03.04.08

Lymphosarcoma in Guinea Pigs

Posted in Medical at 4:17 am by ACR&S

The second medical crisis that we have in the Sanctuary doesn’t actually involve one of our Sanctuary pigs. My partner DKMS technically owns three of our 17 guinea pigs; we call these our “pet” pigs, and he, not ACR&S, pays for all of their care and supplies. Two were adopted from ACR&S and one from the WI Guinea Pig Rescue.

CinnamonCinnamon was rescued by ACR&S in 2006 from a local animal shelter. We already had a ton of young, adoptable pigs; she was estimated to be about 3 years old and was pretty scraggly looking, with rough-textured fur; so we didn’t think she’d be very adoptable, but we couldn’t leave her in the shelter. DKMS was looking for another friend for his pig Stinky and decided to adopt her almost immediately.

Cinnamon is probably 5 years old now, and this summer she developed some stiffness in her legs and would occasionally limp a few steps. An X-ray found that she had arthritis, so she was placed on a daily dose of Metacam for pain. It helped tremendously and she stopped limping; she also loves her medicine and fights to hold onto the syringe!

On Feb 19, when giving Cinnamon her medication, we noticed that she looked a little “off”. She wasn’t moving as much or as normally as usual. I picked her up and found that she was COVERED in large, hard nodules – under her throat and jaw, and beneath each leg. They literally sprang up within 24 hours. These are the locations of the lymph nodes, so our first fear was a severe infection, and we rushed her to the vet for antibiotics. The vet placed her on antibiotics, but also did a biopsy to confirm, and a few days later we had the results: lymphosarcoma.

Background & Incidence

Lymphosarcoma is a malignant cancer involving lymphatic tissue or lymphocytes. The lymph nodes produce lymphocytes, which are white blood cells that help the body protect itself from infection. Lymphosarcoma occurs when the lymphocytes undergo a malignant change and begin to multiply, eventually crowding out healthy cells and creating tumors in the lymph nodes or other parts of the immune system. [1] Lymphomas and lymphosarcomas are much better understood in humans, and divided in to a huge number of sub-classifications based on location and type of affected cells. The same sub-classifications could probably be made in animals as well, but the disease(s) are not as well studied as in humans.

The small number of scientific articles I have found on lymphosarcoma don’t give much information, but it’s reported as very rare. One case report from 2000 notes that there were only 15 cases out of 5,000 animals in a 1991 report. [2] A 2003 paper states “neoplasias are practically non-existent in animals less than 1 year of age (Wagner and Manning 1976). In animals surviving three years the frequency of tumours is as high as 15% (Blumenthal and Rogers 1965). In some laboratory strains, animals older than three years, had tumour incidence ranging from 14.4% to 30% (Wagner and Manning 1976).” [3] Note the age of all of these source articles! And yet, these data contradict the owner anecdotes and some veterinary teaching information, both of which seem to indicate lymphosarcoma occurs fairly commonly, at least in older pigs.

Symptoms

Symptoms can vary, primarily by the location and type of lymphosarcoma. The most obvious symptom is usually swollen or enlarged lymph nodes, but owner anecdotes from medical threads on Guinea Lynx include include loose stools, loss of appetite, weight loss, difficulty breathing, and increased thirst or urination. [4] In some cases, owners went to the vet for one of these secondary symptoms, and the enlarged lymph nodes were only discovered during the physical examination by the vet.

Treatment & Prognosis

Treatments in dogs and cats (and humans) can include chemotherapy. In a guinea pig, chemotherapy is not as well studied; protocols are not established based on large-sample trials, and their small size makes it difficult since the drugs are designed for larger species. However, it has been done, and there are drug protocols for chemo available on Guinea Lynx.

Due to Cinnamon’s age, her vet did not feel that she would have a positive response to chemo. It causes nausea and GI upset, and she would be likely to go into GI stasis; it also works by suppressing immune function, making her more susceptible to opportunistic infections. He instead suggested that we keep her on pain medication, and also put her on Prednisone. Prednisone is said to shrink the tumors, or at least to slow their growth. As a steroid, it also reduces inflammation and pain.

