Yes, A Premature Guinea Pig Can Be Saved

black guinea pig standing in cage“Most rejected baby guinea pigs do not survive and owners are often encouraged to put them down,” says Judith Allen of Ontario, Canada. “It was hard work, but [saving them] can be done, and I would give up four weeks of my life to do it all over again if necessary.”

Allen’s determination is one of the reasons that a guinea pig named Sylvester-the-Preemie-Who-Lived is alive today. She is a former guinea pig breeder and current owner who nursed Sylvester through his health crisis under the guidance of her veterinarian, Dr. Sam Munn of Jameson Queen Animal Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

“He nearly did die, twice or more,” Allen says. “I was lucky to be able to save him — although my vet assures me it was only due to the 2-hourly feedings of EmerAid I gave him day and night, and the sub-Q fluids I administered.”

What Happened?

On May 24, 2018, a pregnant guinea pig delivered four pups 10 days prematurely. One died shortly after birth. The remaining three weighed a mere 65 grams instead of the normal 100 grams. By May 27, Allen knew something was wrong. The mother wasn’t producing much milk or assisting the pups, and the pups were all listless.

Allen stepped in and began feedings with a slurry of ground up guinea pig food pellets, applesauce, and electrolyte solution until the next day when she could get the pups to her veterinarian. She also placed them on a warm heating pad. A second pup died during the night, but the remaining two were seen by Dr. Munn.

What Recommendations Were Made On The First Vet Visit?

“The vet administered sub-Q fluids and sent me home with EmerAid IC Herbivore, a sub-Q fluid kit, and a warning that the two babies were unlikely to survive,” Allen says. Another pup died that night. “That left me just one baby to care for, and I was absolutely determined that Baby would not die, too. Sylvester got his name as a play on ‘s’il vit’ — French for ‘if he lives’ — but he will always be Baby to me.”

For the next three weeks, Baby was fed EmerAid IC Herbivore every two hours around the clock. He received up to 6cc at a feeding. He was placed on a 100-degree Fahrenheit heating pad meant for chicks, given pediatric electrolyte solution, and was encouraged to eliminate with a damp/warm cotton swab. Allen also frequently kept the pup warm in her shirt whenever her hands weren’t busy. When he was 4-weeks old, he was able to go four hours between feedings.

The only drawback Judith found to feeding the EmerAid was that excess formula got stuck on Baby’s fur. The fur eventually grew out so that it could be carefully cut with scissors to eliminate the “balls” of formula that got stuck. On a positive note, cleaning Baby’s face irritated him and actually encouraged him to take more food. So he was given a face wash with a wet cotton swab to annoy him into eating more.

Besides Nutrition, What Other Health Concerns Arose?

Baby suffered a urinary tract infection at 2 weeks old. Dr. Munn prescribed a two-day dose of antibiotic. The time frame was short because Dr. Munn didn’t want to deplete Baby’s intestinal bacteria. He also recommended that Allen add a bit of poop from one of her healthy guinea pigs to the EmerAid so that good bacteria would populate his GI tract. Allen did this by taking a fresh poop pellet from a healthy guinea pig and placing it in 20 ml of warm, electrolyte solution to let it dissolve. She then used this solution to mix the EmerAid.

At 2 weeks old, Dr. Munn recommended that Baby get more fiber and vitamin C. For the fiber, Allen added some ground pellets to the EmerAid IC. For the vitamin C, Baby liked a chewable vitamin that wasn’t orange flavored. Individuals have their own preferences, and Baby didn’t like orange flavor or Critical Care.

At 3 weeks old, Baby suffered severe edema. Allen reports that his belly and legs were swollen like sausages. She thought it was the end, so she took him outside to enjoy some sunshine before he passed. He urinated copiously in only a few minutes. Allen inferred that the edema occurred because Baby was cold. She switched him to a smaller habitat with a 100-watt chicken breeder-lamp 18 inches above for warmth. He lost 20 grams in 36 hours, and the edema disappeared.

Around 4 weeks old, Baby developed a second UTI. Another visit to Dr. Munn and an antibiotic prescription cleared this up. This time, the antibiotic used was Septra (also known as Bactrim), which is a combination of sulfonamide and trimethoprim. But adjustments were needed.

“Baby had a bad reaction to the pediatric suspension from the pharmacy; it gave him terrible diarrhea,” Allen says. “Because it was a weekend, I tried my homemade dosing.” She gave him 6.5 mg twice a day, mixing it with EmerAid. She keeps sulfonamide/trimethoprim on hand because of her own recurrent UTIs. She notes that having a scale that measured in milligrams is critical for mixing correctly. “It was easier to mix it with the EmerAid IC — and didn’t give him diarrhea like the suspension did — either the flavorings or sweetener was not good for him.”

At 5 weeks old, Baby finally began to act like a normal guinea pig, although he is blind. Allen says he also gets recurring UTIs and needs antibiotic about every three months. He’s prone to getting cold, so a heating lamp is always warming a corner of his habitat. Allen reports that he is a fearless soul.

What Has Baby Taught His Caregiver?

“His survival is remarkable and a rarity, and I will share with as many people as I can so that fewer rejected babies are euthanized unnecessarily,” Allen says. “Saving them can be done. I still feed EmerAid IC Herbivore to Sylvester — as part of our morning cuddle time. He loves the taste of it and would eat it exclusively if I would let him. It has saved his life.”