please post those as well. For the first two years of Annabelle's life, I did everything right. Her cage was cleaned and thoroughly disinfected every three or so days, her water bottle and toys and house were disinfected every 3 days, her nails were properly trimmed, she had regular vet visits, and she ate all of the right food. A number of months ago, we made the mistake of not cleaning the cage but once a week for a couple of consecutive weeks, and Annabelle's nails got dirty, she scratched her eye, and developed an ulser on her eye. Thanks to a great veterinarian, and our resuming her regular care, she fully recovered. Unfortunately, I still wasnít disinfecting her water bottle often enough, and the other things in her cage were only being thoroughly disinfected about half as often as they had before. We went through a period of time where we were all preoccupied once again, and failed to clean her cage more than once a week for a couple more weeks, and this time, she developed an intestinal protazoan parasite. Iím not sure how long she had it, but it must have been for a couple of weeks, as I had noticed that she had a mild case of diarrhea, dismissed it as being from too many greens, and cut back on vegetables until the problem seemed to subside, not really noticing that her water intake had also gone down. Last Wednesday, I noticed that her diarrhea had returned, cleaned her cage, and resolved to take her to the vet if it was still a problem the next day. On Friday night, Annabelle, took ill, so we took her to the vet. She had displayed several symptoms of wet tail including diarrhea, loss of appetite and lethargy. He called that night and said that it wasn't wet tail; she had developed Coccidia, a proazoan intestinal parasite caused by my not properly disinfecting her water bottle, and letting her cage get messier than usual in recent weeks. Basically, my negligence had made her very sick and I hadn't caught on for a number of days; long enough for the parasite to develop and mature and cause a lot of damage. On Saturday, my aunt had picked her up and she seemed alright. She had been prescribed a ten day course of powerful oral antibiotics, "Albon Suspension #3." By Sunday she was even more lethargic than ever, and had stopped eating and drinking. I called a clinic and asked if this was normal behavior for a guinea pig undergoing treatment for Coccidia, and they said, for the most part, yes. Her condition had worsened by Monday, but we waited to take her to the vet, as toward the end of the night, after my aunt managed to give her some water with a syringe and nibble on a carrot, she had seemingly perked up a bit. We decided that we would take her to the vet the next morning. At 11:00pm on Monday, she still seemed pretty sick, so I took her downstairs. My friend Grant came over at 11:46, I held Annabelle for a while, but by midnight she had begun dry-heaving. Grant said that the parasite had probably released toxins that she was trying to expel. Within about 10 minutes, he was on the phone trying to find all night vet clinics, and Annabelle stopped breathing. I attempted to administer CPR, but not knowing the proper way to do it, stopped for fear of injuring her or damaging her lungs. We got in the car, drove to various clinics, all of them closed, then finally to Alameda East, the clinic where the show, Emergency Vets, on Animal Planet takes place, but it was too late. I spent most of Monday and Tuesday trying to figure out what happened and doing research. As it turns out, the fact that she was dehydrated and didn't have food and nutrients in her system reversed the effect of the antibiotic, allowing it to overload her system, killing the remaining natural bacteria that had been working to stave off the toxins released by the parasites. The toxins went to her bloodstream and overwhelmed her system, causing cartiac arrest followed by the failure of her respiratory system. This was extremely preventable, but unfortunately, everything I could have done wrong, I did. The only thing remotely decent that came from this experience is the fact that I now know absolutely everything there is to know about proper guinea pig care, too little, too late as it is, and that I now know how to properly administer CPR on small animals, as the emergency vet taught me how after I told her that I had not been able to do it. Information for any pet owner to know, especially if you have small animals. Even dogs and cats can succumb to Coccidia.  [ send green star]  [ accepted]
More Info: October 27, 2005 2:39 PM

1. Her cage sits across the hall from a bathroom on top of a short dresser. From time to time when one of the bathrooms is cleaned, the bag of trash is set on the floor or on a trunk only about 2 or 3 feet from the cage. I've always hated that, but it keeps happening, and I was dumb enough to thing that the fact that her cage is elevated and never touches the bag would be enough to protect her from bathroom contaminants. I should have moved her cage. 2. The most obvious problems: I wasn't disinfecting her water bottle as often as I should have, and her cage had gotten pretty bad one week, when we had unexpectedly run out of bedding, and couldn't clean the cage until the end of the week when I could get a ride to PetSmart. 3. I wasn't always the one to clean the cage, and the other family member who often did didn't know of the need to wash her house and toys. 4. I barely ever disinfected the bars of the cage, only the bottom, sides and furniture. 5. I also have pet Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches, and while I never allowed them to come in contact with her, I did feed all of them at the same time, and from the same vegetable bag. 6. We bought a bag of carrots, in which the carrots, while seemingly normal, had a coating of wet, almost slimy liquid. When I realized this, I began washing them before giving them to her, then stopped altogether and through them away. (this would make sense, but they looked and tasted fine, and people in the household ate them as well, so there probably wasn't anything wrong with them.) 7. Exposure to household air disinfectants, e.g. Lysol and Oust, though extremely limited, could have weakened her immune system. 8. In recent months, I haven't taken her out to play as often as I used to, so she had more time to create then sit in waste. 9. While I used to change her water every day, recently, if the water bottle still had a lot of water in it, I left it until it was almost empty. 10. She didn't get out to get much fresh air. She was usually inside. Here is some reference information about Coccidiosis: Coccidiosis: Signs of this disease include diarrhea, loss of appetite, and listlessness. It is a protozoan parasite and is spread from contaminated food. The feces also carry it, so the guinea pig can be re-infected through it's own droppings. Make sure the cage is thoroughly cleaned everyday to reduce the chances of this happening. Take the guinea pig to the veterinarian in order to obtain effective medication. A fecal analysis is the only way to correctly diagnose coccidiosis. Signs that the animal is not feeling well include: listlessness, huddling in a corner, a dull matted coat, refusing food, labored breathing, runny noise, watery eyes, and constipation. In most cases, there are medications available at pet stores which can be used to aid in treating the animal. In other cases a trip to a veterinarian may be required. Coccidiosis-This disease is caused by a protozoan parasite that lives in the intestines. It is not common and fairly easy to combat. The signs of coccidiosis are diarrhea, loss of appetite, and listlessness. The best way to get rid of this disease is to clean out your guinea pigs cage and wash it. Your vet can also give you some medicine to put in your pets food. Diarrhea- This is the most common and potentially damaging cavy disease. It dehydrates your animal and could actualy result in death. It is caused by too much green in your guinea pigs diet. You can easily stop it by feeding your pet less lettuce and other leafy greens, and when you do feed them greens be sure they are crisp and fresh. Has anyone else ever had this problem? If so, how did it turn out? Has anyone else ever inadvertently killed a beloved pet? Any other cautionary tales?  [ send green star]  [ accepted]
:( October 30, 2005 2:46 PM

:( You must be sad... Anyhow, I have a random cautionary tale to try to avoid Green pine woodchips for your furry friends, and never Wash a hamster. (Don't ask, I didn't do it) The problem with green woodchips is that sometimes the dye from the chips sometimes gets wet and runs off right onto your pets fur.  [ send green star]
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