Most of the treatment information on lymphosarcoma in guinea pigs comes from anecdotal reports of owners who have been through the disease with their pet. However, the prognosis is almost universally bad. One well-respected poster reports: “The average survival rate is quite variable, but I have yet to hear of one living longer than 6 weeks.” [5] Even when the pig is on Prednisone, a commonly reported complication is the tumors in the throat lymph nodes pressing on the trachea or esophagus, making eating and breathing difficult.

Given the information we have found, we do not expect Cinnamon to be with us very much longer. So now we are mostly focusing on making her comfortable and her last days enjoyable. She is still housed with her friend Stinky, who cuddles up with her and has been seen grooming her ears. She’s been a wonderful little girl and we’ll be very sorry to see her leave us.

28 Comments

  1. Jamie Steen said,

    September 22, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    Hello,

    I am so sorry to hear about Cinnamon. I found your site while searching for something about lymphosarcoma as my Eddie has been diagnosed and it is breaking my heart. Eddie is four years old and I really love her and thought she would live for the longest possible max that a piggy can live. Eddie just absolutely was my best friend when I went through chemo. She lives with five other piggies in a nice big C&C home and I wish I could do more for her.

    Thank you for writing about your experience with this cancer. I HATE cancer. I am having a hard time knowing that that is what is taking life away from my precious girl.

    God bless you.
    Jamie Steen

  2. Vivian said,

    October 23, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    My pet Sam just died yesterday from what they think was lymphosarcoma. My best to you, as it hurts terribly. Would you publish more information, if possible, on this as Sam was only 2 years old. His only symptom before the end was a rapsy ticking breath he had almost 1 year.

  3. ACR&S said,

    October 23, 2008 at 1:58 pm

    I’m sorry to hear about both of your experiences, Jamie and Vivian.

    Unfortunately, there is little more to write, as so little is currently known. There has been almost no formal research into this topic, and vets who want to study it cannot do so without funding, because the cases are so rare and spread all over the country. To better understand this disorder, researchers need to pay vets to ship samples to them (both tissue biopsies and bloodwork, both of which also cost money to draw); to pay labs to analyze the samples; and to pay biostatisticians to interpret the findings. They can’t do this without funding, so basically we’ll never know any more until someone starts funding this sort of work.

    But that someone can be found – it’s each of us. Anyone who has been impacted by lymphosarcoma in a companion animal can directly help discover more about it by donating to research institutes like the UC Davis Center for Companion Animal Health Research, which is currently the only source of funding for projects like this. Cancer is one of their top study areas, so your dollars will definitely make a difference. Donations in memory of a beloved pet are always welcome.

  4. amanda said,

    November 3, 2008 at 11:54 pm

    hi that guinea pig is so cute!hope she was for sale i really want her i want a guinea pig for x-mas!

  5. alana said,

    November 3, 2008 at 11:57 pm

    sorry about her hope u find a another one

  6. Tanya said,

    June 26, 2009 at 10:17 am

    My almost three year old HUGE male guinea pig has a slightly enlarged lymph node in his right arm pit which has been diagnosed as lymphosarcoma. He has started to lose weight over the last two weeks. I am devastated. He doesn’t appear to be in pain, but looks can be deceiving. Is it more humane to take him in to be euthanized so that I know he is no longer suffering?

  7. ACR&S said,

    June 26, 2009 at 10:40 am

    The choice of when to euthanize is a very personal decision that must be made between you and your vet. He may have a good month or two left which you would treasure, or he may be in too much discomfort and needs to be let go sooner.

    You should base your decision on your observation of your pet’s behavior – does he still show pleasure in treats and veggies? does he exhibit signs of pain such as not wanting to move? – and also on your vet’s medical assessment. The vet will need to consider whether he is in pain or physical discomfort that cannot be controlled through medication, and whether the location of the sarcoma is such that death, when it comes, might be painful and unpleasant (for example, if it would put pressure on the lungs and slowly strangle him, as opposed to causing a quick heart attack).

    Typically, you do have to euthanize at some point, rather than just waiting for them to die. Death from cancer is not always easy and painless, and so euthanasia is often the kindest choice. But ultimately, only the two of you together can decide when his quality of life has deteriorated to the point where euthanasia is the right choice at that moment.

  8. Emily Patterson said,

    July 24, 2009 at 10:14 pm

    My guinea pig, Apollo, has been diagnosed with lymphosarcoma. Besides the tumors, nothing else has been affected in his body.

    Although he seems healthy, his tumors are large and I have trouble bathing him or brushing him. I don’t know if he is in pain, but due to my beliefs, I feel that suffering in life is inevitable. Therefore, I am highly considering euthanasia.

    Like I said, I believe that suffering is inevitable, but prolonging his life to an extent of sheer physical pain is inhumane

    I am not sure what to do at this point.

    Should I euthanize a seemingly healthy friend? Or prolong the waiting until he reaches a downfall?

  9. Krystal said,

    September 20, 2009 at 8:56 pm

    I am so sorry to hear all of your stories. My little pig “Piggy” is about 5 1/2 years old and seems to have lymphosarcoma too. I am so heart broken about it. I took him in a little over a week ago because he seemed disoriented and turned down his daily carrot, which he NEVER does. I had the ER vet look at him and they determined his lungs were filling with fluid. They did a procedure to remove the fluid and he stayed at the ER for a day. He was breathing fine by the end of his stay, and came home. They put him on several meds. since they believed at first he had heart disease. He came almost completely back to normal after 3 days. He was eating and squeaking at me as I passed by his cage. Well, one week later he started showing signs of more labored breathing again. I took him in the next day when I determined that he was getting a little worse and they did an X-ray and found that there was fluid around his heart and it was seeping into his lungs. I thought for sure I was going to do the humane thing and put him down. The vet seemed to believe strongly that we should try removing the fluid from around his heart since that is the real problem and we never really solved it. So, I decided to give it one last shot as long as he wasn’t in pain. The procedure went well, and he was breathing easily again. The doctor was fairly certain he has lymphosarcoma. She decided to pay for the fluid to get analyzed at a lab. I still don’t know for certain if that it what he has, but I am still worried and waiting to hear. He has been home with me for the last 2 days. They instructed me to give him Prednisone every day. However, he is still refusing to eat his carrot and most other foods (but likes his medicine for some reason). I am wondering what quality of life this is…. he is not in pain, but he is not enjoying life like he used to. I want what is best for Piggy. If it turns out he does have cancer, I will do the humane thing and put him to sleep. However, there is still the possibility that he has an infection (which I hope he does so we can potentially treat it).

    I wanted other Pig owners to know I can relate to them….. we just want what is best for the little piggies.

  10. Vickie said,

    December 21, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    I have a 3 year old male guinea pig. Just recently I noticed that he has a lump on his nipple at the bottom of his belly. I don’t know what it is. We have been watching it and I know I need to take him to the vet. What do you think it is? Thanks!

  11. Chu said,

    December 28, 2009 at 8:32 am

    So sorry to hear about your little one. I lost my beautiful little girl Sweetie to lymphosarcoma, In November 2009, she was 5 years old and the most darling little girl you could hope for.

  12. Stephanie said,

    March 19, 2010 at 11:22 pm

    I just came across your site and read all of your stories. I know how hard it is to have a sick piggie. Mine has had three surgeries to remove bladder stones since November and when going for what was to be his fourth a week ago the vets discovered a large mass on his liver. A needle biopsy couldn’t be 100% accurate, but they said there were some atypical cells or something, so he may or may not have lymphosarcoma too. Also, the stone this time is lodged in the ureter, so we opted not to put him through another surgery. He is happy and running around and eating like a, well, PIG! He has no idea how sick he is or is going to be, but I do and it’s killing me. He’s my little buddy. It’s nice to be able to share this with other people who know how I am feeling.

  13. Helena Miloshevic said,

    March 23, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    we founde out today that our 5 1/2 year old pig had lymphosarcoma, we didn’t notice it b4 because she was all ways chubby, but then the started losing weight and the tumor was getting bigger so we just noticed it this morning, me and my brother went to the vet to see what was going on with her. The vet tolde us that they could do surgery but because she is so old he may not make it…that same morning we saw that she was lossing allot of hair and he could not open her eyes, then when she opend them a little they where a little bloody. We think that the best thing is to put her down tomorrow…i spend all day crying i can’t image what i will do when she is gone..:(

  14. Georgia Borley said,

    April 30, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    I’m so soryy about evryones stories and sadly after 3 days the lumps on my pig, Beauty , are only getting bigger we need to take her to a vet so i’ve looked around and found this site. My mum thinks we should have her put down because she’s about five years old but she seems happy although i can’t pick her up at th mo cuz she has lumps under her arms and a large one on her neck.But does anyone know of anything natural or around the house that could at least make her feel better. If she gets sad her friend, Scruffy , gets sad aswell. Please help i’ve had her since i was 8 and she means the world to me.

  15. alexis said,

    August 2, 2011 at 11:13 pm

    today (yesterday) we found out that GP Morgan Chase has lumps in her
    lymph areas, and one in her belly the size of a walnut.
    some samples were taken to see what kind of cells the lumps are made of
    and the vet will call us in a couple of days.
    the walnut could be a hormonal problem that could potentially be fixed
    if she got spayed
    otherwise, she may get a steroid to fight the
    she seems normal, active, eating, pooping,
    but I’m sad she’s sick, of course.
    gpmc is my favorite gp ever.
    so when the vet was taking the biopsy samples
    gp nibbled on my finger gently like she does
    when she doesn’t want to be held anymore.
    that’s my cue, otherwise she’ll pee on me.
    she’s so cute,
    she trusts us and she was very happy to be home.
    I did lose it a bit, crying for my gp.
    I hope this story has a happy ending and I will try to update this site,

  16. Sick Diagnosed with Cancer this Morning - Page 2 said,

    November 11, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    […] […]

  17. Shirley said,

    February 15, 2012 at 11:12 pm

    I have just taken my beautiful girl to the vet and got awful news.They suspect she has lymphatic cancer, they found 6 lumps on her body. She has been off colour and I couldn’t pin-point the problem so had her checked over. She has a very large lump-mass under her neck one in her stomach and 4 others where the legs join the body. I have 2 lots of antibiotics a shot of anti-inflamitory and some critical care food. I will do my best for her she is so lovely it will be horrible to lose her, this is very upsetting.

  18. Cinthya said,

    March 9, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    My little guinea pig has been detected this morning with lymphosarcoma. He started to refuse veggies and eventually, began to lose weight. Now, he has a large solid mass under his left leg. It grew very fast… The vet gave me antibiotics and a medication that will to stimulate the immune system… I´m not sure what to do. I just don´t want to lose him…he´s only 3.2 years old. 🙁

    Now, that´s what I´m looking for happy endings… I would like one. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

  19. nise said,

    June 12, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    My piggy boy Wally has also recently been diagnosed with lymphosarcoma, it is heartbreaking to see the once chubby and always wheeking & begging for food piggy not even want some apple. i am going to try a natural formula (from fuzzies kingdom) to help stimulate his appetite as a last resort. The prednisone seemed to help for a week, but now he does not want to eat much at all.

  20. Emily said,

    August 23, 2012 at 10:51 pm

    My guinea pig, Oreo, was diagnosed with lymphosarcoma in February. We only brought her and her 2 sisters in to be checked out because our male guinea pig passed away suddenly and we wanted to make sure the other 3 were alright. Her lymph nodes grew pretty slowly, mainly her back ones, but over the past month or so, they’ve been growing a lot faster and she has lost a lot of hair, but since she cannot reach to bite at her lymph nodes, it has been growing back. We just started her on the Prednisone this past Tuesday, so she hasn’t been on it for even a week yet. I am afraid of the side affects, but hopeful that it will help her to be more comfortable. My piggie is 4 years old, I’m definitely afraid of losing her, but cherish every new day I have with her.

  21. Edgar Thornton said,

    September 2, 2012 at 3:33 am

    Hi there sorry to hear about all your heart wrenching stories. I was wondering if any of you could help me try to work out what my 2 and a half year old guinea pig is suffering with. He has a large protruding lump on his left shoulder which is not tender and he is walking fine. The lump is red and circular with a black little lump on top.
    Many thanks Edgar.

  22. Sam said,

    October 16, 2012 at 5:19 am

    My beautiful girl Hannah passed away on the 12th. She had just had a litter and one of her babies had died after moving on to its new home, even though its only symptom was weight loss.
    The vet did find four lumps in Hanny and an autopsy revealed that it was lymphosarcoma.
    I feel so awful about it, wishing there was something I could have done better.
    Toward the end just before she passed away in my arms, she struggled to walk, to get up or to even stand. It was so shocking to see her that way, and it had all gone downhill so unbelievably quickly.

  23. Mary said,

    December 12, 2012 at 12:17 am

    Lymphoma took our G-Man today. He was such a brave little guy. Not ready to go yet. So sad. So very sad.

  24. yvonne said,

    March 3, 2013 at 11:44 am

    if a guinea pig has cancer in the stomach and stops eating and drinking how long should you force feed and is it kinder to let it die at home or will it be in pain and would be kinder to be put to sleep i am going out of my mind not knowing what to do if i knew the death would be painful i would not hesitate to put him to sleep please help

  25. jerry said,

    November 1, 2013 at 8:38 pm

    Hello, to everyone who has posted on this site. It’s somewhat confronting to know that there are others like me who deeply love their guinea pigs. I have two pigs , brothers whose parents where brother and sister. I always knew the genetic possibilities of certain illnesses, but i did not think they would get ill so soon( 3 and half years) Both pigs have tumors. My daughters and wife are devastated, Pumpkin stopped eating and drinking and the vet suggested that we euthanasize him. He’s very ill and so skinny. These little animals really bring out the best of my family, we bond over their silliness and cuteness.
    I keep on saying they are only rodents to ease the saddness, but that isn’t working.

  26. Frankie said,

    January 1, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    Hi everyone,

    My little girl Smudge is only 3 1/2 yrs old she was diagnosed 6 months goo with Lymphosarcoma and she is still coping very well, eating and drinking although she does lay down and rest a lot.
    My sadness is that one of her tumours has got very large and I know causing her pain, as when her sister touches or gets too close she lets out a small Squeek.

    I know her time is soon, but feel it’s not quite time as her zeal for life is still strong, I feel also having just had to have my 16 yr old tom cat pts, a few weeks back and loosing one of my female rats to a stroke only a week ago, I am very sad to have to go through this all again so soon.

    I will take her to my vet ASAP and see if he can help her with pain relief, but feel he will say it’s time to let her go…

    This is such a cruel illness and very sad for us all. My heart goes out to you all who have or are going through this too.

  27. Frankie said,

    January 1, 2014 at 2:48 pm

    Hi everyone,

    My little girl Smudge is only 3 1/2 yrs old she was diagnosed 6 months goo with Lymphosarcoma and she is still coping very well, eating and drinking although she does lay down and rest a lot.
    My sadness is that one of her tumours has got very large and I know causing her pain, as when her sister touches or gets too close she lets out a small Squeek.

    I know her time is soon, but feel it’s not quite time as her zeal for life is still strong, I feel also having just had to have my 16 yr old tom cat pts, a few weeks back and loosing one of my female rats to a stroke only a week ago, I am very sad to have to go through this all again so soon.

    I will take her to my vet ASAP and see if he can help her with pain relief, but feel he will say it’s time to let her go…

    This is such a cruel illness and very sad for us all. My heart goes out to you all who have or are going through this too.

    Smudge sister is Bebee…. X

  28. Robyn said,

    November 8, 2014 at 7:21 pm

    My boy, Brownie (I call him Pigbert), has enlarged lymph nodes, all but the ones under his neck. They aren’t that big, the largest is about the size of a marble but most are pea-sized. I had him to the vet a few months ago, and he said based on the fact that he had had lumps for a few months, that it was not lymphosarcoma because he’d be dead. So, does anyone know what it might be? Antibiotics did nothing. In the last few weeks, he’s begun drinking massive amounts of water. His coat seems duller, and he may have lost a little weight but otherwise seems normal. He empties the water bottle now when it used to be only 25 to 30% emptied in a day. He’s with two girls; he is neutered. I thought he might have the disease that killed my mother, chronic lympocytic leukemia. Ideas? The vet is stumped. Thanks.